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Spencer aldermen hear from residents on proposed stormwater utility

The small number of people who spoke during a public hearing on Spencer’s proposed stormwater utility were opposed to the ordinance.

Three people addressed the town’s Board of Aldermen during the hearing held at the board’s regular meeting Tuesday night. The ordinance would establish a utility, funded by fees paid by property owners, to improve and maintain the town’s stormwater system.

Ron Gerlock said he read through the ordinance and is concerned about the fee attached to the plan.

“We’ve got people that are on a fixed income, and we need to know why this is needed,” he said.

The fee has yet to be set. Land parcels that have a single-family residential unit would be charged a flat rate — the town has been using the figure of $5 month for planning purposes.

Commercial parcels will be charged a fee based on the amount of impervious surface area — roofs, sidewalks, walkways, patios, driveway, parking lots, etc.—  the property has. For example, the parcel Food Lion sits on, with its large parking lot, has a large amount of impervious surface area.

W.F. Owens said the town hasn’t made a case for why the utility is needed.

“There isn’t a case to be made,” he said.

Owens said the plan is about higher taxes and more government control. He said the utility will make the town less attractive to businesses.

Bob Oswald said adding a fee on top of the town’s high tax rate is a hardship for people on fixed incomes. He asked why the town can’t use some of its fund balance to fund the utility.

After the three men spoke, Alderman Jim Gobbel said the town hasn’t done a good enough job of educating residents about what the stormwater utility is and why it’s needed.

“We need to explain everything about this program,” he said.

Stormwater systems handle rainfall that doesn’t soak into the soil. Drains in a street curb or in a parking lot are part of the system. Keeping it clean and working properly is important because water that runs through the system eventually ends up back in a river or lake.

The system is also meant to prevent flooding in streets and parking lots during heavy rains.

Alderman Scott Benfield said the town’s stormwater system has been an issue for years and that several streets around town flood during heavy rains.

“For years we’ve had problems with the water being runoff in Park Plaza,” he said. He said there was no infrastructure put in for stormwater management when the plaza was developed.

“Ever since then, we’ve had water running down Fourth Street like rivers on both sides of the road,” he said.

Right now, he said, the town doesn’t have the millions of dollars needed to fix the stormwater system.

“We need to take care of these problems that we have in this town,” he said, adding he was open to suggestions on where to get the money from.

Currently, work related to the town’s stormwater system is paid for through funds from the public works department. Establishing a stormwater utility would create a separate fund solely for the stormwater system.

Mayor Jody Everhart said it takes money to fix the current problems and then maintain the system.

Gobbel said the town needs to have some facts ready to present at the next public hearing, tentatively planned for March.

Contact Reporter David Purtell at 704-797-4264.

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