Mt. Lebanon instituted a stormwater management fee in 2011 with the goal of making improvements to reduce flooding within the municipality.
Single-family households and equivalent residential units were assessed $8 monthly, and that amount has stayed the same for a decade. But the challenges of managing stormwater have not.
“The issues have intensified since the inception of the plan, including changes in regulations and the effect on climate, and really the level of service required in the municipality to address all issues related to stormwater,” Dan Deiseroth told Mt. commissioners during their discussion session Tuesday.
Deiseroth, president of Gateway Engineers, gave a detailed presentation including financial considerations for tackling a lengthy list of improvement projects adding up to about $3.5 million, with the upshot that a fee increase of $1 or $2 per month may be advisable to help cover the cost.
Fee payments go into a stormwater management fund, which currently generates $1.5 million per year, while his estimate is $2.2 million annually would be needed over the next five years to complete identified projects.
A bond issue is recommended as optimal for making up the difference, and the additional revenue from stormwater management fees would go toward the higher debt service, according to Deiseroth
Municipal manager Keith McGill said other revenue sources could be available, such as drawing from the municipality’s unassigned fund balance and possibly using money from the federal American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
Along with general inflation, another continually rising stormwater-related expense involves keeping up with governmental stipulations regarding pollution control.
“It’s definitely an unfunded mandate. It’s only going to cost more,” Deiseroth said. “We’re really required to become the steward of the stormwater.”
Commissioner Craig Grella agreed with pursuing that general concept, with a caveat.
“The consensus has been, yes, we want to be better stewards, until it’s time to actually pay for it to be better stewards. That’s been my experience with how people have kind of treated these projects, which, for the most part, are out of sight, out of mind,” he said. “If we don’t put clear funding behind them, they’re just not going to get done.”
And the list of projects looks to keep on growing.
“It seems like every time we complete one,” Deiseroth said, “there’s another improvement that we want to make.”
One of the higher-cost endeavors on the radar involves relocating sanitary and stormwater sewers located beneath buildings in the vicinity of Beverly, McFarland and Banskville roads.
“It doesn’t have any imminent problems or issues, other than we know it’s under structure. At some point in time, it’s going to become a problem,” Deiseroth said. “The cost of doing that underneath the state road, traffic control, all the other things involved: This alone is a $1.75 million project.”
Roughly half that amount would come from the stormwater management fund.
As for the associated fee, the assessment is set to expire 20 years after its implementation if not given a new approval by commissioners.