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Pay as we go

October 26, 2011
Morning Journal News


To residents of Colum-biana: Over the past few weeks a storm water fee being added to all residents utility bills has been thrown around at council meetings. At the meeting Tuesday night, Council was approached about placing a storm water utility fee on all city residents and businesses.

The fee has been discussed between $5and $15 per month. It has been explained to council that this project will cost upward of $15 million. If a fee is placed on residents to pay for this at $10 per month with 2,800 homes paying the bill it would take 44 years to pay for this project. That equates to $120 per year times 44 years which is $5,280, dollars per residency to pay for a storm water system. That doesn't include inflation or interest.

I truly feel sympathy for the residents who are dealing with these problems. Multiple times, I have suggested that we fix the individual streets by paying as we go. Last December, funds that had been set aside to do that were given to another department after the promise of those funds had already been made. It was a 3-3 vote with the mayor breaking the tie to remove the money from the storm water earmark.

The residents of the areas in question should be comforted to know that we have already completed all of the mapping, preliminary engineering, selected a firm and are now under way with receiving the quote to fix the first street. We are working to fix this without a fee.

To commit to a project that will cost each home owner over $5,280 over the course of the project is not what I would consider a "fair share" as it has been suggested.

Just last week the federal government announced the first increase to Social Security in several years. This fee (if instituted) could take up to 50 percent of that increase. This coupled with the expected rise in Medicare and senior citizens would be paying even more out of pocket than they are now.

My plan to pay as you go would be to immediately change our city health care plan from a self-funded policy which costs over $1 million per year to a national carrier. Our immediate costs could be dropped by hundreds of thousands annually. This savings could potentially then pay for the annual cost of the project. Each year we could tackle the problem by paying with the savings. This way there is no reason to assess a fee. The fiscally responsible way to fix this situation is to set aside money that will immediately fix the streets with the problem. Adding more fees and taxing residents even higher than they already are in this economic client should not be a consideration.

Bryan Blakeman

Columbiana City Council



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