Two working groups will soon be looking at another proposal to make Hamilton County sewer rates more affordable. This effort could result in an impervious surface fee to aid the Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD).
It would focus on property owners who have parking lots or other surfaces with water-resistant materials like asphalt or concrete. During heavy rain events, water overflows from these areas into the sewer system, which then has to be treated.
County MSD Compliance Director Karen Ball said this part of rate affordability is not a small one.
"We're going to need to call upon a lot of different resources to get to the point where we can make a recommendation to you that is sound and will deliver a fair and equitable approach to the rate structure if you choose to change it," Ball said.
The goal would be for the impervious surface fee to drive people to take actions to prevent water runoff with porous pavements or capturing it for other uses.
MSD Interim Director Diana Christy said her agency supports the working groups.
"The establishment of an impervious surface fee could go a long way to resolving some of the equities of the rates," Christy said. "But there are a lot of tough issues we will have to tackle along the way. And to make sure that this doesn't have a negative impact on certain areas, certain types of property owners and things like redevelopment."
The county commissioners could take action on recommendations from the working groups by June.
In 2015, the county commission created a rate affordability task force to evaluate MSD rates and recommend alternatives to improve affordability and equity. Changes already implemented include monthly instead of quarterly billing, a customer assistance program, and changing multi-family billing to be based on meter size only.
The agency workgroup for the impervious surface fee will include:
- County administration
- Hamilton County Stormwater Management District
- Hamilton County Planning and Development
- Cincinnati Stormwater Management Utility
- Mill Creek Valley Conservancy District
- City of Reading (it already has an impervious surface fee)
The stakeholder workgroup includes representatives from:
- Chamber of Commerce
- Sierra Club
- League of Women Voters
- Ohio Valley Development Council
- General Electric
- Communities United for Action
- County Residents