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County Flood Board Questions WVSA Bills

January 16, 2019

The Luzerne County Flood Protection Authority is questioning the legitimacy of bills that charge the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority’s new stormwater fee.

The stormwater-fee bills total roughly $1,300, flood protection authority Director Christopher Belleman said at flood board meeting Tuesday. The bills don’t indicate what property is being charged, and the flood authority solicitor will determine if the flood protection authority is exempt from the stormwater fee, Belleman said.

The sanitary authority this month began issuing stormwater bills to landowners to comply with a federal requirement to reduce pollution that drains into the Chesapeake Bay from the Susquehanna River.

The amount of the stormwater fee amount depends on the amount of impervious surface area on property.

 

The fee is $12 a year for properties with 100 to 499 square feet of impervious area; $57.60 a year for properties with 500 and 6,999 square feet; and $20.40 a year for every 1,000 square feet for properties with at least 7,000 square feet of impervious area.

In 2009, the flood protection authority began charging fees for levee protection to owners of more than 14,000 properties along the Susquehanna River. The amount of the levee fee is based on property assessment values.

The flood protection authority is legally prohibited for charging levee-protection fees to the federal government, the state government or a political subdivision, such as the county or a municipality, Belleman said. That’s why he thinks the flood protection authority should be exempt from paying the stormwater fee.

Sanitary authority officials have said no property owner is exempt from the stormwater fee, but the sanitary authority is not charging the state or municipalities for streets and roads. Tax-exempt landowners, such as churches and colleges, have been charged both the stormwater and the levee-protection fees.

The Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority is charging stormwater fees to landowners in 32 municipalities in Luzerne County to collect more than $8 million this year for stormwater-related services and projects.

The flood protection authority operates and maintains a 15-mile levee network. Belleman said he suspects the stormwater fees may be associated with access roads along the levee.

The flood protection authority will send out 2019 bills in April to raise more than $1.8 million in annual revenue.

Contact the writer:

mbuffer@citizensvoice.com

570-821-2073, @cvmikebuffer

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