MICHIGAN CITY — Officials in the city are taking a hard look at imposing a fee to eliminate standing water problems in the city and improve stormwater capacity for future growth.
A public workshop is scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall to discuss creating what could be a monthly fee of about $11 for residential property owners.
Mayor Ron Meer said the fee would be higher for businesses, which would be based on factors like property size.
Meer said about $2 million a year would be generated for things like new infrastructure to help drainage in areas like the historic Eastport neighborhood on the north end and areas to the south.
The city's sanitary district board has already given its blessing to the fee, which must be approved by the City Council to take effect.
About a decade ago, Meer said, the city put in an $8 million storm sewer tunnel, about 8 feet wide, at 8th and Lafayette streets.
The plan then was to run connections to that line to help with drainage, but those taps were never made.
Meer said separating combined sewers and running hook-ups to the tunnel over a 10-year period, with fee revenues paying the bill, eliminate "90 percent" of all current drainage issues in the city.
"It's bothered me for some years that we have $8 million worth of infrastructure in the ground right now not being used," Meer said.
It's too early to say exactly when the fee might go into effect, but having it in place for 2018 is a good possibility, Meer said.
The fee would be imposed on property tax bills.
Michael Kuss, general manager of the Michigan City sanitary district, said the fee is also needed to maintain 13 miles of legal drains in the city that have no funding mechanisms, in addition to other storm drain projects needing to be finished or financed.
He said there are also many "green" stormwater control infrastructure systems already installed throughout the city and more in the planning stages that will require funds for maintenance.
"The drainage fee will be used for these purposes so that proper drainage throughout the city and compliance with state and federal requirements can be achieved and maintained," Kuss said.