, Muskogee, OK

January 8, 2013

Stormwater fees unchanged

Council discusses assessments but takes no action

By D.E. Smoot
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Public Works Committee members took no action Tuesday to address concerns about the impervious surface fee schedule that hits a handful of commercial property owners harder than most.

The fee was approved in July 2011 as a way to address stormwater drainage issues that have caused frequent flooding in the past. The fee is based upon the size of impervious surfaces — like roofs and parking lots — located at commercial and industrial sites.

The fee schedule doubles the assessment for nonresidential properties outside city limits but bounded on at least three sides or surrounded by the municipal boundaries. A recent complaint from one business owner prompted questions about why utility customers outside city limits should pay more.

“When we voted on this, it was unclear to me you would pay an amount twice as high as a neighbor who might be just across the fence,” Mayor Bob Coburn said about the fee disparity between property owners inside and outside city limits. “I don’t understand the logic of it or why we did it in the first place.”

Public Works Director Mike Stewart said the provision authorizing higher stormwater fees dates back more than a decade when the assessment was approved. At that time, stormwater fees were based upon the size of a utility customer’s water meter and supply line — the monthly cost then was $2 for customers inside city limits and $4 for consumers outside the municipal boundaries.

When city councilors approved the impervious fee, the schedule remained unchanged with regard to the double assessment for customers outside city limits. Stewart said the increased assessment of impervious surface fees affects only seven businesses.

Thomas Faulk, general manager at Whittinghill Disposal Service, was granted a reprieve after he proved the company’s property does not meet the criteria required for the doubled assessment. Still, he questioned the legitimacy of the impervious surface fee when it comes to property outside city limits.

“How can the city impose a fee on residents beyond its boundaries?” Faulk said. “How does receiving drinking water (from the city) have anything to do with stormwater?”

City Attorney Roy Tucker expressed certainty about the city’s authority “to do so as long as the fee is reasonably connected” to the service provided. Stewart said every effort is made to ensure the fee is assessed only for impervious surfaces from which stormwater flows into the city limits.

With those questions answered — and after some discussion about drainage problems that have been resolved as a result of projects funded by the fee — committee members made no motion to amend the fee schedule.

As of Jan. 1, commercial and industrial utility customers inside city limits are assessed a $2 fee for every 2,650 square feet of impervious surface on the property. The fee is $4 for commercial and industrial customers with property outside the city limits but is bordered by the municipal boundaries on at least three sides.

Revenues from the fee have been used to fund the construction of a detention pond near Civitan Park. Stewart said late last year that the revenue stream could be tapped to repair deficient city bridges. He said then that the fee — which at the time was $1.50 for every 2,650 square feet of impervious surface — brought in about $33,000 a month.

Reach D.E. Smoot at (918) 684-2901 or