Town Hall Meetings: Minimum Attendance, Maximum Information

Town Hall Meetings: Minimum Attendance, Maximum Information

In 2002, City of Murphy adopted a stormwater utility flat fee of $3.00 per residence and $3.00 per non-residence per month. During two town hall meetings, held Aug. 22 and 24 at City Hall, city representatives presented reasons as to why they are proposing a hike in this fee. They recommend increasing the residential fee to a flat fee of $3.80 per month and non-residential (i.e. businesses) a fee of $19.13 per acre. Two residents attended the meeting on Aug. 22 and four residents attended the meeting on Aug. 24. Members of council also attended the meetings. On Sept. 10, the proposed fee hike will go before council.

Included in the town hall meeting presentation were the following facts: Why use stormwater drainage charge: Provide a direct mechanism for funding utility obligations. Operation and maintenance. Capital improvement plan (future development). The City of Murphy is obligated to: Operate and maintain stormwater system. Fulfill municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) stormwater discharge permit.

It was pointed out that fees can be reduced for proven flow reduction from a non‐residential property (i.e. detention/ retention ponds).

Following is information that was presented during the recap portion of the presentation: Proposed 2020 stormwater budget 5-year level rate applied is $345,828.

If approved, this increase will be implemented on Oct. 1, 2019. (The presentation is available at murphytx.org)

An opportunity for audience members to ask questions followed the 11-minute presentation.  City Manager Mike Castro and Public Services Director Tim Rogers provided the answers.

Questions by the attendees covered a variety of topics related to stormwater fees. “What are the stormwater rates for Wylie, Parker and surrounding areas?” Rogers said, “We are below average. I don’t have the exact number, but can get that on the website under the stormwater section.” Rogers went on to explain that there are many factors that contribute to a stormwater fee. Another question pertained to what the current $3.00 per residence/non-residence flat rate budget amounted to. That answer was $224,200 (which is the 2019 Stormwater Department Budget). Alluding to the thought that a person with a smaller home should pay less than a person with a large house for the stormwater fee due to the lessened amount of impervious area, Rogers said, “You’re absolutely right. We looked into this and every city is different. We got footprints of every single resident and we could have done impervious area for every single resident. But council thought it best to utilize a flat rate.” It was stated that repairing deteriorating curbs falls under the stormwater department budget.

A resident who lives on Kinney Dr. at the intersection of S. Maxwell Creek Rd. asked about drainage under Kinney Dr. In 2015, he reported that the pipe under Kinney Dr. was blocked so that stormwater piles up on the north side of that intersection and doesn’t drain to the southside of that intersection. He said, “In 2017, that request was closed. The comment was that they cleaned up the area. It didn’t change the blockage. Should that blockage be unblocked by this fee?” Rogers replied, “We’re fixing to rehabilitate Maxwell Creek and Kinney Dr. They will have, if not a new culvert, they will be completely cleaned out, the swells will be re-cut …You’ll have those improvements.” The resident added that there is a strong sewage smell at that intersection, and he wanted to know if that would be fixed as well. Rogers explained, “There is an old lift station there, which is a sanitation sewer, wastewater, and they have vents on them for that purpose…we can put some odor chemicals within the system to try to diminish that smell. It may not completely get rid of it.”

Answering if this fee hike is based on council approval, Rogers said, “It has been brought to council and this is what we’re moving for.” Rogers said if this isn’t approved by council, “...we will work within the confines of the current rate.” Regarding why this is a need now, Rogers said, “This has always been a need. I came to the city three years ago and we’ve been working on moving forward with this. This is one of the many things that did not progress throughout the 17 years. We’re trying to correct it and get ahead of the game.” Castro added, “That $3.00 per lot applied to commercial lots as well. In my house, I’m paying $3.00, and WalMart is paying $3.00 for their lot. That’s not fair. I have a driveway at my house, WalMart has 19 acres of asphalt. So, something had to be done.”

A question was asked if it was possible for senior citizens to receive a discount or waiver from this increase. Castro said, “We can make council aware of that. At the end of the day, this is a $9.60 a year increase. I encourage you at the public meeting to make this idea known to city council. We have two council members here today (Jennifer Berthiaume and Ken Oltmann). I think it’s a minimum increase. We’re shifting a significant portion of that burden to the commercial areas.”

One resident suggested increasing the non-residential (commercial) stormwater fee, not the residential. Rogers responded, “Yes, we’ve run that past our engineers. Based on regulatory requirements, this has to be fair and equitable to everybody. The engineer has done a study to determine what we should be paying, based on council direction, for residential and for commercial. Commercial can in no way subsidize the residential.”

Answering if there has been any pushback from the commercial side, Castro said, “Relatively little. That may change when they start to get the bills. We started talking to them early on in the process because we knew it would be a big change for them. We went out and individually met with a high percentage of our commercial properties. We’ve explained it to them in person.”

Castro provided, “The federal government has a program that regulates stormwater. They have taken a very intense interest in the program. They hit cities and states with a ton of requirements and regulations. Cities aren’t involved in stormwater out of the goodness of their hearts, they’re involved because the federal government is breathing down their necks. They say, ‘You will have a program. You will have a plan.’ And we do, we have a stormwater plan and that plan looks out several years. It incorporates all the things we need to do to maintain our system. It is a bona fide program that has been well-thought out. More importantly, it’s a program that has been stamped by civil engineers who says this is what it will take to maintain your system. All of that went into these numbers.”

At the conclusion of the meeting, city representatives met with those who had additional questions.

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