Report shows how Beaufort County stormwater fees were spent

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Report shows how Beaufort County stormwater fees were spent

By CASEY CONLEY
cconley@islandpacket.com
Published Tuesday, August 7, 2012   |  465 Words  |  

Property owners curious about how stormwater fees have been spent can get answers in a 415-page report published last month by Beaufort County.

The report lists the cost and location of all 864 county projects between 2001 and 2011 that were paid for with stormwater fees. It also provides two-page summaries, with photos and maps, of the 171 projects that cost more than $20,000 each or more.

Projects are broken down by the year in which they were completed, by municipality and by County Council districts.

"It was a vehicle to let people know," stormwater utility manager Dan Ahern said. "People put in a lot of money ... (and) it will at least allow them to know what they've gotten for the fees."

The utility was formed in September 2001 to improve drainage and stormwater management in unincorporated Beaufort County, as well as Bluffton, Beaufort, Port Royal and Hilton Head Island.

Since then, property owners in the county and the four municipalities have paid more than $50 million in stormwater fees.

The utility, which collects the money, spent about $13.15 million over the 10-year period on drainage improvement. About $25 million in fee revenue was returned to the municipalities for projects in those communities. Each municipality sets its own stormwater fees.

Remaining funds were used to create countywide stormwater management study, a cost-of-service and rate study, and for aerial surveys used to develop new elevation maps. Ongoing water quality monitoring, public education and outreach campaigns and the development of stormwater control regulations also were funded using through these fees, the report said.

The utility's management and staffing expenses, which cost about $300,000 per year, also are funded by stormwater fees, Ahern said.

County administrator Gary Kubic requested the report, which included an analysis by the Savannah accounting firm Holland, Henry & Bromley and cost about $50,000 to produce.

Kubic described the report as a "baseline" that can be updated annually as more projects are completed.

"We could then go to every project and every penny," he said recently, adding that he hopes other municipalities in the county will create similar documents.

With hundreds of drainage projects already finished, Ahern said the utility probably will focus on improving water quality in Battery Creek, the Okatie River and the May River during the next five years.

"We think we have the prevention part down," he said. "Now, we are moving toward restoration while not forgetting drainage."

Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.

Related content:

$40 increase to stormwater fees approved for city of Beaufort, July 24, 2012