AUGUSTA, Ga. – For supporters of a Storm Water Utility Fee, the reason to put it in place is very clear.
“Because, we need it. I mean, have you rode through my area, seen the raggedy streets, seen the ditches with grass this high,” said Commissioner Bill Fennoy, the Chairman of the Engineering Services Committee.
After narrowly being defeated two weeks ago, Commissioners were ready to try again to approve the fee to raise up to $10 million a year for city drainage.
Two week ago, Commissioner Marion Williams abstained on the Storm Water Utility Fee to keep Mayor Hardie Davis Jr. from breaking a tie in favor of it, but this time, Williams voted in favor.
“I’m in support of storm water, never said I wasn’t. I just want to make sure we do it in a way that people can benefit,” said Williams.
Opponents wanted to wait on the fee until after the vote to extend the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) in November, thinking approval now hurts the chances for SPLOST in the fall.
“I think the taxpayers would look at it and say, ‘hey, we haven’t had an increase in this long, but to say we think it ought to be here or there,’ when you ask their opinions? Some of them look like a deer in the headlights,” said Mayor Pro-Tem Grady Smith.
“The SPLOST in November is not approved?” we asked. “I don’t believe that. I believe, when people look at the project list that’s going to be on SPLOST 7, and the impact on their overall tax bill, I think they will support the SPLOST,” said Fennoy.
This is the first reading of the ordinance, so Commissioners will still have to approve the second reading, and though this year’s budget is banking on the Storm Water Utility Fee to bring in $1.2 million this year, the fee will not take effect until January of next year.