Northampton delays mailing of stormwater bills

Monday, July 14, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — Residents anticipating their first stormwater bill this summer will have to wait until the fall.

That’s because of a delay in process needed to set up the new stormwater and flood control enterprise fund approved by the City Council in March. The company hired by the city, CDM Smith Inc., to analyze and categorize all of the properties in the city using GPS mapping is nearing completion of its work, but not in enough time for city staff to input that data into its billing system, Mayor David J. Narkewicz said.

He said the March approval of the utility fee did not allow enough time for this work to be done in order to send first quarter bills out starting July 1 as planned. That means residents and businesses will receive their first quarter assessments on their second quarter bills, according to a letter to city councilors from Lyn Simmons, the mayor’s chief of staff. An insert will be mailed in the first quarter water/sewer bill notifying residents of the delay.

Simmons anticipates that CDM will complete work on its property database this week. The database will be used to determine the fee assessed for each parcel.

Once the database is complete and verified, a postcard will be sent to everyone that will receive a storm water bill. The postcard will direct people to the city’s website or to the Department of Public Works to find out how much they will pay. The website with the database will be available by the end of July.

The enterprise fund calls for a four-tiered fee system based on the amount of impervious areas — roofs and pavement, for example — on their property. The annual fee ranges from $61 for property owners who have less than 2,000 square feet of impervious area; $85 for property owners who have between 2,000 and 2,800 square feet; $113 for property owners who have between 2,800 and 4,100 square feet; and $239 for properties with more than 4,100 square feet.

The fee for commercial, nonprofit and other large properties would be calculated on an individual basis based on the estimated area of impervious surface on the property. These property owners would in many cases, face significant bills well into the thousands of dollars.

Additionally, the website will have information on ways residents can reduce their fee. The city has established a policy that spells out how residents may earn credits. Among those are discounts for low-income and senior citizens and stormwater improvements, such as collecting rain.

The new fee was approved by the council after 18 months of study. It will provide a revenue source for badly needed upgrades to the city’s stormwater and flood control systems. It will raise $2 million this fiscal year, with the money coming from nearly every property owner in the city.