Milton council OKs storm water fee
The city council approved creating a utility Tuesday and set the fee at $4.59 a month, or $55.13 a year, per single-family home for the first year.
The city already maintains storm water runoff through street sweeping, leaf collection and sewers. But it has to expand its practices to meet requirements of the federal Clean Water Act. It was required to remove 20 percent of particles from runoff by March 2008 and 40 percent by 2013.
The city hasn't done the computer modeling required by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to show how much sediment it removes, so it doesn't know if it is meeting the 2008 standard.
The city planned in its 2009 budget to remove storm water expenses to a utility starting the second half of the year, collecting revenue by monthly fee instead of through property taxes.
An advisory team recommended the city establish a budget of $350,000—later increased to $373,000—to meet the standards, up from the $170,000 a year it currently spends.
But Mayor Tom Chesmore and City Administrator Todd Schmidt determined, after meeting with the DNR on Monday, that the city can reduce its expenses in the first year to $223,000. That would require homeowners to pay $4.59 a month, down from the $7.69 a month required by the $373,000 budget.
"(The DNR) did say that they're willing to work with the city on a reasonable plan that demonstrates that we're moving toward the goal of compliance," Schmidt said.
The reduced budget covers the computer modeling and current maintenance practices but eliminates creation of a capital equipment fund and most of a fund for basin dredging.
Some council members said they are concerned that, with the reduced budget, the city will be delaying expenses it will have to pay later on to meet the 2013 requirements.
Still, the council approved the creation of the utility with the reduced budget 5-1. Fred Hookham opposed because he thinks the city can pay for a reduced budget without creating a utility, he said.
Some audience members agreed. Speakers questioned why the city was taking money from the tax rolls and putting it into a utility.
"I don't think the cost shifting is appropriate," said Chuck Jackson, a Milton business owner. "You have to spend what you have."
Jackson called city officials irresponsible for allocating money in the 2009 budget from a utility it had not yet approved.
City officials acknowledged that the utility is essentially another tax but said it's necessary to remove the costs from the property tax rolls to maintain city services.
The city was talking about staff cuts before it decided to put half the storm water costs into a utility in the 2009 budget, Chesmore said.
"We decided we're not going to cut staff because we're going to maintain the services that we already have," Chesmore angrily told Jackson. "For you to sit here and judge this council, it's reprehensible."
The utility will take effect Sept. 1, and property owners will receive their first bills in October.
In other business
On Tuesday the Milton City Council:
-- Approved adoption of an ordinance to allow open gun-carry. The ordinance brings the city in line with a recent state attorney general opinion that says people have the right to openly carry weapons. People will not be allowed to carry weapons in public buildings, school zones or places where alcohol is sold and consumed.
-- Discussed a proposal to reduce crossing guard hours from an hour and 45 minutes before and after school to 45 minutes before and after school. Guards would serve for an hour before and after school on Madison Avenue and a half hour before and after school on Parkview Drive.
The city and school district share crossing guard expenses.
The city council discussed the issue too late to meet the Gazette's deadline.