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Council says 'no' to stormwater fees

Proposal shelved after members balk at added utility charges

Bill Spinks
Midlothian Mirror
Midlothian City Hall.

The Midlothian City Council took a look at a proposal for a fee to help pay for stormwater drainage improvements at its Tuesday, Jan. 26 meeting, but backed away from instituting any new charges for city residents and businesses.

City engineering and utilities executive director Mike Adams said in 2018, city staff prepared a draft stormwater utility fee study, but the council at the time took no action.

Niraj Acharya, an associate principal with Teague, Nall & Perkins, went over a proposal for a monthly fee that would pay for stormwater-related services and expenditures.

Acharya said construction of buildings, roads and parking lots will result in more runoff and less water infiltration into the ground. As Midlothian continues to grow, so will the amount of stormwater, which could cause potential problems.

Stormwater fees, which are authorized by the Texas Government Code, can be put to use in numerous ways, including land acquisition, operations and maintenance, personnel and equipment, professional design fees and other costs.

There are instances where properties are exempt from a fee, such as undeveloped property, a property with a “wholly sufficient” private drainage system, or a subdivided lot without a structure and a certificate of occupancy. Adams said most new developments in the city have installed their own detention ponds to address stormwater drainage.

Properties that can be exempted include state, county or municipal property, school districts, non-profit churches, and cemeteries that are closed to new interments and burials.

Acharya said the average residential lot size is a half-acre, and so his firm recommends that all residential lots be charged a flat monthly rate based on this size. Non-residential properties would be charged a rate based on the size of each lot; and industrial lots would be charged based on a calculation of the impervious areas.

Acharya presented projections of how much revenue a stormwater fee would generate for the city. For example, a monthly base fee of $6 — which he said is the average charge for most cities in North Texas — would raise more than $1.2 million in annual revenue to go toward drainage improvements. The fee would appear on residents’ utility bills.

Based on the city’s 10-year capital needs projections, Acharya said Midlothian would require an $11.33 fee to meet the projected demand for stormwater drainage, but he added that most cities find that number too high and choose a lower amount to fund the highest-priority projects.

Several councilmembers expressed reservations about placing an additional financial burden on residents and businesses. The council agreed to not move forward with any fees at this time, but may revisit it at a future date.

Mayor Richard Reno thanked Acharya for his presentation, saying it was very educational.

All councilmembers were present.

Other items

• The consent agenda included approval of previous minutes, an ordinance providing for the May 1 election and a contract with the Ellis County Elections Administrator, the approval of the city Parks and Recreation 2021 special events calendar, and interlocal purchasing agreements with the cities of College Station, Lucas, Southlake and Longview.

• The council appointed Lee Skinner to the Planning and Zoning Commission and Kelly Osborn to the Park Board to fill vacancies. Each councilmember and Mayor Reno was also assigned a board or commission to serve as a liaison with the council.

• Councilmembers approved a bid award to Texas Bit for a package of eight roadway asphalt rehabilitation projects. The base bid amount was just over $2.2 million, plus a 5-percent contingency. City public works director Adam Mergener said the projects are the continuation of an ongoing process of street repairs.

• A $145,000 amendment was made to a contract with Ellis County Emergency Services District No. 2 for enhancements to the city fire department training program. The enhancements include a simulation mannequin, a modular training classroom with a restroom at the new Midlothian Fire Training Center, and an additional burn room. With that money, the council approved the purchase of a 24-foot-by-36-foot modular classroom for the new fire training facility at a cost of $65,720, including delivery and set-up.