Springfield residents can cut their monthly stormwater fees in half now by using methods such as rain gardens, rain barrels or disconnecting downspouts.
No one signed up for the city’s first attempt at a bill-reduction program, in part because of an initial $50 fee that exceeded the savings available. So city commissioners recently voted to waive the application fees until 2014 to generate more interest.
The city’s new credit program started last week and Stormwater Coordinator Sky Schelle said it has seen interest, including about 50 people who attended a workshop Thursday.
The stormwater utility was created to pay for some of the federally mandated, $58 million improvements to the city’s wastewater treatment plant to cut down on raw sewage overflowing into Mad River. The city could spend as much as $160 million to comply with all of the sewer overflow and Clean Water Act standards.
The storm water utility generated about $375,000 in its first year. This year, with rates increasing from $.60 to $1.30 a month for the average home, the city expects to collect $975,000. The rate is expected to stay the same until 2014.
City ordinances require all residents to pay something, Schelle said, meaning the stormwater department couldn’t give 100 percent credits for actions to reduce the amount of rain that flows untreated into city sewers during storms. The credits are based on trying to recoup costs of the needed materials, like rain barrels that cost about $70.
A typical homeowner pays about $1.30 per month for stormwater fees, meaning residents can trim their bill from about $15.60 to $7.80 per year.
Businesses can implement similar practices to homeowners. They can also perform other practices — such as biweekly parking lot sweeping and establishing no-mow zones around stormwater ponds — for a 15 percent credit.
“These aren’t expensive things,” Schelle said.
The requirements for practices to reduce bills include:
• Bio-retention or rain gardens must be sized to capture runoff from 25 percent of the property’s hard surfaces that cause water runoff.
• Homes with rain barrels must have storage for 100 gallons, while businesses must have storage for 15 percent of the runoff from one inch of rain.
• Residents who choose to disconnect downspouts from an underground drain must have 75 percent of the property’s downspouts flowing directly onto an area 10 feet wide and 15 feet long that will absorb water.
In 2014, residents will pay a $10 application fee for homes or condos and $75 for all other properties.
Residents can find the Stormwater Policy Manual and applications at www.ci.springfield.oh.us. For more information or questions on the program, call Schelle at 937-324-7739.
The stormwater department also will apply for a $100,000 grant through the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to increase visibility and educate residents about reducing the amount of stormwater that runs off hard surfaces and into the city’s sewers.
If awarded, the city might turn one of its balconies at City Hall into a rain garden, create a rain garden in the tree island near the utility bill box or convert a portion of a Main Street site into a rain garden, or do a combination of those projects.
“It will help reach out to commercial properties, as well as residential, because the scale here is so much larger,” Schelle said.
Businesses with large parking lots pay hundreds of dollars in stormwater fees. The city is also in the process of making changes to planning and zoning codes to encourage alternative designs to reduce stormwater runoff.
“It will open up more avenues for these practices to commercial properties,” Schelle said.
By the Numbers
$375,000 — Total Springfield collected in its first year of stormwater fees
$975,000 — Total Springfield expects to collect in stormwater fees this year
$58 million — Estimated cost of required improvements to the city’s wastewater treatment plant to cut down raw sewage overflows