Rock Hill considers raising stormwater rates

adouglas@heraldonline.comNovember 14, 2013 

Rock Hill may raise its stormwater fees by $12 a year for residents and as much as 30 percent for businesses to start repairs on a system that is sometimes overwhelmed by heavy rains.


Residents’ complaints about bad stormwater drainage have been heard “loud and clear,” city officials said Thursday at a stormwater meeting.

Next spring, the City Council may consider a 30 percent stormwater fee increase – or about $1 a month – for residential customers, to go into effect in July.

Customers currently pay $2.88 per month. They would pay $3.74 per month under the proposed increase. Some residents, such as those living in apartments, currently pay slightly less than $2.88 but would be subject to a future fee increase.

If the City Council approves the increase, Rock Hill staff members said, all the extra money will be used to fix stormwater problems in neighborhoods.

Rock Hill’s stormwater advisory committee is also recommending a fee increase for commercial businesses.

Officials estimate the residential fee increase would bring in an extra $271,000 annually, but it will take millions of dollars to fix the drainage problems.

New money brought in from a commercial fee increase would be put toward the largest projects city officials have identified to relieve flooding and water “overtopping” roads during heavy rains.

Non-residential utility customers pay a stormwater fee that is calculated using the size of a property and the amount of “hardened surface” developed – such as parking lots and buildings.

In the coming months, City Council members will consider approving a tiered increase on commercial stormwater fees, in addition to the residential fee increase.

Businesses with 10,000 square feet or fewer of hardened surface would see a 20 percent increase under Thursday’s recommendation.

Most small businesses fall into that category, officials say.

For example, a business with 6,500 square feet of hardened surface currently pays about $8 a month in fees. The proposed increase would add to that business’ monthly bill by $1.50.

Larger businesses would see either a 25 or 30 percent increase under the proposed changes.

For example, a business with nearly 44,000 square feet of hardened surface currently pays about $41 a month in stormwater fees. The proposed change would increase that business’ monthly bill by about $10.

Officials estimate the commerical stormwater fee increases would generate $420,000 annually for the city.

Thursday’s discussion of a stormwater fee increase was the latest in a series of meetings held by city officials hoping to tackle drainage problems throughout Rock Hill.

The city recently completed a survey of problem areas and flood plains to prioritize streets that need stormwater solutions the most.

City leaders have a plan, but the challenge, as always, is finding enough money, they say.

Rock Hill officials have divided projects into two lists: one for major stormwater projects and one for smaller, neighborhood projects.

There are 112 areas on the major projects list . The most pressing 24 large projects have a combined price tag of up to $16 million.

Four of those major projects are in the engineering and permitting phase. First on the major improvement list: the Hagins Street and Friendship Drive area; part of Charlotte Avenue near Glencairn Garden; the Pinevalley Road, Midbrook Drive and Woodhaven area; and the Eagle Drive, Hummingbird Lane and Raven Drive area.

Also on the the list are areas such as Roddey Street, McDow Drive, Bose Avenue, Chandler Drive, Marydale Lane, Saluda Street, Pinewood Lane and Hollis Lakes Road.

On the neighborhood list, three stormwater projects are close to completion: Wright Street, Reynolds Street and Hagins Street. The cost for these projects is more than $100,000.

Also on the the list are areas such as Long Street, Edgemont Avenue, Frayser Street, Laurens Street, the Seven Oaks subdivision and the Herlong Ridge subdivision.

At current stormwater fee levels, the city raises about $2.4 million a year. After paying utility employees, buying equipment and project supplies and paying down debt incurred for past projects, about $400,000 is left for a “reserve fund” for future projects.

Rock Hill has about $3.4 million in its reserve fund, but nearly $2 million of that has been set aside for major stormwater projects underway, officials said.

Relying on reserve funds made available from current stormwater charges, officials said, is not enough to complete much-needed improvements, so a fee increase is needed.

City Council members at Thursday’s meeting did not vote on the increase.

The proposal is likely to be considered next year as part of the council’s budget talks, which start in the spring.

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068

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