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Town Must Establish Storm Water Enterprise Fund

Funding Fee Will Be Assessed On All Property Including Non-Profit, Utility & Other Tax-Exempt Properties
by Connie Sartini
The Federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires the town to develop a storm water management system that reduces the discharge of pollutants into the stormwater drainage system and waterways. The town is required to be in full compliance with the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System for a Phase 2 permit.
     To implement this, Groton voters will be asked to authorize establishing an Enterprise Fund for Groton Storm Water Utility at Spring Town Meeting for the purpose of addressing the discharge of stormwater throughout town.
     The Storm Water Enterprise Fund will be populated through assessment of a simple fee on all privately-owned parcels with impervious surfaces, which is defined as a surface that prevents rainwater from going back into the ground.
     The fee is not a tax. This is a utility fee for services not unlike water and sewer utilities. It will include residential and commercial properties as well as private educational, nonprofit, utility and other tax-exempt properties. This will also include property located on a private way.
     The fee will appear on property owner’s real estate tax bills. Tax exempt properties will receive separate bills for the fees. The fee is estimated to be between $5 and $10 per quarter.
     Department of Public Works Director Tom Delaney advised that his department has been handling many of the Phase 2
requirements for the last eight years, but that now there are more requirements that have been added.
     Delaney estimated that “if the town were to outsource the work to meet these requirements, cost would be between $250K and $300K annually.” He pointed out, “If the town continues to do the work it does now, that could reduce the need for outsourcing to $125K annually based on the new Phase 2 requirements.”
     Delaney added that he does not anticipate that there would be any new personnel required for this effort at this time. Budget for the work would be appropriated at Town Meeting but would be funded from the Storm Water Enterprise Fund.
     Consultant Bob Rafferty of Environmental Partners was hired following last Fall Town Meeting to assist the town in developing a Stormwater Funding strategy in order to comply with the state- mandated Massachusetts Small Municipal Separate Storm Water System General Permit (MS4). He has been working closely with Earth Removal Stormwater Advisory Committee and Director Delaney to draft the warrant article, provide fact information on Frequently Asked Questions, and an assessment of the costs.
     On February 4, the Earth Removal Storm Water Advisory Committee (ERSWAC) will hold a public hearing on this state mandate. A continuation date of February 18 has been set by the Earth Removal Stormwater Committee, if needed. This is in preparation for an article for the Fall Town Meeting warrant.
What is MS4
     In the Fall Town Meeting summary of the article to hire a consultant, it advised voters that the MS4 was created to address stormwater that typically contains a number of pollutants such as oil and grease from roadways and parking lots, pesticides and fertilizers from lawns, sediment from construction sites, sand and dirt from roadway maintenance practices, and carelessly discarded trash such as cigarette butts, wrappers and plastic bottles. When these pollutants enter water bodies, they can contaminate drinking water supplies, hinder recreation activities and harm aquatic and other wildlife habitats. There is also soil erosion and flooding that washes pollutants into surface waters.
MS4 Permit
     The MS4 Permit is a five-year permit issued jointly by the US EPA and MassDEP. More than 200 Massachusetts towns discharge stormwater under U.S. EPA’s NPDES Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems permit (the MS4 Permit). This five-year permit, jointly issued by EPA and MassDEP, requires towns to meet six minimum control measures (EPA has extensive guidance on how towns can comply with this permit).
     There are six minimum control measures that a town must address. They include:
1. Public Education and Outreach 2. Public Participation
3. Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination (IDDE)
4. Construction Site Runoff Control
5. New Development and Redevelopment Runoff Control
6. Good Houskeeping.
     The town is also required to prepare and file an annual Report with the EPA.
     The neighboring towns of Pepperell and Westford have also funded this MS4 state mandate by issuing a Storm Water Utility Fee to address the increased costs.
In Pepperell
     Beginning in February 2019, the Town of Pepperell, according to their website, began issuing a Storm Water Utility fee to all town parcels. The fee is assessed quarterly and is included on the Water and Sewer billing. If a resident does not currently
receive a Water/Sewer bill, they will still receive an invoice for the Storm Water portion only.
     Every parcel in Pepperell is assessed a flat, quarterly fee estimated to be $15. The purpose of this fee is to generate adequate funding to comply with the recently issued NPDES MS4 permit from the EPA.
In Westford
     According to their website, Westford will begin to implement a fee in FY2021 beginning July 1, 2020. The fee is based upon impervious surface area, broken down into five tiers, ranging from $37.50 to $150 for Single Family Residential (SFR) properties. The middle tier represents the most common sized impervious surface area for SFR properties, and is used to establish one unit, called an Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU). Non-single-family residential properties will be charged a fee of $75 per ERU, based upon the size of impervious surface area on their property. Bills will be issued in one mailing containing two bill stubs, allowing the option to pay upon receipt or bi-annually.
     There is also a billing process for multi-family homes and private roads as well as for non-profit and tax-exempt properties.
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