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CONYERS — The majority of residential property owners in Rockdale County are in for a shock in 2021 when their annual stormwater fee will more than double from $40.68 to $102, to help pay for needed stormwater infrastructure repairs. If the Board of Commissioners adopts the complete Stormwater Rate Financial Model, which has the rate continuing to increase, by 2026 the rate will be just 72 cents shy of having quadrupled from the current fee to $162 a year.

Many years of poor maintenance, along with torrential rains in 2019 caused flooded roads, destroyed storm drains and culverts and left the Rockdale County Stormwater Department scrambling not only to provide enough repairs to reopen closed roads, but also to provide more permanent solutions. The department also needs more funding to repair and replace more than 188 miles of piping and more than 18,900 drainage structures.

Rockdale County hired engineering consultant Raftelis to create a financial model outlining a rate structure designed to fund the estimated capital improvement needs of $225 million from 2020 through 2035, with the issuance of revenue bonds of $10 million every two years.

Currently the stormwater rate structure charges different amounts for properties throughout the county. While the majority of homeowners pay the current $40.68 stormwater fee based on the measure of impervious surfaces on their property, some property owners pay less, while nonresidential property owners pay more.

Raftelis designed a simplified rate structure based on an Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU) of 4,205 square feet, the typical size of a Rockdale County home’s impervious surface. All single-family homes will be charged for one ERU. Multifamily housing and mobile homes will be charged for one-half ERU times the number of units per lot, while nonresidential properties will be charged based on the measured number of ERUs on the property.

Based on that rate structure and the amount of revenue required for stormwater capital improvements, Raftelis developed an annual rate of $102 for 2021, $114 for 2022, $120 for 2023, $138 for 2024, $154 for 2025, and $162 for 2026.

In a resolution unanimously approved by the Board of Commissioners at its Sept. 22 meeting, the BOC adopted the rate plan and schedule for 2021 and 2022.

During public comment near the end of the meeting, resident George Kelechek, who has often clashed with county in the past over stormwater runoff damage done to his property, acknowledged the need for the fee increase.

“The stormwater fee was glossed over a little bit,” Kelechek said. “It is going to be going from $40 to $102. I just want to let the citizens of Rockdale County know that’s going to be a $60 increase next year, so budget for it.

“I understand why,” he added. “We are behind the eight ball and as the chairman has said before, we’re in a hot mess in the stormwater department. So I appreciate everybody’s efforts.”

District 2 Commissioner Dr. Doreen Williams said she recently went on a stormwater tour of some of the more severe problems in the county and that it solidified for her the need for for an “enhanced stormwater budget.

“We have to put resources into that infrastructure,” she said. “We still have a road closed from April 2019, and I think it is a big issue. Unless you live someplace where the water collects or the road collapses, you may not be aware of the severe issues we have had with stormwater. The fees are going up, but they are strictly being allocated for stormwater resources.”

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Senior Reporter

Born and raised in Decatur, Ga. Graduated from Shorter College in Rome, Ga. in 1979 with B.A. in Communications. Worked in community newspapers for 26 years. Started at Rockdale Citizen/Newton Citizen in January 2016.

(1) comment

LongtimeRez

This is the worst time to be hitting citizens of Rockdale with a giant increase in stormwater fees. In 2020, people have lost jobs, lost income, and endured unexpected expenses, illness, and even deaths of loved ones. And your going to sucker punch them with higher bills? My understanding is that lots of people haven't been paying these fees. Why not collect those fees first and hold off on increases until at least 2022? Also, I hope this doesn't mean hefty admin salaries to follow. Stormwater inexplicably became its own department years ago -- with added admin cost -- and should be watched carefully that it doesn't grow overly big.

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