Tampa floats fees as part of stormwater fix

After this week's flooding, several citizens showed up at Thursday's City Council meeting saying a change is needed if we don't want it to happen again. Council members agreed.

"It's very important, and I think it's very wise, that we ask our citizens to contribute to this effort," offered Councilman Harry Cohen.

But is the public ready to pay up?  City planners say stormwater improvements will cost more than $251 million in total.

Out of three plans to fix the problem, 'Proposal B' was the most popular.  Your average, one-family household, which currently pays about $36 a year in stormwater fees, would now pay more than double that amount, at $82.

It's a fee, those who spoke say, is worth every penny.

"I would like you to spend some time with how we're going to spend this money to alleviate problems. My future in-laws are older, fixed income, and they've have raw sewage in their house for two of three days. That's just not acceptable."

It's a problem dozens of homes and businesses are still recovering from, especially in South Tampa.

The plan calls for a gradual increase in fees.  While it may start at $82 a year, homeowners can expect to pay $180 per year by 2021.

Most of the money would go towards fixing existing problems, like blocked city pipes.  But council members are thinking of long-term solutions as well.

"I think we should look at passing an ordinance -- all of the debris that gets stirred up by the various landscaping services that blow debris all over the streets without actually bagging it and removing it. Seems to me that a lot of our problem with the storm drains getting clogged is that we're not actually requiring a lot of this refuse to be carted away," Cohen continued.

Opponents worry the increase in annual stormwater taxes will hurt those on a fixed income.

The council will present the proposal to the public once again August 24, where a vote will take place.