Storm runoff fees in works

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LEWISTON – A fee based on the amount of hard, paved space on a piece of land would be one way to pay for Lewiston’s storm-sewer costs.

The city would begin charging a fee based on the amount of hard surfaces on a lot – such as driveways, sidewalks and roofs. The fee would target large businesses and private organizations such as Bates College, churches and hospitals.

Private homeowners would pay a set fee, $30 per year.

Lewiston councilors are likely to begin talking about creating a storm-water utility this week. City Administrator Jim Bennett thinks the utility would create about $1.6 million in new revenue, letting the city cut the property tax rate.

“It’s not cutting taxes, I know that,” Bennett said. “It might be a better way to spread out some of the things the city pays for more fairly, rather than paying for it all with property taxes.”

Councilors are expected to discuss the idea at a workshop meeting on Thursday.

Because it would be a utility fee and not a tax, it would target nonprofit groups that don’t pay property taxes. Bennett estimates it would generate about $300,000 in new revenue from nonprofit groups and $1.6 million overall.

That would let the city drop the property tax rate. He estimated it would mean a savings of about $60 per year for the average homeowner.

It should generate enough revenue to pay for city crews to clean storm-water catch basins and sweep city streets in the spring. It would also help pay for federally mandated storm water projects.

The city will spend up to $6 million over the next five years building a parallel sewer to collect storm runoff.

“We have to do these projects, and they take up more and more of our budget each year,” he said. “If we don’t find new revenues, the services people want end up getting cut to pay for this stuff.”

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