Anniston city officials Monday gave local property owners more time to comment on a proposed increase on their tax bills to help cover city stormwater maintenance costs.
The Anniston City Council in its Monday meeting held the first reading of an ordinance to levy a fee on city non-residential and residential property owners to generate money for stormwater drainage system maintenance only. City Manager Brian Johnson said the council could have approved the actual fee Monday, but chose to wait until next month.
"We didn't want anyone to think we were just running it through," Johnson said of the fee. "We wanted to make sure, if someone had missed being here tonight, that they'd still have time to share their comments."
The council plans to vote on implementing the fee at its July 14 meeting. The council first announced its plan to possibly implement the fee in May.
If approved, the fee will appear on the Calhoun County Department of Revenue's annual property tax bills in September. The city estimates the fee could generate around $300,000 annually.
"And that will be dedicated only to drainage and cannot be used for anything else," Johnson said. "We did not want to make it an unrestricted revenue fee."
The fee is possible through a state law passed in April, which among other things allows cities to recover some of the costs associated with federal stormwater runoff regulations. The city plans to charge the maximum allowed: That’s $10 per year for residential property owners and one half of one cent — $0.005 — per square foot for non-residential property owners, capped at $3,000 per year.
The law only applies if a structure exists on the property and it exempts utilities and agriculture from the fee.
The city's stormwater system is in varying degrees of decay. Most of Anniston's drainage pipes are made of corrugated metal that have rusted, deteriorated and been neglected over the years. In the past year, sinkholes have spread through Anniston due to collapsing drainage pipes. City officials have estimated all the sinkhole repair costs could exceed $500,000 by the end of 2014.
In keeping with its efforts to combat Anniston's stormwater problems, the council Monday also agreed to apply for a $100,000 grant for a drainage study from the Appalachian Regional Commission.
The council also approved its long-awaited, approximately $120,000 citywide strategic plan and the plan's implementation. The plan is the culmination of months of meetings and input from hundreds of residents. It includes an overall vision of how city leaders and residents want Anniston to progress in the coming year, covering various topics from economic development to education expansion and public transit improvements.
Previously, the council in May approved the implementation schedule for the strategic plan, which specifies steps for how the plan's overall goals could be achieved.
"I'm most excited for our strategic plan ... it's the strategic plan that determines where we're going and how we're going to get there," said Councilman Jay Jenkins. "We're on the right path, I believe it in my heart and soul."
Mayor Vaughn Stewart said he agreed that the strategic plan will help move Anniston forward.
"I do believe we're coming back," Stewart said of the city. "We're thinking big, and progressive and productive and positive."
Also during the meeting the council:
- Approved a $150,000 purchase of 62 acres for the Coldwater Mountain Bike Trail.
- Reappointed Megan Brightwell to the Historic Preservation Commission.
- Approved a $4,000 contract with Teague Hauling to demolish and clear 10 structures.
- Approved the purchase of ammunition for the Anniston Police Department.
- Approved a contract with Telephone Communications Inc. for a telephone system for City Hall and the Anniston Museum of Natural History at a cost of $1,046.38-a-month for 36 months.
- Passed a resolution authorizing the city manager to execute any agreements necessary to acquire land for the city's planned Wellness Park between west 12th Street and west 17th Street.
- Approved a resolution condemning the Ku Klux Klan fliers recently dispersed in the area.