Salisbury Stormwater Fees To Start By Next Summer

SALISBURY – Salisbury property owners should expect to start paying a new fee next summer as a result of the formal establishment of a new stormwater utility.

An ordinance establishing a stormwater utility under the direction and supervision of the Public Works Department that will further establish a stormwater utility fee system came before the City Council this week to be approved on first reading.

According to the ordinance, the city maintains a number of stormwater facilities, such as inlets, pipes, infiltration facilities, etc. However, the stormwater system in the city is in need of an upgrade, and while it is designed to convey stormwater to limit flooding it does not treat stormwater to improve water quality.

“Water quality is degrading due to erosion and the discharge of nutrients, metals, oil, grease, toxic materials and other substances into and through the Stormwater System,” the ordinance states. “The public health, safety and welfare is adversely affected by poor ambient water quality and extreme flooding that results from inadequate management of both the quality and quantity of stormwater.”

While the extent of the use of the stormwater system by each property is dependent on a number of factors that influence runoff, all real property in the city uses and benefits from the maintenance of the stormwater system, the ordinance maintains.

“The cost of improving, maintaining, operating and monitoring the Stormwater System should be allocated, to the extent practicable, to all property owners based on the impact of runoff from the Impervious Surface Areas of their property on the Stormwater System,” the ordinance states. “Management of the Stormwater System to protect the public health, safety and welfare requires that adequate revenues be generated to provide funding for the operation, improvement, maintenance and monitoring of the Stormwater System.”

The city has been working out the details in implementing a stormwater utility and a fair fee for over a year. The most recent work session was held late last month.

Following the council’s direction, the proposed ordinance was amended to delete the section that would have the fee included in the water and sewer bill and instead add language for billing the fee with municipal property taxes as well as a provision to place a lien on the property if there is lack of payment. The amendment also restored language regarding a stormwater quantity credit.

Public Works Director Mike Moulds added the city of Rockville was contacted to discuss any challenges with implementing the stormwater fee on their property tax bill. According to Rockville, there were no concerns or any issues with banks or mortgage companies questioning the fee or not paying the fee. Rockville officials did advise to add an information line on the back of the tax bill to explain what the fee was for and to provide the Public Works contact name if there were any questions.

Mayor Jim Ireton assured the stormwater utility fee will not be a sticker shock.

“I don’t want anybody to get this impression that we are raising $500 gazillion in the first year. For the averaged sized lot in Salisbury, it is $5 a quarter,” he said. “I would like to say thank you to all of you for the incredible amount of time, work and detail you went into. I also want to say thank you to the staff for being able to put together a stormwater utility that recognizes what our detractors say is billions of dollars, and what the state says is billions of dollars, but knowing that we, the elected officials here in Salisbury, were able to come up with our own program with the help of the State to get this done.”

Council President Jake Day agreed.

“Staff has done an incredible job addressing and providing a very fair system to address this, what was really a fiscally and environmentally irresponsible situation, providing a better method for addressing what is an infrastructure that we have had for decades that has not been funded or taken care of as we should have done,” he said.

The council voted unanimously to approve the ordinance establishing a stormwater utility in first reading.

Following the first reading, a Mayor Roundtable Neighborhood Outreach will be held on Nov. 18, the stormwater utility ordinance will return to council for approval in second reading on Nov. 24, Eastern Shore Regional GIS Cooperative will complete impervious area work by Dec. 1, Public Works will conduct a fee analysis by Jan. 16, the work session to set the fee will be held on Feb. 2 and the Stormwater Utility Fee Ordinance will come before the council in first reading on March 9 followed but the second reading on March 23.

A sample bill will be mailed to all properties greater than one Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU) on April 20. The county will be provided with billing information by May 18 and the implementation is estimated to be complete by the end of June.