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Storm Water Utility meeting spurs debate in Somerset

The second public informational meeting for the proposed storm water utility prompted some Somerset residents to question the purpose of the fee.

Representatives from Cedar Corp. gave a slide presentation explaining the reason the village is considering the addition.

Referencing a 2004 master plan of the Village of Somerset, it was determined that the village deposits approximately 350,000 pounds of solids into the Apple River each year. This is due to what the rainwater runoff collects from nonporous surfaces such as driveways and parking lots. The runoff usually contains leftover salt, sediment, automotive oils and the like.

Rob Jones, of Cedar Corp., said Wisconsin passed NR 216 of the state's administrative code which requires municipalities of 10,000 or larger to have a storm water discharge permit.

"Somerset is not there yet," Jones acknowledged, "but Wisconsin holds municipalities responsible for controlling all sediments within municipal limits."

The public works committee and Cedar Corp. had come up with a procedure to share the burden of maintaining the village's current 27-plus storm water ponds and current runoff maintenance process.

Single-family homes were estimated to be, on average, 3,250 square feet. That would be the measuring standard: 1 ERU.

For a full multi-family residential structure, Cedar Corp. could take an aerial shot of the entire structure and divide it by 3,250 (square feet average). The customer would be charge the resultant number of ERUs, minus any approved credits.

For a nonresidential structure, the aerial square footage would be divided by 3,250. An example given was one of the larger Somerset businesses measuring 781,890 square feet. When divided by 3,250, it would be 240.5 ERUs.

One ERU would equal about $24 per year, billed quarterly. New Richmond charges $28.68 per year; Barron (comparable in size to Somerset) charges $24 per year.

"We realized that we shifted the cost burden from residential to nonresidential, but there are three tiers to the credit system that would enable them to get a maximum of 75 percent in credits," Jones said.

John Montpetit, co-owner of Float-Rite and General Sam's, said the utility would add an unnecessary burden to the bigger property owners.

"For Float-Rite, which is only open eight weeks of the year, I'm going to have to pay $2,800," Montpetit said, "Plus $8,000 with everything else I own in town."

Wendy Sander, planner at Cedar Corp., said that the village was trying to work with the residents to alleviate some of the burden.

"Most communities only allow a 20 percent credit," Sander said.

Mike Kappers, sergeant in the Somerset Police Department, attended the public meeting as a concerned property holder. He brought up the fact that Cedar Corp. had designed holding ponds for the village before that had washed out.

Jones said that occurred when there was a lot of development going on unchecked. Ryan Sicard, chairman of the public works committee, also added that federal funds were used at that time to replace the ponds.

"You are good salesmen, but this is out of everyone's pocket and we just don't have it," Kappers said.

"The village is not regulated right now," Montpetit said, referring to the 10,000 population requirement. "Should we try to predict the future? Why not wait until it happens?"

Sicard said that the village had budget cuts and had to look at generating revenue or cutting services. This was one way to explore generating revenue.

"The village board decided to explore this option," Sicard said. "If we decide not to do this, where do we cut?"

Montpetit asked about the recent increase in sewer utility and if anyone complained about that. Brenda Neumann, utility clerk, acknowledged that she did get some complaints from residents.

"Every time something comes up, you can't just raise taxes; people can't afford it. Maybe we ought to put our heads together and find another way," Montpetit said.

The village board is scheduled to take action on this issue at its monthly board meeting Tuesday, May 25, at 7 p.m. The public is welcome to attend.