Monday, March 2, 2009

When it Rains it Pours: How Dean's Stormwater Bill Hoses Nashville

Posted By on Mon, Mar 2, 2009 at 1:00 PM

click to enlarge farko-hosed.jpg
Pretty soon you're going to be paying more for water. And there's nothing wrong with that.

Nashville hasn't had a rate increase in 15 years. Paying a few more bucks per month during the Depression is never fun, but it's long overdue for a city looking to fund $500 million in capital projects to overhaul their sewer structure. Ya know, so people's basements stop flooding every time the skies open.

On the flip side of the rate increases are a Music City first: stormwater fees.

Stormwater fees are partly needed to right a wrong. Huge concrete mongers like downtown parking lot mavens Central Parking contribute tons of run-off. But because they don't use running water, they don't pay money towards fixing the problems they cause. Hence the fees.

"Equity was one of the driving arguments for going to a stormwater utility in the first place," says District 24 Councilman Jason Hallomen.

Unfortunately, the fees born out of inequality are actually pretty damn unfair...

Logic has it that the more run-off you produce the more you should pay. If stormwater fees existed in a just world there would be a positive correlation to square footage and cost (see graph below).

click to enlarge line_slope.PNG

More concrete? That'll be more money, please.

The plan being pushed by Mayor Dean and Metro, however, doesn't follow these guidelines. Their graph looks hunchbacked, with the brunt of the cost being shouldered by small business. Big offenders like OpryMills and Wal-Mart will actually pay 83 times less per square foot than local joints like the shops lining West End (see graph below).

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Metro finance director Rich Riebeling admits the bill isn't perfect, but questions the intelligence of dropping $100,000-plus bills on companies like Gaylord, who just laid off 180 Nashville employees.

In a meeting Friday afternoon with Riebeling and deputy mayor Greg Hinote, Holleman says Metro showed little signs of backing down on the stormwater fee structure. He proposed an amendment today that would change it that straight line you see above, i.e. fair.

We'll let you know what comes off it.

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