U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
U.S. Senate Committee on Environment & Public Works
Hearing Statements
Date:   09/16/2003
 
Statement of Michael J. Samoviski, P.E.,
City Manager, City of Hamilton, Ohio

Clean Water Act oversight.

Phase II Storm Water Program

Mr. Chairman and Committee members, thank you for granting the City of Hamilton this opportunity to testify before you today.

The City of Hamilton is located in the southwest portion of the State of Ohio and has a population of somewhat more than 60,000 people. Hamilton operates a Publicly Owned Treatment Works, including a Wastewater Treatment Plant and 212.7 miles of sanitary sewer lines. Hamilton also maintains a separate storm water collection system consisting of 180.5 miles of storm sewer and 6,500 catch basins.

In 1999, the US EPA promulgated Phase II Storm Water Rules which require covered political jurisdictions to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System - General Storm Water Discharge Permit, which Hamilton received in April 2003. To obtain this Permit, Hamilton was first required to develop a Storm Water Management Plan, which the City submitted to Ohio EPA in March 2003. This Plan encompasses the 6 minimum controls mandated by the Phase II Rules.

Hamilton’s City Council is seriously concerned about municipal implementation and enforcement of this recently issued General Storm Water Discharge Permit, especially in light of our very challenging local and state economic climates. As the City prepared its Storm Water Management Plan, it became apparent to City Council that the costs associated with its implementation will have to be assumed by our local government, or more likely by our citizens and businesses since surplus municipal monies for this purpose are non-existent.

To pay for its Phase II Program, the City of Hamilton anticipates having to form and implement a Storm Water Utility. Storm Water Utility charges will be based upon the amount of impervious area on parcels of land. In this manner, each parcel of land within the City of Hamilton would be assigned a fee determined by its runoff characteristics.

According to the Ohio Supreme Court, storm water fees of this sort, since they are utility charges, must be applied in an even and consistent manner without regard to tax status or land use. This means that all residents, businesses, schools, churches, governmental and institutional complexes, etc. will have to be subject to these charges, without exception. Each residential unit would have to pay a flat monthly charge; but, non-residential properties would pay a higher amount equivalent to the relative expanse of impervious surfaces at their locations.

The City of Hamilton’s projected annual expense attributable to having to comply with the new Phase II Program is an additional $1.6 Million over the current $800,000 that the City now spends on storm water activities. Since Phase II is a federally unfunded mandate, the City of Hamilton expects to have to raise this revenue by imposing a monthly fee of up to $5.50 on residential customers. Non-residential customers would be charged $5.50 multiplied by a factor which takes into account the proportional increase of impervious area.

The following examples help to drive home our point: Hamilton’s First Baptist Church, with its associated parking area, was determined to have an impervious factor of 68 times that of a single equivalent residential unit (ERU). As a result, the Church’s projected Storm Water Utility charge is calculated to be $374 per month ($5.50 multiplied by 68). Smart Paper Company, a manufacturer of high quality papers, has an impervious factor of 912 ERU’s, and its monthly charge would be $5017. Hamilton High School has an impervious area equal to 243 ERU’s; its monthly charge would be $1338. The local airport in Hamilton has 584 ERU’s associated with its runways and other impervious areas which results in a $3215 monthly charge. Hamilton Scrap Processors, a privately owned recycler, with 88 ERU’s would have to pay $484 monthly.

This federally unfunded mandate is being imposed upon local communities at a time when our economies are stagnant, and our nation is facing huge deficits as forecast by public financial officers. The City of Hamilton is no exception: local budget deficits are already predicted for 2004, and the state’s budget is in such distress that no funding for cities and counties is available for Phase II compliance.

Now is not the time for distressed cities, such as the City of Hamilton, to have to impose a new monthly Storm Water Utility charge across the community to achieve Phase II compliance. When the local economy improves, Hamilton’s businesses and citizens may be better able to absorb this type of fee. In our current flagging economy, however, our local businesses cannot afford this additional expense. Nor can our citizens who have very recently been called upon to take on more of the municipal financial burden, specifically more of the public safety burden, by paying more in taxes for police and firefighter staffing at the local government level.

Please let me emphasize again that the time for implementation of this Phase II Program is not now. Accordingly, the City of Hamilton respectfully asks that you, as our elected federal representatives in Washington, commence action before Congress to enact a five-year moratorium. This moratorium could postpone the unfunded mandate to a time better suited for requiring communities, such as our distressed city, to step forward and implement the Phase II Rules and to impose additional financial burdens on both your and our constituents.

We ask this not because the City of Hamilton is seeking to avoid serving as a good steward of its river and receiving waters, but because we are concerned public officials seeking to strike a reasonable balance between the stark reality of our current depressed local economy and continuing environmental improvement.

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Thank you again for your attention and courtesy in allowing us to address this Committee. We were honored to have received your invitation to appear before you to present our concerns.

Testimony Presented By: Michael J. Samoviski, P.E., City Manager and

Director of Public Safety, City of Hamilton, Ohio

In association with Ralph E. Reigelsperger, P.E., Director of Public Works, City of Hamilton, Ohio

Attachments:

Storm Water Utility Projected Income Statement 2003-2008 (Cost Projections)

Ohio Department of Development Distressed City Designation Materials:

Resolution R2001-4-23, adopted April 25, 2001 by Hamilton City Council

May 10, 2001 Letter from Timothy E. Bigler to Joseph C. Robertson

June 8, 2001 Letter from Joseph C. Robertson to Mayor Adolf Olivas

February 27, 2003 letter from Michael J. Samoviski to Senator George V. Voinovich

February 27, 2003 letter from Michael J. Samoviski to Representative John Boehner

July 15, 2003, letter from Senator Mike DeWine to Marianne Lamont Horinko

Hamilton Profile Material:

Hamilton – A Cincinnati Magazine Special Urban Section