Northampton City Council readies for final vote on stormwater fund Thursday night

Last modified: Wednesday, March 19, 2014

NORTHAMPTON — The City Council is expected take a final vote Thursday to create a new stormwater and flood control enterprise fund, culminating an 18-month process that would assess a new fee to every city property owner starting July 1.

The council approved the ordinance at its March 6 meeting after making several key changes, chief among them striking a clause in the ordinance that attempted to cap the fund’s fee at $2 million a year because doing so violates state Department of Revenue rules.

In its place, the council approved an amendment directing the Board of Public Works to recommend a budget not to exceed $2 million for the first five years unless they can show why it should be more. After the sixth year, the BPW would continue to recommend a budget of $2 million, plus inflation, unless it can show more funding is required.

These late changes made some councilors nervous, and led former building commissioner Anthony Patillo to accuse councilors of a “bait and switch” in a March 7 letter to the council. He said the public should have the opportunity to speak out and offer alternatives to the change in the cap, especially after it was one way the council garnered public support for the fund.

In a separate email this week, Patillo said he believes the council violated the state Open Meeting Law and the city charter leading up to the March 6 meeting. He has yet to file a formal complaint with the city.

City Council President William H. Dwight took exception to Patillo’s characterization of the ordinance, process and outcome.

The enterprise fund calls for a four-tiered fee system based on the amount of impervious areas on a given property. The annual fee would range from $61 to $85 for smaller properties and $113 to $239 for larger properties. The fee for commercial, nonprofit and other large properties would be calculated on an individual basis.

The council meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers of the Puchalski Municipal Building. Other business before the council includes:

∎ A presentation about the city’s forestry plan in its water supply areas.

∎ A second vote on a resolution to support vibrant sidewalks. The initial vote took place last June.

∎ A financial order appropriating $98,000 from the free cash fund to the legal services account. Two votes are requested.

∎ A financial order transferring $300,000 from the parking receipts account to the general fund for the replacement of the parking access and revenue system at the E.J. Gare Parking Garage. Two votes are requested.

∎ A final vote to allow the Conservation Commission to buy nearly 20 acres of land to expand the Broad Brook Greenway-Fitzgerald Lake Conservation Area. The commission would buy two parcels from the Gleason family for $24,000.

∎ A change in council rules to allow councilors to participate in meetings remotely when needed and to attend and participate in council committee meetings they are not members of.

∎ A parking ordinance amendment giving the mayor permission to temporarily alter or suspend parking fees in any municipal lot or metered space, including the E.J. Gare Parking Garage, should collection equipment need to be replaced or repaired.

∎ Appointment of these seven people to the new Elected Officials Compensation Advisory Board: Vicki Baum-Hommes of 28 Park St., John (Trey) Fortier III of 105 Turkey Hill Road, Dennis Helmus of 176 North St., Jennifer Higgins of 148 South St., Douglas Loux of 86 Oak St., Linda Matson of 17 Florence Road and Todd Thompson of 76 Massasoit St.

∎ Appointments of William Grinnell of 49 Beacon St. to the Planning Board, Margaret Gifford of 80 Locust St. to the Agricultural Commission as the Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School representative and Linda Morley of 244 Prospect St. to the Community Preservation Committee.

∎ Reappointments including Bruce Kriviskey, Aelan Tierney and Robert Walker to the Central Business Architecture Committee and Tim Parshall and Steven Sauter to the Conservation Commission.


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