RPB Prepares To Launch New Stormwater Utility

Royal Palm Beach has developed a policy and procedures manual to help implement its new stormwater utility, approved earlier this year.

The Royal Palm Beach Village Council was scheduled to approve the manual Thursday. The new policies implement an ordinance approved in April creating the stormwater utility and collecting an assessment on property owners to maintain the village’s drainage system.

The stormwater utility manual describes the policies set forth by the village concerning stormwater management fees, credits and adjustments, and describes the billing and collections procedure and appeals process for customers.

“We have four different providers of drainage services in Royal Palm Beach,” Village Manager Ray Liggins told the Town-Crier on Wednesday. “We have the Indian Trail Improvement District, we have the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District, the Lake Worth Drainage District and then ourselves, which is 80 to 85 percent of our land mass.”

Liggins noted that the village has been paying for maintenance of its drainage system and all the capital improvements through its ad valorem tax base.

“What this will do is pay for all the drainage, maintenance and any future capital improvements as needed or desired, and it will give a secured funding source,” Liggins said. “Doing it with a stormwater utility is a reliable source. All funds collected have to go to drainage, so it gives that assurance to residents. If rules and regulations change in the future, it gives us the ability to be flexible with funding without affecting the tax rate, and if a changed level of service is desired by the residents, it would give them the ability to fund it.”

At first, the utility will be funded with about $665,000, solely to maintain the system as it now exists. The cost for a typical residential unit will be about $4 a month, going into effect in the 2012-13 fiscal year.

Although the village practiced stormwater management before the ordinance was approved, the process was under the general category of public utilities.

The council found the creation of a stormwater utility viable after a presentation by consultant Scott McClelland of CDM Smith, who explained that development covers the land with impervious areas that allow less stormwater to infiltrate, which the village is left to drain off through its stormwater system. Increased impervious cover leads to larger volumes and higher rates of stormwater runoff, which poses a threat to the public health, safety and welfare.

Stormwater management helps avoid problems with water quantity and quality, according to the manual. By mapping, planning, constructing, operating, cleaning, regulating and maintaining natural and constructed stormwater management control measures, the village will reduce the adverse effects of stormwater and improve the quality of canals, streams, rivers and lakes in and around the village.

The stormwater management fee is proportional to the demand for services as measured by the amount of impervious area on a property.

Under the stormwater utility ordinance, the village has established opportunities for customers to receive credits and adjustments if they construct or maintain privately owned stormwater control measures that are beyond the minimum standards required by the village code or the South Florida Water Management District. Customers may qualify for credit when they can demonstrate that their existing or new stormwater control measure provides cost savings the village would otherwise incur.

Residential and non-residential developed lands are eligible for credits. Single-family residential developed lands are only eligible for credits if the stormwater control measure subject to the credit is wholly owned and operated by one entity, such as the owner of a single-family residence or a neighborhood association or other legally recognized organization; and if it can be demonstrated that the activity reduces the stormwater management burden caused by each customer.

The village has also established a process that allows all customers to appeal for adjustment if they feel their fee is in error. The village may also make an adjustment if it discovers an oversight in determining the fee for a customer.

Liggins said that having a stormwater utility is a more equitable way to assess property owners for the service. Having a stormwater utility on the books also gave village staff the ability to draft this year’s budget and reduce pressure on the general fund. It also ends what amounted to the village charging some residents twice for stormwater management — specifically those living within the boundaries of special districts such as the Indian Trail Improvement District and the Lake Worth Drainage District.

During workshops, McClelland said the RPB canal system handles the stormwater runoff relatively well, but no significant improvements have been made in 50 years. Over time, siltation in the canals would reduce effectiveness.