Stormwater ‘utility’ best way to fund improving lagoon health

GUEST COMMENTARY

Editor’s note: Randy Old is a former member of the Vero Beach City Council. He currently serves on the City’s Finance Commission.

RANDY OLD

Randy Old
Randy Old

On Tuesday, at 9:30 am, February 7, the Vero Beach City Council will consider establishing a stormwater utility system dedicated to funding the infrastructure required to keep stormwater runoff from polluting the lagoon. Studies have shown this to be a serious problem, but one that has been ignored for years by the city because of lack of funds.

The purpose of the Stormwater Utility is to protect and improve the health of the lagoon, by providing a dedicated funding source to control and clean stormwater before it gets to the lagoon. The Utility is funded by all those who own impervious property, be they individuals, schools, the City, churches, or commercial enterprises. The average bill would be $5.00 per month, or $60.00 per year, and would generate a total of just under $950,000. Those wishing to reduce their bill could change the impervious qualities of their property.

The Finance and Utility Commissions each recommended to the City Council that the City finalize the consultants’ study, and that billing each property owner be done through the existing utility billing system.

There are about 166 Stormwater Utilities in Florida that have been created by municipalities.  The main advantage of this project is that this funding allows the city to plan a multiyear program, to make use of matching grant programs, and to ensure that the lagoon funding doesn’t compete during the budget process with roads, staffing, and safety. Most importantly, while the effort to protect and improve the lagoon is now voluntary, it will soon become mandatory as state and federal guidelines become law. This project establishes a method for Vero to comply with the future.

Happy New Year,

Randy

One comment

  1. This is a very fair way to protect our valuable asset of the Indian River Lagoon. With 1000 children using the lagoon for summer camp the water quality is important. this will be an equitable way to fund maintaining the water quality for all.

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