Archive for Thursday, September 22, 2005

City seeks funds for storm water runoff projects

September 22, 2005

A funding mechanism to pay for storm water drainage repairs and improvements will be the focus of a study session for the Lansing City Council.

Addressing the storm water issue won't be cheap. The city's Public Works Department has estimated the cost of needed storm water projects around the city to be more than $2.75 million. The figure doesn't include erosion and flooding issues on private property.

City Administrator Mike Smith said there were basically two avenues the council could take to fund the projects: property taxes or an added fee on utility bills.

"My recommendation is, we just set aside a mill or 2 mills in the budget for storm water drainage," Smith said Tuesday.

Dedicating 2 mills would make about $120,000 available annually for storm water work. A mill is $1 in taxes for every $1,000 of assessed valuation.

Smith said he favored the dedicated mill levy route for several reasons:

¢ He believes that as long as the city continues to grow, the growth in assessed valuation will make any mill levy increase negligible.

¢ Using property taxes will make money available more quickly than employing a user fee.

¢ The mill levy offers more flexibility to the council if priorities change in the future, because the city would be required to spend any collected user fees on storm water drainage.

Public Works director John Young notes the city has been funding routine maintenance of storm water facilities at the rate of about just $20,000 per year, with a $5,000 increase to $25,000 in 2006.

"It is staff's assessment that more than $25,000 of new needs appear system-wide in a year, just on the storm water infrastructure that is within street rights of way," Young wrote.

Storm water runoff isn't a new topic in Lansing. In 1992, Schlagel & Associates conducted a study for the city that identified a roster of storm water maintenance and capital needs. In 2002, the same consultants performed an analysis of Nine-Mile Creek at the Rock Creek West Subdivision, and recommended $1.42 million in improvements.

Smith said little, if anything, has been done in the wake of either study.

"They may have done some things after the '92 study, but I haven't been able to figure out what those were," he said.

Among the problems identified in earlier studies are replacement of a failing ditch liner between Fairlane and Holiday Drive, a levee for the Rock Creek neighborhood and flood protection measures in Fawn Valley.

If the council agrees to create a mechanism to increase funding for drainage projects, Smith said the city would handle them much as it does street repairs: Prioritizing needed projects annually and completing as many projects as it can with the available funds.

The study session is slated to begin at 7 p.m. today, Sept. 22, in the council chambers at City Hall, 800 First Terrace.

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