The city Stormwater Regulations Board on Monday recommended that the city approve water quality and land development increases sought by the Berke administration, though board members said there had not been enough time for the board and the public to study the fee hikes.
Bill Payne, city engineer, said the water quality fee increase would amount to an average $11 per year per household increase. It would go from $115.20 to $126.49. It would rise to $183.54 through annual 10 percent increases by 2023.
Land disturbance fees would also go up. They now cost $30 per disturbed area with a minimum of $100. They would rise to $250, and go to $500 for a tile or culvert.
Board members said they only had about 40 days to study the fee increases, and groups like the Home Builders and the Realtors Association had just about a week.
The City Council plans a public hearing on May 29 and the first reading vote on June 19.
Mr. Payne said the program is currently underfunded and at the present rate would not be able to continue doing projects it is mandated to carry out.
The program was set up in 1993 after a Blue Ribbon Study panel made recommendations. It sets up a separate fund to cover water quality improvement programs as well as flood control.
The fee recommendations were based on a recent study by consultants and are aimed at covering a 10-year period.
Dave Hamill, the only speaker at the meeting, called the program "a sham," saying very little of the amount goes for water quality.
Mr. Payne said the aim is to reduce or eliminate debt and go to a cash basis. Current debt costs are $2.5 million per year.
He said the city at the time the board was set up was facing a $400 million charge if it separated all its combined sewage and water runoff sewers. Instead, the city opted to spend $80 million on treatment measures, including adding to the capacity of the Moccasin Bend Sewage Treatment Plant and building underground tanks to temporarily hold large surges of rainwater.
Still, some sewer discharges are made into the Tennessee River several times a year in heavy rains.
Mr. Payne said the city at times has been able to separate sewer and runoff lines such as during the work for the 21st Century Waterfront.
He said many buildings are set up for combined sewers so, if the change was made, the interior of the buildings would have to undergo an expensive retrofit.