OLDSMAR — Oldsmar will not have enough money to keep its stormwater system operational if it continues to bill residents at the same monthly rate that has been in effect since 2003, the city's consultant told council members Tuesday.
"It's just funding ongoing operating expenses of the system," said Anthony Hairston, managing consultant with Public Resources Management Group in Maitland. There's "not enough to fund $3 million of replacements and upgrades going forward."
Hairston recommended City Council members raise storm-water fees from $3 per equivalent residential unit, which is defined as 2,550 square feet of impervious surface area, to $4.
That's for customers who rely on city crews to maintain their stormwater ponds and catch basins. Those who maintain their own, or use a homeowners association to do it for them, would pay $3.50 per ERU.
"The need to maintain the city's outfalls and catch basins is critical in keeping the overall stormwater system operational," Hairston said.
"We recognize the times. Affordability is an issue. It is affordable compared to what others are charging nearby."
According to Hairston, Clearwater charges $11.80, Dunedin $6 and Tarpon Springs $5.65.
Since 1991, when Oldsmar added a stormwater fee to water bills, it has only adjusted the rate three times: in 1992, 1998 and 2003.
Council members were on board with the latest increase, but acknowledged it would be a tough sell.
"It's hard (for customers) to swallow because a lot of this stuff is underground and people don't see it," Vice Mayor Doug Bevis, a stormwater engineer, said. "But it still needs to be repaired and maintained and property is not cheap if you have a stormwater pond."
The new rates would have to be approved by resolution, City Manager Bruce Haddock said. He said he would present one to the council in June or July and it would take effect in October, which is the start of the new budget year.
"My recommendation is that we incorporate this into next year's budget," Haddock said.
Also Tuesday, the council promoted Ann Elizabeth Stephan, the city's communications specialist and administrative assistant since 2007, to the recently vacated city clerk position. The decision was unanimous.
"For the last few years, she sat and watched the council at every meeting, filming them and stuff," Mayor Jim Ronecker said. "So she's got a running knowledge of the personalities that are up here and that's who she's going to be answering to."
Stephan replaces Lisa Lene, who administered oaths, took minutes at City Council meetings and supervised city elections for 13 years. She resigned to join her husband in Missouri. Her last day was April 2.
The city and Stephan are still negotiating the terms of her employment, including her effective start date and salary level.
Rodney Thrash can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 445-4167.