City Commissioners Approve Storm Water Utility Fee for McPherson

By Jolyn Johnston-Myers
September 09, 2016

Residents of the city of McPherson will be seeing a new monthly bill for a storm water utility fee effective October 1.

City commissioners this week approved Ordinance No. 3223 during their weekly session, amending current codes to include the proposed fee which has initially been set at $7 for single-family homes, including apartments and duplexes.

Fees for industries, small businesses, and other properties will vary based on the size of the property.

“The purpose for this storm water utility is two-fold: One is because we’re a population over 10,000, we’re required by the EPA to have an MS4 permit,” explained Jeff Woodward, Public Works Director. “There are unfunded federal mandates that go along with this permit, and as time goes along, the constraints of that are ever-increasing and it continues to cause us money to comply.”

An MS4 permit has to do with how a city discharges its storm water and is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s meant to keep harmful pollutants from getting mixed in with storm water runoff and subsequently washed into local bodies of water likes lakes and streams.

“The second reason for the storm water utility is to take care of drainage problems within the city,” continued Woodward. “The city is probably not unique in the demands for funding, but it is probably unique in the number of drainage problems that exist because of the flat terrain.”

City officials have been wrestling with the funding problem for quite some time.

“We have been looking at this very thoroughly for over two years,” Mayor Tom Brown said. “If there was another way to address the $9.8 million of unfunded drainage mandates that we know are going to come by the end of this decade from the federal government, we would do it. But in over two years we have not been able to come up with another solution to do this.”

Several local residents showed up at the city commission meeting to voice concerns over the fee and questioned the fairness of how it is applied to properties such as small businesses.

Bonnie Hoffman, who manages McPherson’s Lakeside Plaza Apartments, expressed concerned about the impact the new fee will have on their annual budget and how it may necessitate raising rents for the 100-unit complex.

“Our rent is based on income, and we also have income limits,” Hoffman said. “We pay all of the utility bills except for the electricity. We try to keep our rents down; we don’t want a rent increase. But if we have to add $8,400 to our [annual] budget, there’s a possibility we would have to raise our rents.

“I do think we probably do need some sort of charge,” she added. “I just think $7 a month is unreasonable. I would be happy with two [dollars].”

The city is looking at a ten-year plan initially at about a million dollars a year to start fixing drainage issues in the city of McPherson. The new fee will help pay for that, but it still won’t be enough.

“At $7 a month, we anticipate that generating $866,000 per year,” Woodward said. “We did a quick look, and we can identify more than $10 million worth of drainage projects right off the bat, and that in no way takes care of every drainage problem in the city.”

McPherson residents will see the new storm water utility fee on their BPU bill starting next month. Mayor Tom Brown wants people to be aware that BPU is simply the mechanism by which the fee will be billed, similar to the monthly sewer and trash charges.

“This has nothing to do with the BPU,” Mayor Brown reminded the public audience. “This is the city.”

For more information on the storm water utility fee in the city of McPherson, contact the Public Works department at 620-245-2545 or visit