Ebensburg council OKs rain runoff charge

EBENSBURG – The borough became the first local municipality to take advantage of a state law allowing local governments to levy fees to pay for stormwater management projects.

Council voted unanimously on Monday to approve an ordinance outlining the program and accompanying fees, which will go into effect Sept. 1.

Councilman Dave Kuhar was absent.

The borough formally began the process in November with a presentation from L.R. Kimball & Associates engineers, who took four years to study and map the borough.

Kimball also helped develop the stormwater fee, which will start at $48 a year for residents until Jan. 1, 2016, then double to $96 annually. The fee will be collected

in installments every other month.

Businesses and nonprofits also will be charged a half fee until 2016. The ordinance also sets

a maximum fee for

nonresidential properties at $2,880 annually.

If the cost seems steep for some, Borough Manager Dan Penatzer said residents and business owners can offset up to 65 percent of the fee through the borough’s credit program, also adopted at Monday’s meeting.

Program materials, available on the borough’s website, outline ways to reduce the fee by improving the quality of water runoff through rain gardens, wetlands or green roofs, or by managing water volume using porous pavement or trenches.

Residents also can earn additional credits if they take measures that can be shown to reduce runoff during major storms – also called 10-year or 50-year “events.”

Not all rain barrels are equal, however. Council President Doug Tusing expressed concern that a business owner would hope to take the same measures as a homeowner and see an equal reduction in his or her stormwater fee.

“One rain barrel for a home is not the same as one for a large commercial property,” he said.

In addition, most business owners benefiting from the $2,880 cap – who would have otherwise paid a far higher fee – are not eligible to receive additional credits.

The only exception is the county Emergency Services building, Penatzer said. All other commercial and nonprofit properties will see more significant savings from the cap than the credits.

Council also approved for advertisement – for full adoption next month – an ordinance that will turn over stormwater facilities to the municipal authority; as with water and wastewater, the facilities will then be leased back to the borough for operation and maintenance purposes.

In addition, council amended lease and operating agreements between the borough and municipal authority to include new language referencing stormwater management.

As funds add up, the borough will begin applying for low-interest loans to complete the first round of projects by 2023.

In unrelated business, council approved a maintenance agreement with PennDOT for work to build a new bridge next spring along West High Street near Pizza Hut.

PennDOT plans to install the bridge with sidewalks on both sides, which will be turned over upon completion for the borough to maintain.

Council also approved a subdivision of the former Appledale Golf Course, which closed in late 2012.

Penatzer stressed that the two owners have no plans to develop or sell the property but were simply dividing it between them.

Mirror Staff Writer Kelly Cernetich is at 946-7520.