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Our Opinion: Seeking stormwater solutions

Our Opinion: Seeking stormwater solutions

September 10th, 2017 in Opinion

Jefferson City's stormwater problems were in the limelight Wednesday evening as exasperated city residents and council members alike looked for new solutions to the old problem.

And old it is. We have no doubt the native Americans and the Moundbuilders before them had their own versions of stormwater problems here. It goes with the hilly topography.

What makes it particularly problematic today is the city's stormwater infrastructure has reached the end of its lifespan of 20-30 years and needs to be replaced.

Several residents at the meeting stressed this is not a ward-specific issue, but a citywide problem. They said they were "disappointed" in council members for not doing more to address the issue.

One possible solution is to update the city's 1986 stormwater ordinance, which could further require developers to mitigate potential stormwater problems resulting in new developments.

But for existing stormwater problems, the city mainly needs one thing: funding. The city's Public Works department has $360,000 a year to address the problem. Director Matt Morasch said about $2 million is needed a year.

The City Council last month approved $750,000 toward stormwater issues, but shot down a proposal to use $1.5 million from the city's fund balance in the 2018 fiscal year.

Another solution that has been discussed is to establish a stormwater fee, possibly $3.50 per month for homeowners. The council opted against putting that fee on the August ballot because it was too soon after local voters approved a property tax hike to build a second public high school and renovate the current one.

We believe that was a wise decision. True to our state's motto, local voters have a "show-me" attitude when it comes to approving new taxes/fees, and they're not afraid to spike proposals for increased spending.

We hope the council does give voters a chance to weigh in on that funding mechanism in the future. It could be a tough sell — homeowners who don't have stormwater problems might not see the need to throw money at the problem.

But we had a similar line of thinking for the high school ballot issue: Voters who don't have kids in the schools or who have kids in private/parochial schools won't see the need for the funding. We were wrong. Voters looked past their own pocketbooks and toward the good of the city's future.

Voters might feel the same way with stormwater fixes — that it's something that benefits the city as a whole.

News Tribune