MLive hosted a live chat on their website to discuss and answer readers’ questions on the stormwater management issue in Grand Rapids. The online chat lasted from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday, July 23, with over 50 participants posing questions to the composed panelist of Grand Rapids city officials and WMEAC policy director, Nick Occhipinti.
Many of the questions regarded the specifics of the two proposed funding options for stormwater management in Grand Rapids; a millage or user fee. The millage fee would exempt nonprofits while the user fee would include all users. Currently, Grand Rapids does not have a designated source of revenue to fund stormwater management, leaving the system under-maintained with over 164 miles of stormwater pipes that are 50 years old.
Questions that focused on the differing fund options included fee mitigation with rain garden and rain barrel installations and how Grand Rapids would tax the city’s own streets and buildings. Another issue highlighted the lack of state and federal government support for stormwater management.
“Stormwater regulations from the state of Michigan and the federal government have not been issued with adequate resources to achieve compliance,” said Nick Occhipinti, WMEAC policy director and chat panelist. “This fact, couple with decreasing revenues from the state, compels citizens of Grand Rapids to act…As stewards of more than 20 percent of the world’s surface freshwater, Grand Rapids has a special responsibility in protecting water quality.
Panelists and participants also discussed the necessity of funding and maintenance for the Grand Rapids Stormwater System.
“What would happen to our infrastructure and water quality if we did not find another way to fund it” asked Kyle, a commenter on the chat.
“Kyle, if we d not invest in our assets they will fall apart,” said Grand Rapids Deputy City Manager, Eric DeLong. “The longer we wait, the more it will cost. Stormwater is one of those critical infrastructure systems that support quality of life in neighborhoods and business districts.
The chat responded to many concerns that citizens had regarding stormwater management while educating the public on this issue. The entire archived chat is available for review here.