Superior’s Public Works Committee is considering a change to the city’s Stormwater Flood Control Program.
The program started as a pilot project in 2003 to help homeowners identify sources of basement flooding and develop projects that would help eliminate those issues for single-family, owner-occupied homes that experienced flooding. When the program was made permanent in 2007, the criteria for participation didn’t change.
Councilor Jenny Van Sickle is hoping to expand the program to include single-family homes that are not owner-occupied.
“This is a policy change that I’m really proud of,” Van Sickle said. “It makes good on a promise to have our policies to be more reflective of our community and more equitably distributes tax dollars.”
The program is paid for by wastewater fees paid by city residents. Since 2013, the program has been funded at a level of $250,000 annually.
Participation in the program has tended to fluctuate, going up after various storm events, Assistant Public Works Director Chris Carlson said. However, in recent years, as the program has become more well-known and interest in the program remains strong, regardless of the weather, he said.
About 64 participants enter the program each year, with the program completing about 38 homes at an average cost of $6,500 per home, Carlson said. He said not all participants complete the program, which requires some investment by the participant.
Under the proposal owner occupancy would be removed from the eligibility requirements, but owners of multiple single-family homes would be restricted to having a project done to one home per year. The change would go into effect Jan. 1 or the first month after the 2020 wastewater utility budget is approved, whichever happens later.
Van Sickle said she decided to seek the change, which would make about 1,300 more single-family homes eligible, after a landlord with property that flooded in Allouez approached her. Seeking solutions, the landlord contacted the Environmental Services Division and learned about the program.
“They said they wouldn’t be able to help her, even though she paid into the program, because she was honest and said she was not living there,” Van Sickle said. “When you think about a representative in government, you want to have more reflective policies that benefit everybody.”
So Van Sickle decided to bring the issue forward so councilors could have a broader discussion of the program and who benefits from it.
When the program was developed, it was determined there was an overall public purpose in establishing the program because it offered an opportunity to remove clear water from the city’s wastewater collection system, which would be treated at greater expense.
The program has had a strong correlation to a reduction in basement flooding at individual homes, according to Steve Roberts, director of the Environmental Services Division. He said whether the home is owner-occupied or tenant-occupied, the benefit to the city’s infrastructure is the same because the program removes foundation drains that contribute to clear water in the sanitary system.
“I thought this would be a really good move to renters to make sure they have access to those infrastructure upgrades and landlords that are paying into the program, and maybe, most importantly the environment,” Van Sickle said.
Clear water in sanitary sewers, particularly during wet weather, is a contributing factor to sewer overflows in the environment.
If the proposal is approved, plans include increasing the annual budget for the flood control program.
The Public Works Committee considers the proposal when it meets at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20, in Room 204 of the Government Center.