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City imposes storm water levy

Water has been a major issue in the region this year and Humboldt is no exception.

Water has been a major issue in the region this year and Humboldt is no exception.

Storm water was once again a topic of discussion at Humboldt city council's regular meeting on June 28, with the focus on creating a storm water management levy and possible rebates.

The discussion over creating a storm water management levy focused on improvements to the system in order to prevent future back-ups in homes and in the sanitary sewer system.

The main purpose of a levy would be to allow the city to plan specific projects knowing what funding was available, explained City Manager Thomas Goulden.

Most people who attended the public meeting on storm water issues held June 21, seemed to be in favour of the imposition of such a levy, said Councillor Aaron Behiel.

"We need to get this in place quickly," he said.

After a brief discussion concerning possible variations on how to impose the levy, council passed a bylaw imposing a $5 per month levy on every utility customer.

"I think $5 is reasonable," said Coun. Leon Fleischhacker. "This needs quick attention."

The $5 monthly levy on the 2,400 utility customers will raise $144,000 per year specifically for storm water management projects.

The bylaw went into effect July 1.

Council also discussed giving some money back to residents.

The possibility of implementing a storm water rebate program for work completed to protect homes from sewer back-ups while alleviating inflows to the sanitary system was also on the table.

The city offered a program after the flooding in 2007, but only about 21 of 40 possible residents took advantage of the program, noted Goulden.

A rebate program would encourage homeowners to flood-proof their homes, through the installation of back-flow devices, ensuring sump systems are properly discharged, and ensuring that weeping tile systems are properly discharged.

Council discussed making the rebates available to all homeowners in the city or excluding those who's houses were completed after the introduction of the 2001 Sewage Bylaw banning the connection of sump pump and weeping tile systems to the sanitary sewer system.

Mayor Malcolm Eaton was in favour of keeping a rebate program open to as many residents as possible.

"The purpose of any program is to get as many people as possible off the sanitary system," Eaton said.

Coun. Aaron Behiel agreed, stating that "Yes, it would cost us, but what would we save? It has a huge potential for payoff."

While council agreed to further investigate a rebate program, some were also adamant about the need for house-to-house inspections to see how much water is coming into the sanitary system.

"There is mass confusion about what residents need to do and what is out there," said Coun. Gordon Lees. "I would really like to see us... we need to go home-to-home and come out with some kind of recommendation."

Some councillors also discussed how much money should be spent on a rebate program and whether some work was worth more or not.

"The most important to us is to remove the weeping tile from the system and install a sump pump," said Fleischhacker. "Those should be rewarded more."

Council referred the matter to the Works and Utilities committee for further discussion, but agreed that they wanted a definite program back at their next council meeting on July 26.

The policy would be retroactive to this spring, allowing people who have already done work to be reimbursed if they meet the guidelines and have pictures and receipts.