As the Manhattan City Commission continues to battle the current stormwater drainage infrastructure, they may be calling on property owners to help fund improvements in the coming years. At Tuesday evening’s work session, city engineer Brian Johnson updated commissioners on a proposed plan to restructure stormwater rates.

Last fall, city commissioners heard about $61 million in proposed capital improvement projects that would improve the underperforming stormwater drainage infrastructure. Johnson’s presentation included the results of a study being conducted by Carl Brown & Associates.

If the city were to adopt some of the firm’s suggestions, an “equivalent residential unit” — or ERU — system would be implemented in place of the declining tier structure. The tiered approach charges properties with more square footage less money per unit. Johnson showed sample images of an ongoing GIS project which calculates the amount of impervious surface space on any lot. Impervious surfaces are anything that forces runoff storm water such as a roof, parking lot, or gravel driveway.

The ERU would address current inequities in how stormwater fees are applied. Under the proposed plan, residential lots would pay a flat fee while commercial lots would still be tiered. Establishments with large, paved parking areas would face a stormwater fee increase.

If the ERU were to be implemented, the city would raise nearly $2 million per year in stormwater fees. In order to raise the rest of the money toward CIP, the city plans to revisit water and utility fees this summer. Johnson indicated the water fees would be a more lucrative approach for the city.

“I don’t think that anybody has the idea we’re going to fill $61 million gap in two years,” Johnson said. “This is going to be something that gets pushed out, like all funding does.”

Johnson collaborated with other Kansas communities in order to produce his plan for the proposed restructuring, namely taking example from Hutchinson’s program that was enacted a year ago.

Johnson said the commission could revisit the new ordinance every few years with the idea of eventually implementing a tiered mechanism for residential lots, meaning properties with less impervious surface space would be paying less in stormwater fees.

The commission gave Johnson permission to move forward with finishing a restructuring ordinance that would be introduced to the commission by June. In order to be effective for 2018, the ordinance must be approved by September. Johnson will be working with an on-call firm in order to alleviate some workload from city staff.

In other business, commissioners heard the quarterly report from Riley County Police Director Brad Schoen. Schoen fielded early questions about the success of a “hands free” driving ordinance in Manhattan. Given a slight decrease in accidents and a rise in citations issued, Schoen indicated the 2016 ordinance is working as planned.

Schoen also suggested a joint meeting between Manhattan’s city commissioners and the Riley County Commission. Schoen said the county is planning to move forward on the bidding process for a new radio system for all emergency management services. The city, along with Riley county and the law board would all be responsible for funding the project. Schoen also indicated talks about a shared shooting range between the army and RCPD have stalled. The county is looking to sign a long-term lease on a shooting range while Fort Riley may share a different sentiment, Schoen said. Schoen indicated Fort Riley brass may be keeping tight-lipped throughout the process due to bureaucratic limitations involving Washington, D.C.

 

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Source: KMAN Local News