STATE OF GEORGIA

 COUNTY OF HENRY                

 

 

 

The Henry County Board of Commissioners held a Called Meeting at 9:00 A.M. on Thursday, May 20, 2004, in the Community Room, County Administration Building, 140 Henry Parkway, McDonough, Georgia.  Notice of this meeting was posted on the bulletin board in the entrance foyer of the County Administration Building.  The Daily Herald was notified of this meeting.  Those present were:

 

                        Leland Maddox, Chairman, presiding

                        Warren E. Holder, District I Commissioner

                        Gary M. Freedman, District II Commissioner

                        Jason Harper, District III Commissioner

                        Gerry Adams, District IV Commissioner

                        (District V Commissioner, Lee Holman, was absent from meeting)

 

Also attending were Linda Angus, County Manager; LaTonya Wiley, Deputy County Attorney; Susan B. Craig, County Clerk; Rob Magnaghi, Deputy County Manager & Public Safety Division Director; Danny Taylor, Economic Development Division Manager; Michael Harris, Public Works Division Director; Jim Luebbering, Stormwater Manager; Julie Hoover-Ernst, Community Relations Specialist; and others.

 

The meeting was called to order and Ms. Angus, County Manager, announced the meeting was for the purpose of a Stormwater presentation by the County’s consultant and comments from the head of the Stormwater Program.

 

Mr. Danny Taylor, Economic Development Division Manager, said representatives from ARCADIS were in attendance to give a presentation on the status of the Stormwater Management Program and an update of the date of collection, how that is being used, and how they are using our resources to stay on schedule to meet the objectives so that staff can have the tax bills ready by the 1st of September.  He said staff had a date of completion of August 6, 2004, and they wanted to get the word out to the public beforehand, so the citizens would be informed of their tax bill and there would be no surprises. 

 

Mr. Taylor introduced Mr. Anwer Ahmed, Project Engineer with ARCADIS.  Mr. Ahmed said they were proceeding on a very aggressive schedule to establish a Stormwater Utility for the County to have a funding source for the Stormwater Program.  He said they were setting the foundation for the Stormwater Utility and needed concurrence from the Board as they proceeded forward through the steps.  He said they were looking at the funding sources and options available to the County for funding the ongoing program, and then on the 30th of June he would return and discuss the culmination of the study.  The Public Information staff will present to the Board what public outreach activities are being undertaken as far as informing the public before the stormwater fee bills are sent to the County residents.   

 

Mr. Ahmed said the needs assessment is based on what the County has to do for the Stormwater Program; what is required to be done by MPDES stormwater permit.  In March, 2003 the County filed to receive coverage under that permit.  He said the Notice of Intent is a big part of the program because that is what is required under the State permit, and the plan of service provides a much broader vision for the Stormwater Program.  It lays out how the Notice of Intent would be implemented (about 30 activities) and what beyond that does the County staff feel is necessary to undertake a comprehensive Stormwater Program.   

 

Mr. Ahmed said Mr. Luebbering had worked tirelessly with them in developing a plan of service and to develop a detailed cost estimate for the project.   He said he felt the County staff now had ownership of the program that had been molded by Mr. Luebbering and Mr. Taylor; it is no longer an ARCADIS Program. 

 

Commissioner Freedman asked if the County was considered a ‘small municipal.’

 

Mr. Ahmed said, “yes, according to the EPA definition, MPDES Stormwater Regulation included medium (100,000 to 250,000 population) and large (above 250,000 population) municipalities.  He said in 1999, when EPA issued Phase II of the Stormwater Regulation, that is when they brought the coverage down to what they are calling ‘small municipalities’ below 100,000.  They have now closed off Phase I, and any new entrance to the Stormwater Program is considered part of the Phase II Program.”

 

Mr. Ahmed introduced two associates with ARCADIS, Mr. Pete Yakimovich, their funding expert, and Mr. John Dean (Mr. Ahmed’s boss), Principal in Charge of this project with ARCADIS. 

 

Mr. Ahmed said the focus should be on the cost and funding for the County to implement the program.   He said they had developed cost objectives back in January, 2003 and presented them to the Board.  Since that time, the program has evolved and changes have been made in the Notice of Intent.  Staff has been making the changes with EPD, based on plan-of-service, and we have had meetings with Mr. Luebbering regarding this.  Mr. Ahmed said for each of the activities, they had gone through line by line each activity that the County intends to undertake under the Stormwater Program, and have looked at four (4) different categories, personnel, equipment, supplies, and outside services.  Mr. Ahmed said they were looking at an average of $2.5 million a year to implement the Stormwater Program.  He said since the County recently adopted a revised development fee schedule for Plan Review activities, the State has come up with an amended Erosion Sediment Control Law under House Bill 285 that has also established certain fee schedules for inspection and enforcement of the Erosion Sediment Control related development activities.  Those components, even though they are part of the Stormwater Program, are not funded out of Stormwater Utility. 

 

Commissioner Freedman asked if stormwater fees could be rolled into impact fees, or does it have to be charged separately.

 

Mr. John Dean said the operating budgets presently shown tend to preclude the impact fee as the CIP is developed for stormwater management.   He said it could be possible the CIP would be rolled into some impact fee structured data.  Mr. Dean said impact fees for stormwater management are feasible; however, there needs to be a detailed plan that will outline the cost and how they are being impacted.

 

Mr. Yakimovich said, regarding impact fees, it is a matter of timing and what you spend it on.   Impact fees could be brought in at a later date, but where the County’s program is for the 5-year period, he did not think impact fees could provide the County with the funding necessary to drive the program. 

 

Ms. Angus said as we inform the public, she wanted to focus their attention on the mandate versus the County stepping into something that they do not understand.  She wanted the citizens to understand this was not something we were willingly to jump into to charge everyone. 

 

Mr. Yakimovich said the County does not have an option with the program; it is mandated.  He said the only options we have is what is the best way to pay for it, because there are resources required such as equipment, staff, activities and services.

 

Commissioner Freedman said at the Quality Growth Council, Dr. Couch spoke about Stormwater Management being a ‘bottom up’ approach; they wanted to get the public’s and local governments’ input before they started making decisions at that level.  He said we do not mind the ‘bottom up’ approach for input, but needed ‘top down’ approach for funding.  He stated they have put all of these mandates on us, and Dr. Couch has an $80 million budget that she brought out in her speech, and Commissioner Freedman asked why we could not tap into some of that both Federally and State-wide, because this would be a burden on our people.

 

Mr. Yakimovich said Section 319 grants were certainly an area the County has been working on to acquire access, but many of those require matching money.  He said the nature of your program is such that you will have to have a foundation of funding to carry on.  That funding will allow leverage in any federal money available. 

 

Mr. Yakimovich said a stormwater utility may be subject to a legal challenge, and he had been involved in some personally.  He said everybody will want to see the same way.   He stated we would need to follow the process that will give legal strength and foundation to stand the test. 

 

Mr. Yakimovich said they reviewed a range of options that seemed to make sense for the County, such as property tax, SPLOST, severance taxes, government grants/loans, special assessment district fees, impact fees, developer/development fees, and utility services fees.  He said they went through an analysis of those, and tried to evaluate which of the options met certain criteria based on fairness and sublicity.  The cost of implementation was a factor, because they did not want to add the burden of what is collected.   They questioned if the revenue capacity was really capable of generating the kind of revenue either in parts or completely.  He asked does the revenue grow when the costs of services arise, because there may be an increase in the cost of services, and will the revenue keep up?  That is a key issue.  He said the recommendations came back and the development piece, along with stormwater service fees, were the two most viable ways that the fund was programmed.    

 

Mr. Yakimovich stated stormwater service fees, on the other hand, were a different concept.  It is a fee for service based on the demand imposed on the County that drives this program. 

 

Mr. Taylor asked, “what was your conclusion about the elasticity with the total revenues with service fees?”

 

Mr. Yakimovich said elasticity is good; for the most part, the kinds of factors that drive the fee are urbanization and development related things.  He said as development grows, you end up with more impervious area; more impervious area, without a rate change, will drive the revenue with it (which is a good circumstance). 

 

Ms. Angus asked if they were planning to capture the impervious surface data on new developments or new buildings at the plan stage, or do they have to be assessed by the Tax Assessors and delay the revenue for a year.

 

Mr. Yakimovich said it was a billing issue and those are issues they will be addressing; but at the moment, since the billing is through the property tax bill and is the vehicle that delivers the bill (an annual bill), the change in the property has to be recorded and assessed in the next property tax bill.  He said it is possible to pick an effective date this happened.  Then the bill the following year would pick up the change or prorated portion of that forward so it could be captured.

 

Mr. Taylor asked what would cause total revenue to decline.

 

Mr. Yakimovich answered, “issue of credits and how those might be applied.”   He said there are three (3) factors that drive the cost of service for this program: 1) imperviousness, 2) the size of the surface area, and 3) the number of parts dealt with.  Those three (3) factors are the things looked at in developing a methodology for stormwater service.  The predominant methodology in Georgia right now in the active utilities is imperviousness, which affects the run-off quantity, rate and water quality.  This is a primary factor in driving the cost of the program, whether it is infrastructure, changes needed to accommodate it or in planning the regulatory activities that are part of it. 

 

Commissioner Freedman asked when he talked about ‘imperviousness,’ was he talking about residential.

 

Mr. Yakimovich responded, “we are talking about imperviousness for all parcels. One of the things in single-family residential that we look at is the statistical spread; they do not vary in terms of size and perhaps percent of imperviousness quite as much as other parcels.  The first task is to develop a unit; it is common in utility ratemaking to have a unit.  What we have seen in Georgia is somewhere between one-hundred (100’) square feet and three-thousand (3,000’) square feet. Then we would look at residential properties and try to come up with how many units by going to each parcel and measuring the amount of imperviousness.  Residential parcels will pay much less than a commercial parcel of same size; it just has more impervious cover.  For residential parcels, we are trying to develop flat rates.  Some time ago, it was estimated on an annual basis that residential would be between $30.00 and $50.00 a year.  Until we look at the actual data, I cannot say, but I do think we will be at the lower end of that.”

 

Commissioner Holder asked, concerning the collection of fees or assessment of taxes, are the cities a part of this.

 

Mr. Yakimovich said the cities are not part of this.  He said this fee would be assessed only on parcels in the unincorporated areas of the County. 

 

Commissioner Holder stated this is another good example why people will annex into the cities.  He said obviously the cities are where the majority of the imperviousness occurs because of higher density and more development. But they do not stop the stormwater run-off at the City Limits.  He asked, “would it not be simpler to have the cities on board and have somebody doing it all in one tax assessment, going to every citizen in the County that right now currently, with the exception of stormwater tax, everybody gets the same tax; there may be a millage adjustment for various services, but still everyone gets a tax statement.”

 

Mr. Yakimovich responded the recommendation was for a joint effort, but for whatever reason, it was decided by the County and the cities to go their own way. 

 

Commissioner Holder said, “since you are our consultants, be sure that this water that comes from the cities, and does not stop at the City Limits, is accounted for so that they are taxed accordingly.  That is why it needs to be a coordinated effort throughout the County with one source doing it all.”

 

Commissioner Freedman said this is a Federal and State mandate; he said there is no city out there that can avoid finding a way to collect these fees.  He said his concern was the cities would come up with a fee less than ours.  “If we start measuring impervious surface with the formula you use, and then we come up and bill the people in the unincorporated parts of the County 2/3rds more or 1/3rd more or 20% more than what billing the cities, we are going to have a problem on our hands.” 

 

Commissioner Holder said theoretically either one of the cities could elect to not even charge a fee for stormwater management and fund that out of some other revenue source.

 

Mr. Yakimovich said they could lean on property taxes.  He said they did an analysis in the stakeholders’ groups that provided a good argument on why there should be a joint cooperative effort in partnership; they looked at what the rates could be under both scenarios and generally the rates were lower when their was a joint effort versus when they were separate. 

 

Commissioner Holder said what is happening with the mass annexation, the industrial and commercial and the revenue generating areas of the County are being eaten up by the cities; the cities will end up with the revenue and the County will end up with the residential non-revenue generating areas where someone will be assessed to pay the bill.  In his opinion, the County and cites should work closely together because in some point in time, the Board of Commissioners will be a powerless under-funded central government of Henry County.

 

Mr. Yakimovich said if you lose the area, you will lose the revenue; however, the program, given this nature, probably will not see a proportionate decrease in cost.

 

Commissioner Holder asked why would the cities want to coordinate with the County, at this point, when they could do it cheaper, because they have the imperviousness or the density within the cities. 

 

Commissioner Holder asked if a rate had been set for Stockbridge.

 

Mr. Yakimovich said Stockbridge was trailing and was not at the same point as the County; to his knowledge, no one has been working with McDonough in the sense of establishing a stormwater utility in the immediate future.  Mr. Ahmed said they were working minimally with McDonough as far as helping and implementing their stormwater NOI.   Mr. Dean said as far as Locust Grove and Hampton, Mr. Rick Jeffares was focusing on Locust Grove in-house; ARCADIS did not do the NOI for Locust Grove or Hampton. 

 

Ms. Angus asked if they had the same time requirements.

 

Mr. Dean said the NOI’s had the same submittal dates and implementation dates. 

 

Commissioner Adams asked if the incentives for the cities to come in would be that we all experience the same initial cost; Stockbridge will have to pay a substantial amount of money. 

 

Mr. Dean said when the NOI was started, (the original Stormwater Phase II effort) the cities were to all be involved.   He said then Hampton pulled out; Locust Grove is not regulated under the Stormwater Phase II permit, but probably will be included in the program when EPD updates their list. 

 

Ms. Angus suggested that she should invite the other managers to lunch with ARCADIS to hear their viewpoints and concerns.

 

Mr. Patrick Jaugstetter, County Attorney, said the reason the cities do not want to participate is because they do not have any faith in the County satisfying the requirements of NPDES permits.  He said they have the perception the County is unable or unwilling to do it, and as long as the County tries to sell them the idea of doing it together, as a means to control, slow down or stop their annexation of their growth, they are going to add to that the section of inability to do it.   Part of the cities’ perception is the County wants to control what the cities do.  He said we have offered this to the cities, but their response is always, “ya’ll are not going to meet the deadlines.”  Until the perception problem is solved, we will continue having this competition. 

 

Commissioner Freedman said we need to approach this on a friendly basis and have Ms. Angus, Mr. Jaugstetter and Mr. Magnaghi sit down with them to try and work this out, showing them that this is more cost effective. 

 

Ms. Angus said if it was approached as a team driven effort, we could show that we are not trying to control them; we do not have to be dictating to everyone what goes on. 

 

            Mr. Yakimovich said it could be possible to have a uniform rate across the County, except for Locust Grove.  Then the actual money that comes out of that particular area would actually be transferred to that municipality.  For example, Stockbridge – whatever revenue is derived from their parcels, that revenue, on a uniformed rate, would then be handed over to the municipality. 

 

Commissioner Freedman stated we have a selling point in that we have a Stormwater Manager.  He said we could say, “we have a guy who, for all four of the cities, will oversee this program.”  That should be important to them, that we will manage that whole program. 

 

Mr. Rob Magnaghi, Deputy County Manager & Public Safety Division Director, stated if the cities felt they had some say-so in how the functions and directions are going, then they might be willing to participate.  He thought the cities and County together should make joint decisions, so that the cities would feel they were part of the participation in making things happen.  He said they are reluctant to follow the County’s lead.

 

Mr. Ahmed said the time between now and August is limited from the stormwater fee aspect; he said there is not enough time to establish the needs for the cities and the agreements necessary between the County and the cities and developing the data to arrive at a cost.

 

Ms. Angus said, “we are aware that there is not enough time now to bring that in before we put ours in place.  It does not mean we can’t start discussions and phase everything together.  There is just so much we can do between now and August.”

 

Mr. Yakimovich said the rate methodology has committed to finish by the middle of June; we are only weeks away from having that put together.

 

Ms. Angus thought we could move forward as planned and try to bring the cities in.  She said it does not mean by going forward we can’t continue to make other decisions; we should stick to our plan.   Ms. Angus said she would try to set something up the following week with the cities.

 

Ms. Julie Hoover-Ernst, Community Relations Specialist, said she wanted to give an update on the education and outreach part of the MCM’s.  She said they had been distributing brochures to homeowners, business owners and developers and were well on the way to meeting the requirements.  She added, though only three (3) are required, at least five (5) Stormwater articles have already been published in the newspapers, with additional articles targeting businesses scheduled to run in the June issue of Visions, the Chamber of Commerce newsletter which goes to all their members as well as all subscribers of The Daily Herald.  She mentioned that in April, they completed the first of two required community outreach programs via a storm drain stenciling project coordinated through ‘Hands on Henry.’  She said Mr. Luebbering was currently doing the second training session on the Blue Book, which is the MCM #6.9 that will be in force by the 10th of August.  The Stormwater Hotline is set up and running and the phone number is 678/610-6387 and had just been published.  Ms. Hoover-Ernst said they are in the process of a mass mailing to all property owners, a copy of which had been provided in the Board Members’ mailboxes.     Per the County Manager’s comments, the letter will be amended to include more details about the Mandate, but Ms. Hoover-Ernst said she felt it was important to also include information about the fees.  She said people are envisioning that the fees will be enormous, but their fear was derived from a misleading article in the AJC which did not differentiate between residential and commercial rates.

 

Mr. Yakimovich stated the reason they have not been able to be more specific is because they’ve had to extract the actual impervious area (all the non-residential parcels), and using estimates is what they had before, and it was discovered the tax records underestimated the amount of impervious area.   We did not want to guess wrong. 

 

Ms. Angus said the County needs to speak to the ‘average residents’ and state the estimated range.

 

Chairman Maddox asked once the stormwater program is in place and doing well, would that reduce the retention ponds that are presently being used to hold the water.

 

Mr. Ahmed responded that once the stormwater program is up and running, as far as the long-range plan goes, Mr. Luebbering has in the budget to do a stormwater management plan for the County to develop hydraulic models for individuals and watersheds in the County.  This would be a tool to answer questions such as, can we do a regional stormwater pond for the whole commercial or industrial areas as opposed to each of those having their own separate stormwater pond. 

 

Mr. Ahmed said there is another Stormwater Informational Public Meeting that has been advertised and scheduled for June 15, 2004, at 7:00 p.m.    This meeting has been set up to answer the public’s questions one on one, so that they do not get ‘hit’ with a big bill in September. 

 

Ms. Ernst stated a letter is going out in mass-mailing to all property owners which amounts to 44,097, and that letter will point out that it includes tax exempt properties. 

 

Mr. Yakimovich said the County will access a fee against it’s own property as well.  He said if the City of Stockbridge owns property within the County, they will have a fee on their property. 

 

Mr. Ahmed said they were acquiring the GIS data from the County’s GIS Department at the end of next week which would be the final information needed to do the rate study.  Then he said they would have a week or so to turn that around to talk to Mr. Taylor and Mr. Luebbering about the rate study.   He said a draft of the utility ordinance would be delivered to the attorney on the 18th of June for his review.  Mr. Ahmed said in the middle of June they would complete the rate study and the implementation of the stormwater utility and deliver it to the Board for review.   A work session (called meeting) has been scheduled for June 30th for the rate study presentation, and then ARCADIS will return on July 6th to request the approval and adoption of the rate structure and utility ordinance.   He stated the Tax Assessor has asked them to deliver all of the information needed to bill the fees by August 2, 2004. 

 

Ms. Angus asked Mr. Ahmed for a copy of the Power Point Presentation. 

 

The meeting adjourned at 11:17 A.M.

 

Lland Maddox, Chairman

 

Peggy L. Malcolm, Deputy County Clerk