Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Water program called unfair

Hamilton wants five-year delay

By Carl Weiser
Enquirer Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - Hamilton's city manager pleaded with U.S. senators Tuesday to give the economically depressed city a break from new clean water regulations.

"Now is not the time for distressed cities, such as Hamilton, to have to impose a new monthly storm water utility charge across the community," city manager Michael Samoviski told the Senate's water subcommittee.

The requirement to come up with a storm water management plan will triple the city's spending on storm water, and that will be passed on to residents, schools and churches through a new utility tax, he said.

The taxes would be based on the amount of pavement, roofing and anything else that prevents water from hitting the ground. Homeowners would pay $5.50 per month.

But Hamilton's First Baptist Church would have to pay $374 a month, mainly because it has a large parking lot. Smart Paper Co. would have to pay more than $5,000. Even Hamilton High School would have to pay $1,338 per month, Samoviski said.

"It would be an economic burden," he said. Some businesses might leave, he said, the last thing a city of 60,000 struggling to revive its economy needs.

The city manager asked that the new regulations be delayed five years, giving the national and local economy time to turn around, and local government more time to plan for the costs.

Smaller cities may have a harder time than bigger cities because they can't spread the costs among so many customers, said John Mahoney, deputy director of the Ohio Municipal League, which represents 815 cities and villages.

Sen. Michael Crapo, R-Idaho, chairman of the Senate fisheries, wildlife and water subcommittee, called Samoviski's story "interesting and disturbing." He said was intrigued by the idea of pushing back the deadline.

To comply with the new regulations, the city estimates it will need to spend $1.6 million a year on top of the $800,000 it spends now. The city's general fund budget is about $40 million a year, Samoviski said.



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