DADE CITY — After a lengthy debate Tuesday evening, the Dade City Commission postponed a decision on the proposed $3.50 monthly stormwater fee that would be tacked onto city residents' utility bills.
In light of the poor turnout at last week's public workshop on the fee, Commissioner Camille Hernandez said some residents are now raising their objections to the fee — especially business owners who would pay a larger cost based on the size of their property.
"I've had residents, business owners and others contacting me and (they're) not at all in favor of it," Hernandez said.
Lennie Naeyaert, who heads up the city's public works department, underscored the urgency of approving the stormwater ordinance, citing the fact that Dade City's stormwater master plans are already 45 years old. Naeyaert noted that this project needs to be approved by the start of the upcoming fiscal year.
Some commissioners said they would want to see the city's master plan updated prior to moving forward with a vote on the stormwater ordinance.
"I'm not necessarily in opposition of this," Hernandez said. "I just want our i's dotted and t's crossed."
If approved, the measure would raise about $288,000 a year to fund the planning, permitting, construction and maintenance of local stormwater improvements.
"We've had this problem for years and years ... timing is everything, but if there's an imperfect time to do this, it's now," said Mayor Scott Black, arguing the fee could create a financial hardship for residents. "My concern is the timing," Black continued. "We can wait a little longer."
Commissioners Curtis Beebe and Bill Dennis cast the two dissenting votes Tuesday opposing the delay. Beebe supported passing the ordinance but postponing the collection of the fee. He also suggested initially setting the fee as low as one penny, then possibly "throttling that up" at some point in the future.
"We know we've got to do it. The timing stinks," said Hernandez.
Dennis agreed that the timing is wrong.
"You can set up the framework but I don't think we're going to get bonded until funding is in place," said city finance director Jim Class.