GREEN COVE SPRINGS – In only its third meeting, Board of County Commissioners’ Infrastructure and Development Committee is considering establishing a Municipal Service Business Unit to fund …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – In only its third meeting, Board of County Commissioners’ Infrastructure and Development Committee is considering establishing a Municipal Service Business Unit to fund future stormwater needs.
A longstanding problem in Clay County, and much of Northeast Florida, the threat of stormwater made its way to the forefront of county conversations during Hurricanes Matthew and Irma. Since then, the Board of County Commissioners has been making strides to improve stormwater management county-wide and a stormwater fee appears to be one solution under consideration.
“According to our critical events timeline, we need to mail this out in July, so obviously before it can be finalized, we need to...figure out the amount for the assessment and that will be brought to the board probably in the late spring May timeframe and once that is determined, the board will determine the resolution moving forward,” said County Attorney Courtney Grimm. “We will then send out a statutory notice and then there will be a public hearing.”
Grimm said the deadline for the public hearing is Sept. 15, but that she recommends moving that closer to August in case anything of note rises from these hearings. Grimm also said that she and staff are drafting a cover letter to go with the statutory notice to explain to county residents why the storm tax is needed. If approved, the new fee would be collected in the county’s 2019-20 budget year, which begins Oct. 1.
“Maybe expand upon why the county has decided this is the best route to go to get the money to fund the [stormwater] maintenance,” Grimm said.
Engineering and Public Works Director Dale Smith explained what infrastructure needs would be funded by the new fee. Smith said that the current routine maintenance from the transportation trust fund cost $1.8 million last fiscal year.
Smith also presented the Public Works Department’s needs in stormwater maintenance. According to Smith, there’s over $4 million in drain line repairs and replacements needed, $1 million in rural cross-drain maintenance and another $11 million in under drain, or underground drain, repair and replacement.
“There’s a total bill as we know it now of about $16 million and I really think that’s on the low side, but that’s all I can actually put a number to at this point,” Smith said.
From here, Smith presented different funding options – $24 a year per parcel, $36 a year per parcel, $48 a year per parcel and $60 a year per parcel. Smith said the property appraiser said there are about 91,000 parcels for 2018. After taking out government-owned parcels, that number drops to about 87,800 parcels.
While this estimate is on the higher end as there are 12,000 unoccupied parcels of land within that 87,800, Smith said these parcels would be the ones assessed.
“The next page shows what I’d like to consider a first-year budget for the stormwater MSBU and the maintenance still stays at about $1.8 million, but I increased the drainline repair, the cross drain repair and the under drain, with some engineering in there to help us find more failing infrastructure and the equipment that I would like to buy,” Smith said. “You can see that my first budget comes up to $4.3 million and when you go back to my revenue, if you all would agree to it, it looks like we’re somewhere in that $48 a year.”
Commissioner Diane Hutchings, who serves as one of two Infrastructure and Development Committee members, with Commissioner Wayne Bolla, pointed out that $48 a year equates to $4 a month for everyone in the unincorporated areas of the county, or parts of the county not governed by a local municipality such as Orange Park Town Council or Green Cove Springs City Council, for example.
This funding is not a utility which means the county does not have to have an enterprise fund for it. Instead, this money will go into a designated fund as a fee to take care of stormwater maintenance. This fee will be based on the number of parcels a person has and not how large their parcels are.
As this is a committee, no official decisions were made. The proposed MSBU will be discussed at an upcoming BCC workshop.