Summit County Engineer Al Brubaker is seeking County Council approval to create a stormwater utility that would handle flooding, erosion and water-quality problems in the region.
The engineer on Thursday forwarded sample legislation and requested a meeting with the council to start discussing the issue.
Council President Jerry Feeman said there’s plenty of research needed before the council would sign off on creating a utility, which a nine-member, appointed board would oversee.
“We’ve got to be very cautious,” Feeman said Friday. “We all know that something has got to be done. Some things have to be fixed, but we have to be very cautious of taxing people.”
The proposal and program details aren’t new, but the request for the council to craft legislation is. Brubaker has been working on the plan for nearly two years. He released details, such as the cost for property owners, last year.
The plan calls for imposing a monthly fee on all property owners: $12 a year for the average homeowner and more for businesses and industries that contribute more to water run-off. The fee would raise anywhere from $5 million to $6 million in the first year to fund the program. It would triple in two years.
Brubaker has argued that the county must develop a stormwater management program because water problems are getting worse and at some point the Environmental Protection Agency will step in.
Councilwoman Sandra Kurt said the timing is perfect to discuss the issue, given that last year was the second-wettest on record in the Akron area. She also views stormwater as an economic development and quality-of-life issue.
But she said that imposing a fee will generate some opposition.
“It’s going to be a tough sell,” Kurt said. “But we have to address this sooner or later, and the longer we take to address it, the worse the problem is going to be.”
She said she would like to see some discounts offered to encourage homeowners and businesses to reduce water run-off — such as creating a rain garden.
Feeman also said he had concerns about how a countywide program would affect existing stormwater programs in many communities that already charge property owners a fee.
Brubaker has said the county fee would be applied to all property owners and would be in addition to any local fee.
To read the full proposal, go to http://engineer.co.summit.oh.us/.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org.