EBENSBURG - Ebensburg Borough Council is moving forward with a stormwater management fee to help pay for close to $6 million in flooding-abatement projects over the coming decades.
Council agreed to an $96-per-parcel annual fee, to be assessed by mid-summer, to pay for three projects within the next eight years: about $1 million for a stretch between Center and Tanner streets, over $500,000 between West High Street and the Ghost Town Trail and about $100,000 along North Julian Street near the Cambria County Fairgrounds.
President Doug Tusing said he wanted to introduce the fee, which will be a line added to utility bills, gradually - charging only $48 for the first year, to allow residents and business owners time to budget for the added expense.
"I would feel more comfortable phasing it in," he said, and council agreed.
The $96 fee is expected to bring in over a quarter of a million dollars annually, allowing the borough to quickly pay off an eight-year debt that would be incurred to pay for the first three projects.
Council also instructed engineering firm L.R. Kimball & Associates to complete its report with a fee cap in mind.
The fee was calculated by mapping impervious ground that cannot absorb water and, thus, contributes to flooding.
Kimball engineers mapped commercial, tax-exempt and a randomly selected 10 percent of residential properties to determine how much to charge per parcel of land.
Because some properties, like the fairgrounds and Bishop Carroll Catholic, occupy large swaths of land and include numerous buildings or parking lots, contributing to the amount of impervious space.
Using the fee system, engineer Dave Hoover said, five properties were looking at over $3,000 in fees -- including $15,000 for the fairgrounds and about $10,000 for the school. Hoover said capping the fee is an unusual move, but he advised council that a $15,000 fee would be "a real hardship" to a group like fair organizers.
Council agreed that such fees would discourage business, and capped the fee at a $2,880 maximum, which will cut about $23,000 from annual profits.
Borough Manager Dan Penatzer said business owners and residents alike also will eventually be able to earn tax credits to offset the fee, by investing in detention ponds or rain barrels.
Councilwoman Theresa Jacoby asked whether the borough would continue levying the fee after the three projects were completed.
Penatzer said with about $5.8 million in flooding projects to complete, the $1.77 million to be completed by 2022 or 2023 was just a "small bite" of the $5.8 million in costs to totally repair flood-prone areas over the next 30 years.
"There's plenty more bites left," he said.