The Village of Wellington might add a $100 per unit annual assessment to residents in the Acme Improvement District to fund what council members said are much-needed drainage upgrades.
Council members voted Tuesday to allow staff to proceed with the process of amending the district’s water control plan.
Village Engineer Bill Riebe told council members that the changes would add several capital improvement projects to the water control plan, including raising Forest Hill and South Shore boulevards.
“This only affects residents of Wellington who own property within the Acme Improvement District,” he said.
The district spans most of the original areas of Wellington, west of State Road 7 and east of Flying Cow Road.
The assessment would bring Wellington a revenue increase of approximately $2.4 million a year. The projects, which will be built over 12 years, are estimated to cost $29.3 million.
Since Tropical Storm Isaac dropped nearly 18 inches of rain on the western communities two years ago, Wellington has been working to improve its drainage system. “We can only discharge so much into the regional system,” Riebe said.
With changes to the Federal Emergency Management Agency flood maps that put parts of Wellington in a flood zone, Riebe noted the drive to improve drainage became even greater.
“So far we’ve been successful in our attempts to provide more information and update the proposed maps,” he said, noting that some of the organization’s information dates back to the early 1990s and did not include recent improvements.
Though residents will likely see a rise in flood insurance premiums, they will hopefully not be as drastic as in other parts of the state.
Councilman Howard Coates noted that by increasing the Acme assessments, residents aren’t guaranteed to have a decrease in flood insurance premiums.
Village Manager Paul Schofield said these changes are a means to an end.
“It’s a part of the process that gets us there,” he said. “The original FEMA maps were based on old data. We’re going to get credit for the mitigation work we plan to do. It’s things like raising Forest Hill and South Shore and providing additional storage in canals that will help. This is one step in a series toward mitigation.”
He said the assessment will not directly affect flood insurance premiums, but could help keep costs down.
“Through these improvements, we will still see flood insurance rates go up, but not like other communities are seeing,” Schofield said.
During public comment, several residents spoke against the assessment increase.
“I’m opposed to increasing the taxes on our properties because we had one 100-year storm,” resident Carlos Arellano said. “We had five days under water, and the rest of the year we were fine. I don’t see the need to spend this money to raise our taxes.”
Resident Gil Hallenbeck was not happy about the increase. “It’s not an assessment, it’s a tax,” he said, pointing out that Wellington recently agreed to spend $12 million to move its tennis center and rebuild the Wellington Community Center. “You agreed to spend that money when not one person came up here and asked for it to be moved. You’re spending $12 million to build tennis in a place no one wants it… If you have to do this, why don’t you borrow money? You do nothing but crap all over the horse people.”
Councilman Matt Willhite noted that the assessment increase comes out to about 27 cents per day. He said Wellington is sorely in need of drainage upgrades because it doesn’t benefit from a curb and gutter system like other municipalities.
“We base our water storage on swales,” he said. “About two years ago we began our swale maintenance program. The water that comes off the road has to go somewhere, and if the swales aren’t maintained, it goes back into the road. We had to cut and regrade all our swales, and at the rate we’re doing it, we’ll be doing it for a long time.”
He made a motion to approve the resolution, which passed unanimously.