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Aging Water Infrastructure Causes Georgia Municipality to Tax Property Owners

The Atlanta Journal and Constitution

November 29, 2001 Thursday, Home Edition
SECTION: DeKalb; Pg. 3JA

LENGTH: 347 words

HEADLINE: Monthly fee proposed to fix drainage



County officials are pursuing plans to charge DeKalb homeowners and businesses a monthly fee to pay for repairs to the county's aging storm water drainage system.

Under the proposed plan, property owners would be charged $4 a month while business owners would pay $40 a month.

County commissioners discussed the idea at a work session last week. A vote would likely come in January or February. If approved, the fee would take effect in 2003. "Our system is already overtaxed and we've got to take care of it," Commissioner Jacqueline Scott said.

A county-commissioned study, prepared by CH2M Hill, a firm with offices in Atlanta, found a backlog of more than 2,000 repair orders. The study showed photos of corroded 20- to 30-year-old pipes and catch basins covered in trash. Additionally, county officials say they are being called about once a week to repair sinkholes, where such calls used to come once every two to three months.

County officials warn that failure to upgrade the storm water system could result in roads caving in or driveways and sidewalks collapsing.

"It's a definite safety issue," said Carl Glover, director of the county's Roads and Drainage Division.

CH2M Hill officials say the fees would help the county collect about $8 million a year.

DeKalb's storm water system concerns mirror other communities in metro Atlanta. Charlotte, Chattanooga, Decatur and Griffin are among the many cities that have approved a storm water utility fee in recent years to offset the costs of infrastructure improvements. Most charge homeowners $3 to $5 a month. Businesses are charged more depending on how much land cannot be harmed or penetrated.

Despite the county's insistence on the fee, county officials are aware that convincing residents will be a tough sell. Comments to CH2M Hill included: "Drainage and water quality problems are important, but they don't affect me directly."
"It's necessary because we've got to address the drainage problems now before people everywhere discover it is a problem," Scott said.


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