City-Parish officials asked to sign NDAs from the federal government amid proposal for Stormwater Utility Fee

The federal government says Baton Rouge needs to fix its stormwater system immediately or they’re stepping in.
Published: Oct. 10, 2022 at 10:37 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The federal government says Baton Rouge needs to fix its stormwater system immediately or they’re stepping in.

Now a proposal was presented by Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome’s Office last week for a Stormwater Utility Fee.

For years Baton Rouge has been failing its audits with the EPA and LDEQ regarding stormwater runoff and the Clean Water Act.

Now city-parish officials are in a situation where federal enforcement action is imminent.

And federal officials want to keep the negotiations tight-lipped, while pressure is mounting to impose this fee.

“It’s something that has to be done. We don’t have a lot of alternatives,” said Mayor-President Broome at a news conference on Oct. 6.

The stormwater utility fee proposal by the mayor’s office is for all property owners, including businesses and industry as well. The goal is to help fund long-term drainage and water quality maintenance strategies.

The monthly rate is expected to be $1.36 cents per billing unit. It will be calculated by the square footage of impervious surfaces, and the first fee will be on your 2023 tax bill.

The federal government says Baton Rouge needs to fix its storm water system immediately or...
The federal government says Baton Rouge needs to fix its storm water system immediately or they're stepping in.(WAFB)

“There is no one time and you’re done situation. It’s an ongoing work, an ongoing effort,” said Kelvin Hill, EBR’s Assistant Chief Administrative Officer.

We’re told the city parish is under the threat of a federal consent decree. And this proposed fee is a chance to keep stormwater management in local control.

With the federal consent decree, the federal government would come in, they would tell you what kind of plan you have to implement. They would tell you pretty much how much money you’d have to borrow to implement that plan. The federal government would be in charge, and we would just be following orders under a federal consent decree,” said Metro Councilwoman Laurie Adams, District 11.

Back in the late 1990′s, the federal government had to take control of the parish’s sewer system, resulting in fee increases for residents since the early 2000′s.

It’s something city-parish officials are trying to avoid this time around.

“Look at the history of what is taking place. And I think that kind of gives us a snapshot of the potential of what we may be facing,” said Mayor-President Broome.

WAFB has confirmed that everyone in the administration involved in the negotiations with the DOJ and the EPA, has had to sign a non-disclosure agreement.

“As a council person, I have not been a part of those negotiations or those discussions. So, I did not have to sign a non-disclosure agreement,” said Councilwoman Adams.

Adams says she’s been bombarded with emails and calls about this topic.

Right now, she’s just hoping people show up for public meetings before a vote is taken on the matter.

“We want to hear the public’s questions; we want to hear their thoughts. I know there’s some very very smart people in our community who may even have better ideas than any of this. So please come to a public meeting,” said Adams.

The first stormwater utility fee meeting is set for this Thursday at 6:30 pm at the Main Library on Goodwood.

This item will not be voted on until the Metro Council meeting on October 26.

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