by: Jim Strickland Updated:DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. —
Douglas County has a challenge and the rain is only making it more difficult. The local water and sewer authority is racing to repair its storm runoff system.
Consumer investigator Jim Strickland found out why some businesses are paying for the solution, when they are not part of the problem.
"It cost us almost $5,400 last year in that fee alone," Marshall Small said about a storm water charge levied by the Douglasville Douglas County Water and Sewer Authority.
Small recently started managing his family's airport business. The Villa Rica operation is Douglas County's only airport, and is equipped with its own drainage system and a series of detention ponds.
"All of the concrete, the piping, it's all stuff that we paid for and that we funded to put in," he said.
Small showed Strickland a recent bill charging $7.31 for water and $489.76 for storm water.
"How long's your runway?" Strickland asked.
"A little over 4,500 feet," Small said.
That is the issue.
"We charge a storm water fee for all impervious surfaces," said DDCWSA Executive Director Pete Frost.
He explained the amount of the charge depends on the amount of roof and asphalt any business has. The median surface for a residence is set at 2543
square feet. That costs $4 per month. A business pays $4 for each 2,543 square feet of surface it has.
At nearly 500,000 square feet, the airport would actually pay far more. The pond actually gives Small a discount, but not an exemption.
Frost said pond water will eventually be the authority's
business "because that water discharges somewhere, and it discharges into a stream and that stream goes under a road at some point."
One of those roads is Beaver Drive, where an eroded culvert is collapsing. The fee, generating $4 million per year, helps fix trouble spots like Beaver. DeKalb and Clayton have similar programs.
"We have to maintain those culverts and everybody in Douglas County is in fact paying for that," Frost said.
The storm water program began 10 years ago. It is a fee and not a tax. Churches, schools and even government buildings must pay it.