After years of having to tell Davidson County residents and business owners with flooding issues that there was no funding to fix their problems, district Metro Council members have been able to give their constituents good news: Help is on the way.
Since Metro Council passed into law Mayor Karl Dean’s stormwater fee earlier this year, the new dedicated funding stream has allowed Metro Water to get started on projects across the county.
The fee was applied to Metro Water customers’ bills beginning in July.
Since that time, the department has completed or started nearly 40 stormwater projects, with about that same amount planned to start before the end of the year.
“The funny thing is we’ve gotten so many projects started, I’ve had several people call me and say, ‘Hey what’s going on?’ and they’re extremely delighted when I tell them it’s stormwater,” said District 26 Councilman Greg Adkins.
The councilman has one of the most needy districts for stormwater projects because of Seven Mile Creek passing through the Crieve Hall neighborhood.
“We’ve got three or four going on in the district and in general I’m getting positive feedback,” Adkins said.
The new stormwater fee charges residential customers monthly between $3 and $4.50 and commercial customers between $10 and $400. The fee is based on the amount of impervious surface on a property, which leads to runoff and contributes to the water department’s stormwater system.
Prior the new dedicated funding source, Metro Water was forced to tell customers with stormwater problems that lack-of-funding meant simply adding their names to the bottom of a lengthy list. The backlog of stormwater projects reached the hundreds before Dean moved to create the new fee and begin work this summer.
Metro Water categorizes stormwater projects into three different levels, with C projects being the least severe and A projects being a threat to person and property. Since July, 18 Class A projects have been launched and 21 Class C projects.
District 31 Councilman Parker Toler said the Water Department was also beginning the process of re-assessing backlogged projects to determine which ones needed to be remedied first.
“I think it’s going to be a positive,” said Toler, a 30-year veteran of the Water Department. “It’s going to take a while sorting out ones that need it the most and looking at the ones that had been on the list for so long.”
Besides the stormwater fee, Dean also implemented water and sewer rate increases in order to improve the Water Department’s weak bonding capacity and begin critical new infrastructure projects. The first rate increase since the 1990s will lead to more than $500 million in water and sewer capital projects.
Although Dean’s new stormwater fee breezed through Council, it was criticized at the time by District 24 Councilman Jason Holleman. He said the proposal did not do enough to discourage paving by Davidson County’s largest property owners.
The maximum $400 fee for property owners with more than 1-million square feet of impervious surface was too low, Holleman said, but his proposal to raise the fee for the top-tier property owners failed with a 24-14 Council vote.