Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Bethlehem Defends Stormwater Fee Transparency

In response to an inquiry from a Bethlehem homeowner, this is how the City's "Stormwater Engineer," Meara C Hayden, justifies this $60 annual fee. 

The City of Bethlehem has been looking into adopting a stormwater fee ordinance for the past five years, similar to ordinances previously passed in Allentown and Easton and others around the state and country. Our fee is considerably lower than both those neighboring cities. Other local municipalities are currently working on stormwater fees as well.  While considering and adopting this fee, we have reached out via newspapers and advertised online virtual public meetings . We met with many of the largest rate payers on October 20, 21, 22 and November 2 and 13 in 2020.  We had an online Public Meeting on November 17, 2020.  This meeting was advertised on the City website, Lehigh Valley Live, the Express Times and a general Press Release was issued.  The Fee was discussed at City Council Budget Hearings in 2019 and 2020, both of which were advertised ahead of the meetings.  An online public presentation (see attached) was given at City Council’s Committee of the Whole meeting on December 1, 2020 and public comment was also invited at the December 1st and 15th, 2020 City Council meetings which both advertised the agenda in a Press Release, in the Express Times, and on the City’s website.  A number of articles were in the local media over the last two years.  These include Lehigh Valley Live on 11/08/19, 12/18/19, and 12/16/20, the Morning Call on 11/18/19, 12/17/19, and 12/16/20 and on WFMZ on 12/02/20.
 
We are continuing our stormwater public educational program, and we are holding webinars on April 1st and April 6th, which will be recorded and posted online afterwards. This will help to explain why the fee was implemented and what the funding will be used to address.  You can find the link to sign up for that at the bottom of the page here:
 
 
Also on that page is a link to an FAQ document that fully answers the common questions we get about the stormwater fee.
 
All single family home owners are billed a flat $60/year fee. In your situation, even though you share a water meter with multiple other homes, you are still billed for the stormwater fee as a residential property. Let me know if you have any questions our FAQ document can’t a

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

I realize Ms. Hayden is simply following orders, but this is a tax, not a fee.

The Banker

Anonymous said...

The Stormwater Fee should not have come as a surprise to anyone who pays attention and reads the news. The problem is most people only pay attention after something is passed then complain that it was done in the dark without notice. Public meetings are still public meetings if no one attends.

Anonymous said...

Banker: It's not a tax, but a fee. The City set up a separate budget fund for stormwater for the dedicated fee. Those funds are not part of the general fund. The fee is placed on all properties in the city, including tax-exempt non-profits, like Lehigh and Moravian.

Anonymous said...

9:55 AM

It's more than people ignoring local politics. Costs such as these are a direct consequence of national laws enacted because of the way national elections go. These elections also determine the composition of our judiciary.

If people are upset by a $60 water and sewer "fee,", wait until they get hit by "cost of carbon fees" at the gas pump and in their utility bills.

Whether or not these things are justified is entirely different from whether or not people actually realize what they're voting for.

Anonymous said...

Another Tax to be a resident in Bethlehem PA. Storm water fee, come on, next i will be charged a carbon footprint for the size of my house and impermeable coverage of my yard.

Anonymous said...

Anon 1015am, if it were truly a fee then a property owner, by reducing their storm water runoff to 0%, would be able to eliminate 100% of the the fee as there would be no usage.

The city though has said that, at most, 50% of the fee can be mitigated, and that 50% would be charged even if the property owner reduced runoff to 0%.

The reason the city needs the $$ is to cover costs associated with storm water runoff of roads, which are either city or state assets. The city has specifically exempted roads from the fee, meaning they have to pass that cost on to someone - in this case, property owners.

So the city is charging property owners to cover city expenses associated with storm water runoff from roads.

That’s the very definition of a tax, not a fee.

The Banker

Anonymous said...

I suspect that Meara Hayden is correct in her statement but none the less few people knew this was coming until recently. That is probably due more to the inattention most citizens pay to things like official releases of information and public hearings, rather than anything Hayden did wrong. Given that the $60 charge is now a reality no matter what it is called, I would like the City officials to openly address in detail several items as we go into the future. First, how is the money to be spent on specific uses within the City? What projects will be done, how are they expected to function, and what evaluation tools will be in place to make sure the projects have the mitigation results that are intended? In addition I would like to hear the City's plans on taking aggressive stances on regional projects done out side of the City boundaries that have or will have storm water run off effects within the City. I watch the repeated flooding of the Bethlehem historic area along the Monocacy Creek and believe that this is due as much to runoff caused by both residential and commercial building north of the City as it is to development happening within Bethlehem itself. As we await the new development on the former Martin Tower site, the specifics of how this and other projects north of the City will affect storm water run off into the Monocacy are critical in light of the massive issues we already have. I will feel a lot better about my $60 fee/tax if I know it is actually being used effectively to solve or at least reduce a real problem that now occurs regularly.

Anonymous said...

City of Bethlehem been doing this for years with their sewer and water rates. They would increase the fees 6-10% and talk about the need for infrastructure due to storm water management.

Then Donchez would get on his platform and say we did not not raise taxes this year, but neglects to mention the sewer increase.

Maybe all those rate increase imposed on the water fees will get rolled back now that we have an actual flat storm water fee.

Honestly, the citizens deserve this. This is what you get when you have a one party town and you stack the council with teachers or school administrators who never turned down a tax increase.

Anonymous said...

No driveway or patio at my house and we use rain barrels to capture the rain water, are we exempt?

LVCI said...

If you folks are getting away with a $60 fee consider yourself fortunate. Mine in Allentown is $100 on our twin with a garage out back. The total size of our property is only 32*120.

Anonymous said...

What is really frustrating is how council and the city are treating us like idiots saying this is a fee and not a tax.

if they are requiring more money from us,it is not a good thing. Dont try to play the semantic game with us.

Carl said...

Created in 1972 by the Clean Water Act, the NPDES permit program is authorized to state governments by EPA to perform many permitting, administrative, and enforcement aspects of the program. Been around for a long time, enforcement in now starting to kick in....

Anonymous said...

Anon 1237, no you are not. At best you'll only have to pay 50% of the fee so the city can cover its cost. In other words, you're getting taxed.

The Banker

Anonymous said...

A fee is a tax, Period! So in other words they just taxed the rain that falls from the sky onto my property. What if I don't want anymore rain to fall on my property? Who do I complain to that rain is falling on my property without my permission? Unreal!! Anyone who voted for that non sense should be voted out of office, Period!

Anonymous said...

That's a hole lot cheaper than Allentowns water fee that is not a tax either? At least Bethlehem water does not have a intake were the shit flows freely and is bleached after being grinded into a saluable substance!
Than there is a comment about nonprofits paying that is only half truths.

Anonymous said...

Fees and taxes are the same thing except when one is speaking governmentese. The commenter who attempted to draw a distinction is likely fluent in governmentese and hates those who pay his or her salary. But that's the best they have.

Anonymous said...

If I pay a fee, should I not get a service in return? What service am I or would I get for storm water runoff? Seems to me there should be money allocated to this work.

Anonymous said...

It is the publics fault they do not pay attention to the politicians who are running this country into the ground..

Anonymous said...

Has anyone looked around at the new Kensington Lehighvalley, there is little wonder that herion filled needles aren't flowing from the faucets. This is not to mention the infected storm water run off that flows into the streams that siphon the public drinking water.

Anonymous said...

They have found a way to tax normally tax exempt entities. Bravo! It starts at $60 and conveniently goes up as they will dip into the “storm water” fund to bankroll other projects.

This is a well constructed money grab disguised as a remedy for the very problems created by those who are working hard to find a solution.

Anonymous said...

just do it the way i am....dont pay it and tie them up in court....i havent paid any of this in 4 years and will continue not to pay it until i am so ordered by a higher court..oh and while we are in litigation they cannot penalize for any of it!!!!!! so screw the city crooks!!

Anonymous said...

Just anther excuse to fleece the citizens and have a stormwater enforcement dept. to live off the poor homeowners. they will get wages , pensions etc. to make sure you pay them. A sanitized form of extortion.

Anonymous said...

This is a Federal mandate that has been a long time in the making. Those of you complaining about this paltry stormwater tax better get some perspective. The Democrats are now running the United States and if you think a paltry little tax on stormwater management is unacceptable, you haven't seen anything yet. I expect gas to cost upwards of $5 - $6 a gallon within a year or two just for starters. The amount of extra money you will spend on gas alone will make this $60 seem like nothing. Get ready, radical politicians from about 7 or 8 coastal states are now running the whole country.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely

robinhood said...

Why do I have to pay the same amount as a large single home with a double wide driveway with a pool that they empty into the city street?