The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Phase I requirements issued by the United States Environmental Protection Agency seek to implement a program to protect the quality of surface waters (such as lakes and streams) by controlling pollution from storm water discharges. What this means for the City of Austell, and most other cities, is enhanced stormwater system maintenance, and the implementation of new stormwater management activities. These activities include public education programs, public participation in stormwater management functions, controls on stormwater runoff from new developments both during and after construction, an ongoing search for illicit discharges into the stormwater system, and municipal pollution prevention programs such as increased frequency of street sweeping and catch basin cleaning. All parcels, regardless of their location in a watershed, have an impact on our water resources. Pervious surfaces, such as lawns, allow rain to seep into the ground. Impervious surfaces, such as roofs and parking lots, block this absorption, which increases runoff volumes. The City of Austell’s stormwater management system collects the runoff through a series of gutters, inlets, storm drains, detention basins, and stream channels.
Why is a Stormwater Management Utility Needed?
In the past, stormwater system planning focused on flood control, utilizing sound practices of stormwater system sizing, flood routing, and stormwater detention. The growing pressures of urbanization and increased federal and state regulation have dictated that modern stormwater management must take a total water resources management point of view, considering not only the volume of storm runoff, but also pollution prevention. Most people think stormwater runoff is a relatively harmless, natural occurrence, and do not realize it has the potential to pollute one of our most precious natural resources, our lakes and streams. Stormwater frequently has high levels of sediment, litter, phosphorus, nitrogen, heavy metals, oil, grease, and organic materials. The City of Austell has chosen to take a socially responsible, proactive approach to systematically manage the stormwater discharged by our community. By managing runoff and preventing the pollutants from entering the environment, we are striving to avoid the potentially high costs of flooding, future treatment, and increased federal and state regulations.
Funding Stormwater Management
Federal and state mandates have increased the demand for stormwater improvements thereby requiring a significant increase in the amount of revenue devoted to stormwater management. Historically, the General Fund has paid the operating costs of all stormwater management issues. A $1.00 charge was placed on the customers’ water bill beginning March 1998. This was an easy system to administer and understand, but there is no direct relationship between drinking water and stormwater demand. City staff investigated the creation of a Stormwater Utility that would allow stormwater system costs to be spread among the users in a more equitable manner. City staff reviewed various means of funding this program and determined that funding by property taxes is inequitable because: 1) tax exempt properties generate stormwater but would not contribute revenue toward stormwater management; and 2) the assessed value of a parcel, which determines its property tax, is not proportional to the parcel’s relative use of the City’s stormwater management system. The creation of the Stormwater Management Utility allows the City to establish a major source of dedicated revenue which will adequately support stormwater management through a fair and equitable billing system. It is a commonly accepted principle that residential, commercial, industrial, institutional, and governmental customers should pay for their water and sanitary sewer service based on their relative use of these systems as measured by their water meters. The fairest method for determining residential property fees for stormwater service is according to the gross size of their parcels (gross area of parcel, including both pervious and impervious areas). Commercial, industrial, institutional, and governmental customers will pay based upon estimates of each parcel’s impervious areas.
Revenue from stormwater utility fees and charges pay for City projects and programs that help control damage from storms, prevent flooding, protect surface water quality, support fish and wildlife habitat, and protect the environment. Some specific stormwater services include:
- Operating and maintaining the public stormwater system;
- Responding to emergency flooding and pollution events;
- Inspecting and advising owners on operations and maintenance practices, and potential solutions to their stormwater system problems;
- Planning for new systems and improvements, and mapping the stormwater system;
- Designing and constructing stormwater system capital projects;
- Permitting development according to regulations;
- Complying with federal, state, and local regulations;
- Managing finances;
- Providing exceptional customer service;
- Educating the public and providing outreach opportunities; and,
- Developing policy and coordinating with other governmental entities.
The City of Austell understands that some parcels may currently be utilizing an approved method of controlling stormwater runoff on portions of their parcel. Therefore, Austell Public Works Stormwater Management has created the City of Austell Stormwater Credit Manual. All parcels in the City containing developed land shall be charged stormwater service charges, except pedestrian/bicycle trails, and streets and highway right-of-ways. Parcels shall be eligible to receive a storm water service charge credit based upon the requirements of the City of Austell Stormwater Credit Manual. Any credit allowed against the storm water service charge is conditioned upon continuing compliance with the City of Austell Stormwater Credit Manual.
Questions or Comments?
Our customers are a vital part of our organization. It is only through your feedback that we may determine if we are meeting the needs of our residents. Please contact us with any questions or comments you may have regarding this program. If you have any questions regarding the City of Austell’s Stormwater Management Utility, the City of Austell Stormwater Credit Manual, or other activities, contact us at:
Austell Public Works Stormwater Management
5000 Austell-Powder Springs Road, Suite 133
Austell, Georgia 30106-2428
Office: (770) 944-4325, Option 4
Fax: (770) 944-4335
Forms and Documents
Stormwater Utility Ordinance
Stormwater Utility Rates Ordinance
Stormwater Utility Frequently Asked Questions
Calculating Your Commercial Impervious Surface
Stormwater Utility Fee Charge Inquiry
Stormwater Utility Fee Credit Application (Commercial and Industrial)
Stormwater Utility Fee Credit Instructions (Commercial and Industrial)
Stormwater Utility Right of Entry Agreement (Commercial and Industrial)