Editor’s note: Jean Catchpole is a member of the Indian River Neighborhood Association’s Water and Lagoon Committee.
If you want to do your part to aid in restoring our impaired Indian River Lagoon, please contact the Vero Beach City Council and urge them to take action on a separate stormwater utility without delay. Email addresses for the City Council members are available here. The meeting of the Vero Beach City Council is tomorrow at 9:30 AM at City Hall, we encourage you to attend if you are able to.
Last year, after hearing the report of consultants hired to research forming such an entity, and upon receiving recommendations from both the City’s Utility and Finance commission to create this dedicated funding source for controlling stormwater runoff, the City Council voted not to do so by a vote of three to two. We have aging infrastructure here in the City and it needs upgrading. Currently funds for stormwater runoff are lumped into the City’s general budget and receive short shrift as this infrastructure is “out of sight, out of mind.”
Along with runoff from fertilizer and septic systems (which the City has already acted to reduce), stormwater runoff is a third major contributor to lagoon pollution. It is apparent that the City of Vero Beach is behind the curve in addressing stormwater runoff as many of our neighboring communities have seen the need to establish such a utility, ie. Fellsmere, Sebastian, Fort Pierce, Melbourne, etc. The consultant recommends that the residents and business property owners pay a fee into this fund according to the amount of impervious surface area on their properties. This is an equitable way to assess owners’ contributions to the stormwater fund as it will require owners with the most runoff to pay their fair share. Owners will also receive credits for any water retention efforts they currently use or install to reduce runoff. This will encourage property owners to prevent run off from their properties.
The lagoon is an important recreational asset for City residents and a valuable economic asset to our area, please encourage the councilmembers to support this utility creating dedicated funding to curb stormwater pollution as a part of our ongoing restoration of the lagoon.