Stormwater utility program may cost taxpayers

Augusta drainage problem

News 12 First at Five / Monday, Oct. 8, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Commissioners agree the county's drainage issues need fixing, and if they don't agree on a plan soon, the federal government may step in.

"We've had areas for decades that have been in total turmoil as it relates to stormwater, drains and flooding and that sort of thing, and we just don't have a way of combating that," said District 4 Commissioner Alvin Mason.

Engineering Services Director Abie Ladson laid out a plan to commissioners he says could fix Richmond County's flooding problem.

"Flooding is a real issue, but it's not just flooding. We have some pipes and infrastructure that are probably right at a hundred years old and needs to be replaced," Ladson said.

If the city doesn't decide on a plan of action soon, the feds could step in.

"Their plan may be a totally different plan than what he's bringing forward and may not be advantageous to the citizens of Augusta Richmond County," Mason said.

Even though it's federally and state mandated, right now it's up to city and county taxpayers to fund the projects.

"Initially, we came up with $6 on average per household per month. Looking at it, that's the worst case scenario, $6. More than likely, it will be less," Ladson said.

Emanuel Williams shot video of his flooded yard during heavy rains last summer.

"I get approximately 6 inches to a foot and a half of water that flows all over my property," Williams said.

He says he's been waiting on the city to do something about it for 25 years. After hearing the plan, he's a bit skeptical.

"On paper it looks good, but in actuality, whether it's gonna be carried out now or later, this is a big problem to me," Williams said.

Commissioner Mason says it's time to take some action and stop putting this issue on the back burner.

But it could be a while before citizens see some relief.

"The worst thing that we could do is move forward immediately, and then we haven't looked at this from a holistic or comprehensive standpoint, and then we've missed some critical areas, and then we've got a plan that doesn't meet our need," Mason said.

Ladson says there's about $3.5 million SPLOST designated for storm drainage, but he says that will only cover the initial process of analyzing, research and hiring consultants.

They're still looking for different ways to fund the projects, but without the fee, he says fixing this problem will be near impossible.

Other municipalities, including Columbia and Aiken counties, as well as the City of North Augusta, already have stormwater plan in place.

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