At our retreat in August, the council agreed to hold one stand-alone work session each month. These sessions are where we plan to talk about big picture issues; to learn the ins and outs of particular plans or city functions; and are a way for staff to get some general direction from the council about the projects they’re working on. The goal of having these extra work sessions is to get out of reactive mode and become a more proactive city.
On Thursday, September 24th, we had the first of these meetings – our discussion covered storm water planning and the development of Doraville’s Downtown.
Downtown Doraville is exciting to discuss. I think everyone on the council agrees that they want to get this project off the ground. Councilwoman Koontz has written about it already – I mostly agree with her assessment. In that essay, Koontz talks about courage – it’s the courage to invest in our city and believe it will succeed. Getting this done and taking the many small steps it will take to make this happen is one of the key reasons I ran for city council.
Storm water is probably the topic that is harder for people to get excited about – but it’s very important. Much of our infrastructure was built in the 50s and is at the end of its lifespan. For many years, we’ve made little patches here and there, but because we didn’t fix underlying problems, it means we have even bigger repairs (and repair costs) looming over us. The challenge if we don’t get this right is that we can see increased flooding and sinkholes – so it’s an issue everyone should care about.
At the same time we have this huge need, we’ve kept the storm water mitigation fees we charge all residential property owners in the city at the same low rate of $48 a year since we took over responsibility of storm water from the county. We are still waiting for a full list of storm water infrastructure projects that are needed and what the cost is, but the expectation I take away from the meeting is that the list is going to be more expensive than the revenue we take in.
The council talked about different strategies for raising fees (basing it on the square footage of impervious structures on a property, basing it on the size of a lot, looking at other strategies like bonds). Whatever we do, there will be more discussion of it ahead of next year’s budgeting process. I do not think continuing to bandage over a bad situation is the way to go, however.