June 30, 2016

Partly sunny

Brunswick to tap into fund for stormwater

BRUNSWICK — City officials hope to get some stormwater projects underway this year using money from a utility fund that began collecting money earmarked for that purpose in 2012.

The fund collects money through a $4.95 fee added to residential trash bills. The fund brings in about $1 million annually.

The city decided it would use about half the money to pay off $6 million in stormwater system debt and interest over the next 18 years for projects that were initiated and completed between 2003 and 2009.

Council approved using the remaining money for repairs to the city’s stormwater system to improve flash flooding issues.

The city made a large payment on the debt in 2013 with all the money from the fund collected in 2012 and part of 2013.

The big payment was made so the city could reduce future debt payments to around $500,000. Since 2013, the fund has been accumulating funds collected from sewer bills, but nothing has been appropriated yet.

After the city pays nearly $500,000 for annual debt payments, Fischer said the city has about $400,000 left over to spend this year. On Monday, Council voted to spend $67,200 of that money to do concrete repairs to 85 catch basins.

But Council hasn’t decided how to spend all the remaining money.

“We’re always asked what are we doing with public utility money, this is our chance to do something,” said 2nd Ward Councilman Vince Carl.

During a committee-of-the-whole discussion Monday, City Manager Anthony Bales suggested $100,000 be set aside for a capital purchase of a new sewer vacuum and a camera used to inspect and repair stormwater pipes.

Bales also suggested the city pay about $50,000 for a master plan to identify high-priority projects within the city and the cost of those projects.

The remaining $170,000 could be spent to repair sink holes in each of the city’s four wards.

“We’d be repairing ones that are creating significant problems — like undermining a roadway or blocking storm sewer drains,” he said.

Council members agreed to set aside money for the sewer vacuum and camera, but modified Bales’ other proposals.

Council members agreed to a master plan study was needed, but decided to pay for the study out of the general fund.

That move would free up $50,000 that could be added to the $170,000 set aside for this year’s repairs of sink holes.

Councilman Vince Carl said he was supportive of spending the additional amount on fixing sinkholes, saying it was a project that wouldn’t be too costly and money could be spread evenly around the city’s six wards.

But some Council members balked at the idea of spending $220,000 to fix sink holes.

“I can’t commit to a sinkhole-only plan, there are other small sewer projects in my ward,” said Councilman Mike Abella, 1st Ward.

Councilman David Coleman, 3rd Ward, agreed.

“I have issues that are bigger than sinkholes in my ward,” Coleman said.

Council members agreed to meet with Bales and City Engineer Ryan Cummins this week to discuss repair projects they would like to see in their wards. Bales said he’s open to their suggestions, and his sinkhole recommendation was just a proposal for a project that had already been identified and would improve the functions of city sewers.

“If my recommendation isn’t taken, that’s fine as long as it drives the discussion towards what Council wants to fix,” he said. “The bottom line is any work we do is going to help.”

But some of the areas of the city with the biggest flash flooding problems may require a few more years of money going into the fund before the city would have enough money to do repairs.

Major changes to creeks would have to be studied for the impact upstream and downstream and some projects would require approval from other outside agencies including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“Some of these projects are bigger scale, and would be hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Bales said.

While Council is in recess for the month of August, they plan to meet sometime in the next two weeks to discuss sewer projects and possibly pass legislation to approve sewer projects so the city can go out to bid and start work this fall.

At large councilman Alex Johnson said he hopes Council follows through with the master plan by next year.

“I’m in favor of the master plan, otherwise we have four Council members duking it out to get projects for their wards,” he said.

Contact reporter Loren Genson at (330) 721-4063 or lgenson@medina-gazette.com.

Loren Genson About Loren Genson

Loren Genson was The Gazette's senior reporter. From August 2012 through September 2015, she covered Brunswick city and state and national government. To contact The Gazette, call the managing editor at (330) 721-4065.