A number of residents who experienced significant damage during the recent flooding asked the Sherman City Council for help with their continued problems with stormwater runoff.
Five residents and property owners addressed the council during a public hearing on the 2017-2018 fiscal year budget Monday evening.
“We have been affected by the floods for the last 10 to 20 years,” Contemporary Drive resident Fred Mask said. “It’s gotten to the point now to where most of the time when it floods, we’re affected. For example, I have lost everything for the second time in 10 years, and I’m not the only one.”
Mask then asked that the other Contemporary Drive residents in attendance at Monday’s meeting be recognized and more than a dozen stood up.
“We need the city’s help,” Mask said. “We need you guys to get involved in our problem. From our viewpoint, the only help we’ve had from the city so far is bucket trucks to come and haul our houses away.”
The citizens’ concerns were heard during the budget public hearing because the city is planning a stormwater utility fee as part of the budget that will allow Sherman to address capital project needs identified from the Post Oak Creek Flood Protection Plan related to runoff from significant storms like the one last weekend. The proposed fee of $1 per month would be based on one equivalent residential unit, which works out to 3,400 square feet of impervious area. Customers with less than that amount of impervious area on their property would pay less than $1 and those with more would pay per equivalent residential unit that they have on their property.
City staff estimate the fee will bring in $460,000 for infrastructure projects. And City Manager Robby Hefton said improvements to areas like Contemporary Drive will be among the first to utilize those funds.
“We realize that the problems that have been experienced there are long-standing,” Hefton said to the residents of Contemporary Drive who attended Monday’s meeting. “If we can see this stormwater program to its final conclusion, there will be funds available that would help us do that. But that’s not right here immediately. From the city’s standpoint, we would be in a position to begin taking some corrective action hopefully that would be permanent, that would help folks in that area.”
The budget ordinance was ultimately adopted after the citizens had their say during the public hearing, but it wasn’t passed unanimously. Council members Shawn Teamann and Kevin Couch voted against the ordinance because they don’t believe another fee should be levied against citizens at this time.
“I’d like to see that fee be part of the overall tax rate,” Couch said. “I’m not against the program. I love the stormwater program because it’ll help people like we saw tonight. But the way in which we’re gathering the funds for the program — I’m completely against it.”
Teamann said he’s had a house flood before, so he understands what the citizens dealing with loss from flooding are going through.
“Their comments definitely were moving, but it didn’t change my position on whether or not I thought we could fund that out of our budget without creating a new fee to put on top of the tax rate that’s being increased,” Teamann said of the planned 3.3 cents property tax increase to 42.73 cents per $100 valuation of property. “The program itself and addressing some of our stormwater mediation needs is a no-brainer. We need to help out in that area.”
As the council isn’t allowed to respond to residents during a public hearing, several council members used their time during the council comments section of the agenda to address the citizens that suffered flooding last week.
Mayor David Plyler and council member Pam Howeth each said the city is planning to address the flooding issues in the Contemporary Drive area as soon as possible.
“Be aware that you have our sympathy and our prayers as you are trying to clean this up,” Howeth said.
Deputy Mayor Jason Sofey said he was happy to see the program moving forward.
“We’ve tossed it around for several years on council,” Sofey said. “I’m glad that we’re starting the stormwater program. I’ve been a proponent of starting that for a few years; I know it’s an unpopular thing sometimes to create fees for the entire city, but there was a lot of people affected.”
Council member Terrence Steele said when he was first elected to the council in 2002, stormwater was an issue that was being talked about, so he was also glad to see the stormwater utility fee was going to be implemented.
“As citizens of this community and as a leader of this community, sometimes we have to make those hard decisions where everybody doesn’t agree with it, but I think it’s the right thing to do,” Steele said. “So just know that this is the beginning of trying to fix those problems.”