Thursday, April 24, 2014
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James Grattelo, owner of Joker’s Family Fun and Games on Warren Avenue, says the stormwater fee is a big issue for his business, which has a large impervious surface.
John Patriquin/Staff Photographer
"This is going to affect everybody," O'Neil said. "The community needs to be better informed before the hammer comes down."
When the fee is implemented, Portland will be the fourth community in the state to implement a stormwater fee. Lewiston and the Augusta area have had fees for several years now, and Bangor is preparing to issue its first stormwater bills.
Bangor residents threatened a citizen veto over the fee, but officials say no paperwork has been filed.
Lewiston was sued over its fee, instituted in 2006, but the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled in 2011 that the fee was legal, since it was tied to a specific purpose, rather than a tax-generating revenue for general functions of city government.
A Walmart distribution center on Alfred A. Plourd Parkway in Lewiston is currently being charged nearly $150,000 a year for its 2.77 million square feet of impervious surface. A company spokesman could not be immediately reached to discuss what measures, if any, the company has taken to reduce storm water.
Central Maine Health Care in Lewiston pays about $30,000 a year in stormwater fees, said Chuck Gill, vice president of public affairs.
"Obviously, nobody's happy with paying these fees, but that's the cost of doing business here," Gill said, noting the hospital has actually added a parking lot since the fee was established.
In addition to funding system upgrades, Houseal said the fee is designed to encourage developers, businesses and homeowners to take steps to reduce the amount of stormwater runoff from their properties.
The fee can be reduced for properties whose owners install rain barrels, rain gardens, green roofs and commercial treatment centers.
To encourage improvements, the city is offering homeowners up to a $3.31 monthly credit for rain barrels, dry wells or cisterns, Houseal said. Commercial properties can have up to 60 percent of their total bill reduced if they make upgrades to quality and quantity of their storm water.
The fee also can be reduced by eliminating unnecessary pavement. And that's generally been where Lewiston has seen the most impact said David Jones, the city's Public Works director.
Houseal said several developers have already approached the city to discuss the feasibility of green roofs.
"In the long run, I think this is setting the priority of reducing pavement," he said. "That's the whole point."
Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at: