Council supports stormwater utility model

The Champaign City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night in favor of supporting the Stormwater Utility Fee Advisory Committee’s plan to develop a $3.2 million tiered stormwater utility fee model, which could potentially become a future ordinance up for vote.

The $3.2 million dollar plan, which was not voted into law at Tuesday’s study session, would increase money available for stormwater improvements by more than 60 percent should such an ordinance pass in the future. The committee said a rough draft of the stormwater utility fee ordinance should be ready toward the beginning of next year.

All the council members present praised the committee’s report on its detail and effort.

“This (fee report and project) has to be viewed as a collective effort of all the citizens,” said Tom Bruno, councilman at large,

Bruno reiterated a statement made by councilman Will Kyles, District 1, who said that the work accomplished by the committee is a great example of community and government working together.

“This is an example of municipal government at its finest,” said Champaign Mayor Don Gerard.

Under the $3.2 million plan, homeowners would pay a tiered monthly fee based on the size of their property, said Champaign Public Works Director Dennis Schmidt. According to Schmidt and the report, the implementation of the stormwater utility fee would allow for the completion of various infrastructure projects, including the Washington Street and Boneyard Creek projects. The current stormwater fund, with a budget of around $5 million, is out of resources after record rainfalls in 2008 and 2009 called for more capital infrastructure projects.

All the council members agreed the tiered system was the best format. Along with the tiered rate, property owners would earn incentives if they invested in stormwater improvement investments in their properties, such as rain barrels and detention basins. The council was aware, though, that not all sides were represented at the council meeting.

“I know we’ll hear from a lot of the larger business owners because it will be expensive for them,” said councilwoman at large Deborah Feinen.

The collective response from both the council and the public was that the community would benefit greatly from more investment in infrastructure. Councilman Michael La Due, District 2, said it wasn’t too long ago when major chain restaurants and other businesses avoided opening up shop on Green Street, once known for major flooding. But after recent projects such as the Boneyard Creek improvements helped limit flooding problems, La Due said Campustown, downtown Champaign “and even midtown Champaign” are flourishing from renewed interest in the area.

“We wouldn’t have the Campustown without these (infrastructure) investments,” La Due said.