URBANA — City council members on Monday night forwarded the storm-water utility fee for one more vote — at this rate, bills could start going out in September 2013.
All council members supported the new charge on property owners for storm-water runoff except for Robert Lewis, who was absent, and Heather Stevenson, who said homeowners should not have to foot the bill for the city's lack of foresight.
"The city has to do a better job of planning ahead and not going back to taking care of things that should have been thought of before," said Stevenson, R-Ward 6.
But most council members agreed that a storm-water fee is a logical way to make up for dwindling funds as storm-sewer maintenance and improvements grow to be more of a problem.
"If you want to maintain the same level of service, then we need to establish these kinds of funds," said Alderman Charlie Smyth, D-Ward 1.
The new fee is expected to generate $1.7 million annually in new revenue, which would be dedicated to storm-water drainage-related costs. The money would replace the $800,000 annually in general funds that the city currently uses.
Owners of single-family residences and duplexes would pay a flat fee of $61.80 annually, according to the ordinance the city council supported. That would be $2.51 more than what most Champaign homeowners will pay under a similar ordinance the Champaign City Council approved this month.
City officials said that could still be adjusted downward by a few dollars before the first bills go out next year. They initially speculated the bills would go out next spring, but have since moved that date back to next fall.
Other Urbana property owners would pay an amount based on their parcel's impervious surface area, which is any surface impenetrable to rain. Under the current proposal, those property owners would pay $5.15 monthly for every 3,100 square feet of impervious surface, which could include roofs and parking lots.
Economic development manager Tom Carrino said city officials met with the 25 property owners who would be paying the most toward the fee. They weren't happy about paying a new fee, he said, but they understood the logic behind it.
"If the businesses' employees or customers can't get there because the road outside is flooded, that's a serious impediment to doing business," Carrino said.
Alderwoman Diane Marlin, D-Ward 7, said the fee will allow the city to be proactive in fixing its infrastructure, instead of chasing problems after they happen.
"Nobody likes to raises taxes or fees, and they're the worst votes to take ever," Marlin said, "but sometimes we just have to do it."