Proposals for storm-water management to be offered Options for financing upgrades developed

November 12, 1996|By Katherine Marks | Katherine Marks,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

A task force will present three payment options for upgrading the county's aging storm water management system at a public hearing tonight -- all of which would involve increasing assessments or fees on county residents.

County Executive Charles I. Ecker said yesterday that he would not accept a proposal that would raise residential taxes or fees.

Ecker said there is a good possibility that money for upgrading the county's storm sewers will not be allotted if the task force can't come up with a plan that maintains current tax rates. He said he would not comment on the plans until after the public hearings.

Federal regulations passed in 1990 under the Clean Water Act require local governments to set aside money for modern storm water systems.

The Bureau of Highways now must apply for a permit that the Maryland Department of the Environment reviews every five years. To keep the permit, the bureau must improve the county's storm water management.

Last summer, Ecker appointed a 12-member task force to recommend funding sources.

The task force, which has been meeting since October, will present its findings at tonight's meeting at Centennial High School in Ellicott City and at three other public meetings this month. It plans to make a final recommendation to Ecker by next month.

The proposals for the water management system include:

Paying for the upgrades through the county's general fund in a manner similar to the way the existing system is funded.

Creating a fixed-fee system. Each property would be charged a set fee that would vary for commercial and residential properties.

Charging a rate based on the assessed value of properties.

Because the task force feels that more money needs to be spent on storm water management, the first plan could result in higher taxes for residents unless something else is cut from the budget, said Steven Sharar, a project engineer for the county.

The other two plans would require residents to pay fees in addition to their county taxes.

The public hearing tonight will provide equal time for residents to propose alternative plans to the task force.

Andy Daneker, chief of the Bureau of Highways, said that over the past few years, an increasing number of residents have raised concerns over the management of storm water runoff.

That bureau is responsible for maintenance and inspection of the county's drainage ponds and storm pipes in residential areas. Commercial properties are responsible for their own maintenance.

More recently developed parts of the county use systems that reduce runoff from fertilizers, which can cause water pollution. Sand filters used in drainage pipes near parking lots can catch some unwanted residue.

Drainage ponds where storm water collects now are drained less frequently to allow sediment to settle near the bottom of the pond. Water then is released more slowly to prevent the sediments from reaching creeks and streams.

Such older developed areas as Elkridge and Ellicott City haven't kept pace with the more newly developed areas in adapting the new measures.

After tonight's hearing, meetings will be held Thursday at the Western Howard County Senior Center on Route 97 in Cooksville; Monday at the Elkridge branch library on Montgomery Road; and Nov. 20 at the East Columbia branch library on Cradlerock Way.

All meetings will begin at 7: 30 p.m.

Pub Date: 11/12/96

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