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Technology tool helps St. Petersburg homeowners with new stormwater rates

Margie Manning



Stormwater flooding in Shore Acres, May 14, 2018 (Source: SeeClickFix)

Stormwater rates for most homeowners in St. Petersburg will be changing beginning in October.

City officials are rolling out a sophisticated communications campaign and technology tools to address what could be a deluge of questions and concerns.

On Monday, April 15, an online portal will go live that allows homeowners to review their own property and proposed rates and to appeal if they believe the rate is incorrect.

“We want to make sure that the public understands what we’re doing,” said Angela Miller, public works service manager. “Historically this has been a flat fee. The city council’s recommendation for this process is to make it more equitable city-wide, and that’s based on usage or stormwater runoff. It’s a big change from what we’ve done historically and we want to be sure people are aware of it.”

City homeowners and businesses pay a stormwater fee as part of their monthly utility bill. Money collected from the stormwater fee funds operations and upkeep of the city’s stormwater system and helps control flooding, enhance water quality and manage the environmental impact of the water.

Stormwater runs through pipes that are separate from those that handle wastewater. The water that comes out of a home’s plumbing system is routed to treatment systems, while stormwater is collected through street inlets and building downspouts and is carried to nearby bodies of water.

The stormwater rate change is tied to the amount of impervious surface area at a home. Impervious surface includes roofing and driveways, or areas that don’t allow water to seep into the ground, unlike lawns and gardens that can absorb stormwater.

Currently, all single-family properties are charged a flat rate of $11 a month for stormwater services, while non-single-family properties pay based on their impervious surface areas.

The new system, scheduled to take effect Oct. 1, classifies single-family properties into tiers based on the impervious surface area calculation. It’s designed to more equitably distribute costs to single-family homes.

For homes with no more than 3,200 square feet of impervious surface area, the rate will drop, but it will increase for homes with more than 3,201 square feet of impervious surface area.

The impact to condo owners depends on the way utility billing is set up with the homeowner or condo association. Commercial properties will continue based on the number of single-family residential units their impervious area represents.

The online portal, which will be available here starting Monday, is user-friendly, Miller said. Similar to Google Earth, it lets you type in your home address, then it zooms in on that property and displays a popup showing information such as the amount of impervious surface area and the proposed rate. There’s a feature that allows users to measure the property themselves and petition for a correction if the information is not accurate.

“The petition process is unique. I haven’t see that in other cities,” Miller said.

The city wants homeowners to check the proposed rates before the change takes effect on Oct. 1, but the portal will remain active after that time as well, she said.

Also on Monday, the city will kick off a series of six public meetings to walk people through the portal and appeals process.

Monday, April 15 — Willis S. Johns Rec Center, 6635 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N., 6:30 – 8:30 pm

Tuesday, April 23 – Lake Vista Rec Center, 1401 62nd Ave. S., 6:30 – 8:30 pm

Wednesday, April 24 – J.W. Cate Rec Center, 5801 22nd Ave. N., 6:30 – 8:30 pm

Thursday, April 25 – Campbell Park Rec Center, 601 14th St. S., 6:30 – 8 pm

Monday, April 29 – Childs Park Rec Center, 4301 13th Ave. S., 6:30 – 8 pm

Wednesday, May 1 – The Sunshine Center, 330 5th St. N., 6:30 – 8:30 pm

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