Winona Lake Approves Ordinance Creating Stormwater Rate

(Photo Supplied / Winona Lake Town Council)

Property owners in Winona Lake can expect to soon see a stormwater utility bill in the mail.

The council Tuesday unanimously approved the ordinance creating a stormwater rate for property owners that will help fund the operation, maintenance and management of the storm sewer system. The town has never had stormwater utilities and a study by Wessler Engineering helped determine the rate for owners.

The new utility generates revenue for the town by charging user feeds, with residents being assessed a common rate of 1 ERU (Equivalent Residential Unit) and nonresidential properties are charged according to impervious surface measurement.

This rate will be phased in over three years. Based on Wessler’s and Baker Tilly’s study, the rate for Winona Lake should be $9 per unit. The town, however, has chosen to phase in that cost to owners, starting with $5 in 2021; $7 in 2022; and then up to the $9 by 2023.

Town Manager Craig Allebach said the town council will review the stormwater budget yearly, as the utility is governed by the council. Deen Rogers, with Baker Tilly, projects $150,000 of revenue will be generated in the first year at the $5 rate, $210,000 at the $7 rate and $270,000 at the $9 rate.

The management needs would be maintenance of the existing storm system that includes underground pipes, inlets, ditches and so forth. The revenue from the utility will also help fund manpower, labor, equipment, materials and administrative costs, as well as fixing failing and deteriorating stormwater infrastructure. The revenue generated will help the town prioritize projects. Allebach said his list of pending projects is lengthy, with current construction costs already over $200,000.

Also Tuesday, the council again tabled a petition to vacate an alleyway behind 301 Boys City Drive. The council tabled it at last month’s meeting so members could go out to the site and inspect it. This month, it was tabled to give town engineer Aaron Carl time to look at plans to perhaps come up with something that would make both property owners happy, Allebach said.

“It’s not a great situation down there, but what we’re looking at is possibly creating an access on the backside of the greenway there” and giving both neighbors vacations on their lots, Allebach said. “The council has really been struggling with what to do down there … they’re looking at both sides.”

The council also denied a request from Jeremy Porter, who came to the meeting for his apartment properties located on King’s Highway across from Lake City Bank. Porter said the building has 12 units but they’re small efficient apartments and asked for a deviation from the sewer rate structure.

Porter asked the council to consider his building to be a dormitory-style structure because the units are small rather than a multi-family unit building.

Allebach cautioned the council against allowing the deviation, citing there are several efficiency apartments in the community and it could “open a can of worms.”

“They are paying that fee,” Allebach said of other efficiencies. “Also, it’s not a living house because they’re not running down the hallway to use the restroom. They all have their separate toilets, and it’s the same argument we get periodically where people say, ‘I just have this little apartment or this little efficiency and I’m paying as much as somebody next door where there’s four kids and two parents and the grandparents live there, but this is the rate structure that we pay.’”

Town attorney Adam Turner also questioned if the building warrants a deviation, saying the council should be careful and that just because the units are small, he’s not sure they meet the definition of “just a room.”

After the denial, Porter asked if, since his building is zoned in an industrial area, could he use a meter and only be charged for what is used. Allebach and Turner both said that’s not applicable in the situation because the property is used as residential. Porter may attend next month’s meeting with other requests.

“We appreciate the creativity of the idea,” Turner said, “but it was denied.”

Also Tuesday, the council:

• Signed a 2021 agreement to continue working with Kosciusko Economic Development Corporation.

• Announced a New Year’s Day Polar Dash 4-Mile run that starts at 2 p.m. at Green Earth Multisport in Village at Winona.

• Heard from Street Superintendent Tom Miller that his crews are still picking up bagged leaves and they are ready for winter with a barn full of salt.

The next Winona Lake Town Council meeting is 6 p.m. Jan. 18 at Town Hall.