Northwood City council is looking at eliminating homeowner association fees or assessments that have funded detention ponds and other drainage projects over the years.
The issue came up at a council meeting on July 2 when council continued to debate whether the city should assess residents to excavate a detention pond at the Greenway Estates subdivision near the Woodville Mall to improve drainage in the area.
The area had flooding problems a few years ago.
Some on council are against assessments, saying residents already pay a storm water management fee as part of their water bill. Others say there should be assessments since there are homeowner associations charging residents fees to pay for detention ponds built in their neighborhoods years ago.
There is nearly $1 million in the city’s storm water management fund.
Plans call for the detention pond to be located on vacant city property east of the subdivision.
Administrator Bob Anderson said he and city engineer Dave Kuhn prioritized a list of sites that need drainage improvement. At the top of the list is Greenway Estates.
“In evaluating these, we used three criteria: public health and safety concerns, which is flooding; the past and potential damage to real and personal property; and population density,” he said. “Based on those criteria, we listed Greenway Estates as the number one priority.”
Also on the list: Hayes Place, a subdivision north of the municipal building on Wales Road, Park Du Langlade, Wolf Creek and Turnberry Estates, said Anderson.
“The Greenway Estates pond is at the top of the list because it has flooded in the past and caused damage to homes. It is served by a somewhat undersized storm water line, which makes it more prone to flooding,” he said.
In addition, the city has already bought property near the subdivision to excavate a detention pond for Greenway Estates, he added.
“We sent a letter last summer telling residents of that area that we would be digging a pond in the fall of 2012,” said Anderson.
Drainage improvements to Hayes Place, estimated to cost about $500,000, would be done in three phases, he said.
“We can do them on an availability basis depending on how much we have in the storm water fund, and the need,” he said.
“At Park Du Langlade, we’re going to have to put money into the pumps there, and we’re going to have to eventually look at the storm water lines,” he said. Plans call for a second phase to enlarge the pond to hold more water.
And the existing drainage pattern at Wolf Creek, which has no storm sewers, “is becoming obstructed with debris,” said Anderson.
Excavating a pond at Greenway Estates would also help alleviate flooding at Turnberry Estates, which has had drainage issues in the past, said Anderson.
Kuhn said about 130 homes would benefit from the excavation of a detention pond at Greenway Estates.
There are other areas in the city that also have drainage issues, said Anderson, but are not a priority.
“We looked at other parts of town. Some of them do need larger sewers, but they have no history of flooding. Some of them need to be replaced, but they don’t really have a history. They need to be addressed eventually, but they’re not a high priority at this point,” he said.
“We haven’t done any storm water projects for a while,” he added. “We’d like to keep at least $200,000 in reserve for maintenance for any emergencies that come. But I think it’s probably good public policy to use the tax money we’re taking in to start doing these projects.”
Council President Connie Hughes, who has been paying homeowner association fees over the years for a detention pond in her subdivision, suggested the city look at eliminating those fees.
“I understand the $3.15 we pay every month off our water bill. I also understand in certain subdivisions, they have been paying extra before that $3.15 went into effect,” said Hughes. “Can we somehow make an ordinance to repeal that and just have to pay the $3.15 per month we’ve been paying? I’m just saying some subdivisions have been hit twice.”
Councilman Randy Kozina, who has been in favor of using storm water fees to pay for the detention pond at Greenway Estates, agreed.
“I want to simplify this because I have heard nobody argue with taking away that assessment. Let’s do it. They are two completely separate issues between Greenway and your subdivision paying the assessment. Let’s get an ordinance and get rid of them. We’ve been beating this around for weeks.”
Councilman Dave Gallaher expressed concerns about costs.
“I would like us to run some numbers. Once we get rid of all these assessments and take control of all these detention ponds, are we going to then raise the storm water management fee for the entire city? What’s it going to cost us to do that? That’s the bottom line. Before we decide to vote, we should find out what it will cost us,” he said. “If we are going to be assessed over and above, then I think Greenway should be assessed,” said Hughes. “If we’re not going to be assessed in certain areas, then I don’t think Greenway should be assessed.”
She asked if there was support on council to back an ordinance that would “take that assessment away from certain areas of the city.”
“I don’t have a problem with that as long as we can afford it,” said Gallaher.
Anderson said the city may not have the authority to eliminate the homeowner association fees.
“The city is behind the $3.15 storm water fees we charge, and the homeowners association initiated the need for the pond. So we may not even have the authority,” he said.
City Law Director Brian Ballenger said he would look into the matter.
Meanwhile, the public is invited to attend a special council meeting at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, July 23 to discuss the detention pond for the Greenway Estates subdivision.