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City will not charge property owners stormwater fee to comply with Chesapeake Bay guidelines

July 09, 2013|By HOLLY SHOK | holly.shok@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — The city of Hagerstown will not charge its property owners a stormwater fee to help cover the estimated $210 million cost of complying with the state’s plan to reduce nutrient and sediment discharges to the Chesapeake Bay by 2025, but how to fund the mammoth mandate remains a mystery. 


The city’s Capital Improvement Program budget currently allocates only “a fraction” of the amount necessary to meet the state’s stormwater pollutant reduction requirements, according to a July 5 memorandum.

The mandate stems from nutrient- and sediment-reduction targets set forth by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, affecting individual states that drain into the Chesapeake.

City Engineer Rodney Tissue and Assistant City Engineer Jim Bender on Tuesday presented the mayor and Hagerstown City Council with a proposal to generate revenue by charging a stormwater fee to residential and nonresidential city properties.

But the idea quickly was shot down by council members.

“I don’t think you have a council that has any desire to talk about implementing this fee anytime in the future. I know I would not be supportive of it, and what I’m hearing from my fellow council members is none of us are supportive of it,” Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said.

Following the more than 20-minute discussion, officials were instructed by the council to come up with a list of projects the city could tackle one by one. Funding for the projects will be decided later.

According to Tissue, communities across the state face the problem of funding the requirements, which are aimed at decreasing the excess number of nutrients in the Chesapeake that lead to algae blooms, which reduce the amount of oxygen in the water and affect marine life.

“The realistic side of it is ... some communities are just saying, ‘We can’t do it,’” Tissue said following the meeting at City Hall. “It’s so out of the realm of possibilities financially that we know we’re not going to be able to achieve it, but that doesn’t mean we should just ignore it, either.”

Councilman Kristin B. Aleshire, who also voiced disapproval on implementing a fee, noted that Carroll County, Md., has said it is not going to comply.

Washington County’s share of the statewide plan is estimated to cost $1.1 billion through 2025, according to previous reports in The Herald-Mail.

Mayor David S. Gysberts was the lone voice supporting a fee, which would apply to taxable and tax-exempt properties, such as churches and nonprofit organizations. 

“The idea is that this is something that’s necessary ... for cleaning our environment, for creating public amenities, improving public space and then also creating economic development ... and again everything has a cost,” Gysberts said.

Yearly stormwater fees have already been implemented in some Maryland jurisdictions, including Montgomery County, which charges $92.60 per Equivalent Residential Unit, or ERU, and the city of Frederick, which charges $48.63 per ERU.

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Editor's Note: This story discusses the possibility of Hagerstown implementing a stormwater fee to help the city cover the costs of meeting new stormwater pollutant-reduction requirements. 

Larger Maryland municipalities are required by law to charge a fee. Hagerstown is not required to do so, and the city council was only discussing the possibility of charging a fee, an option that it rejected.

The Herald-Mail apologizes for the mistake.

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