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Mandate may hit citizens' wallets
Jun 02, 2004 12:00 am
A new set of laws local officials are calling an "unfunded federal mandate" to manage stormwater could end up getting in city residents' wallets.
A federal mandate regarding stormwater management that West Wilson officials have said may lead to new fees for citizens in Mt. Juliet could require a similar funding mechanism in Lebanon, a city official said Friday.
As the first step in the five-year plan, the City of Lebanon acquired a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit from the Environmental Protection Agency.
Described by both Mt. Juliet and Lebanon officials as "an unfunded federal mandate," the EPA plan seeks to protect and maintain the environment by controlling discharges of pollutants into the city's stormwater system, according to Lebanon City Engineer Jody Vance.
"The permit lists all the goals that we have to accomplish over year one through five to get into compliance," Vance said. "Basically, we've got to pass legislation to enable us to enforce these water quality laws."
Lebanon city councilors will consider the legislation today, as they are set to consider a stormwater policies and procedures manual for the city's public works department at tonight's meeting.
Vance explained existing industry and new construction can pollute waterways without a proper stormwater runoff management plan.
"You get on construction sites where you've got mud and exposed dirt, and when it rains, mud starts running off the site," he said. "That's the kind of stuff we've got to get a handle on now. We've got to have erosion control. So – a lot of these silt fences you see up around construction sites – you're going to start seeing a lot more of that."
In order to pay for new equipment and employees required to implement the plan, Mt. Juliet officials have said the city may have to impose a new fee, similar to a sewer fee, on its residents.
And though Vance stressed there are no such plans in the works for the City of Lebanon, he noted a new fee for Lebanon residents could not be completely ruled out.
"We haven't got anything set up just yet. We've talked about it, and I think right now, overall, we might need more staffing for some of the issues that are coming up. Right now, we're not planning on a fee, but it's not out of the question," he remarked. " … Some of it can be absorbed with the current staff and funding, but I don't think that will be the case for all of it."
All costs associated with the implementation of the plan, he added, will be "spread out" over the course of the five-year period.
"We're about to finish up the first year, and now there's a lot of public information that's supposed to go out … We hope to have that on our website in the next couple of weeks," Vance said.
In the coming weeks, city officials will establish a Stormwater Action Committee – composed of engineers, contractors, developers and city councilors, according to Vance – to serve as an advisory board to oversee the implementation of the new stormwater management policy in Lebanon.
"The first thing that people will probably see out of this that Lebanon's never had is probably going to be a grading permit," Vance predicted. "So far, any time you wanted to develop a site … you had to get planning commission approval, but before, you could always go in and start grading the site. Now, things are probably going to be different.
You'll have to apply for and get a grading permit for any excavation on a site."
Staff Writer Brian Harville can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 16 or by e-mail at email@example.com.