Some Tega Cay residents aren't pleased with the city's efforts to collect stormwater fees, a process the city says is needed to comply with state regulations and maintain its current system.
Tega Cay resident Ray Reeser said he would take his chances with a jury trial before he would pay the fee. Last month, he was served with a summons from the Fort Mill magistrate ordering him to pay $103.20.
According to the document, Reeser owes $96 for his property, plus a $7.20 penalty. He said he also was told he would have to pay an $80 filing fee and a $40 fee to have the summons served.
"Tega Cay spent a lot of money to take people to court," Reeser said. "All it is, is an extra revenue source for the city that they created."
Reeser argues that the city doesn't have a stormwater system and that the fee isn't necessary. The city disagrees.
"To say that all of the rain that falls in Tega Cay ends up in the lake is not entirely accurate, and the fee is not about treating or containing stormwater," said Charlie Funderburk, the city's operations director.
"The fee that was approved by the City Council was based on ... where we needed to get to in order to meet the (state) requirements" for stormwater handling.
Resident Pam Hammond isn't opposed to the fee itself, but she doesn't like how the city is collecting it. Hammond said she paid her fee the past two years but didn't realize she'd received her most recent bill until it was delinquent. She received a summons.
"I feel violated," Hammond said. "I don't appreciate the strong-arm tactics that they're using."
What should have been a $96 fee became, with penalties, $254.70 that Hammond owed, she said. After complaining to the city, her payment was reduced to $166, but she still didn't appreciate what she called "brutal tactics."
"It's still $70 (more than the original bill) for being four months late on a bill that comes to us looking like junk mail anyway," she said.
According to the city, 200 summonses were sent for outstanding stormwater fees for 2010-2011. Of those, at least 115 have been resolved. Property owners who received a summons were responsible for the outstanding balance, accrued penalties, reimbursement for all court costs and fees, and whatever costs the court found necessary.
The city created the stormwater fee in 2008, billed as a $96-per-year flat fee to homeowners, with commercial properties charged based on square footage.
The Tega Cay Stormwater Department was set up to comply with state and federal regulations, ensuring the city met water quality standards.
For 2011-2012, the city expected to take in $348,864 from the stormwater fee, $15,000 from delinquent stormwater fees and $1,250 from penalties.
The state Department of Health and Environmental Control requires a stormwater permit based on the size and makeup of a municipality. Tega Cay received its permit in March 2006.
The city owns about 70,000 feet of storm sewer line, with about 2,000 feet of that pipe running beneath city streets. Still, of the dozens of outstanding cases, at least one is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon.
"Maybe if enough of us rise against them, maybe Tega Cay will drop this thing," Reeser said. "With so many people being sued, I have a good feeling."
Reeser awaits his jury trial. He said a date hasn't been set.