Easley officials hope bond will fund many stormwater repairs


By Jason Evans

Staff Reporter

EASLEY — By issuing a stormwater bond, Easley officials hope to address needed repairs and replacements and avoid situations like the one that plagued an Easley subdivision for years.

During their June 8 meeting, city council members passed first reading of an ordinance to allow for the issuance of a 10-year stormwater bond not to exceed $800,000.

Areas with ongoing stormwater issues include Williams Avenue, Bridgewater Drive, Dogwood Lane, North 5th Street and Woodside Park, city administrator Stephen Steese said. Dogwood Lane has been closed due to those issues, he said.

Some of the issues are causes by galvanized pipe reaching “beyond the end of life,” he said.

“One thing that happens with metal when it sits in water is it likes to rust,” Steese said. “We have a lot of rusted metal pipe that needs to be replaced.”

The city’s stormwater director has identified around 20 projects that need to be addressed, Steese said.

Estimated individual project costs range from $10,000 to repair a drainage swale off of Couch Lane to $364,000 to replace a crossover on South 2nd Street behind Gettys Middle School, the ordinance said.

For two of the projects — South 2nd Street and Dogwood Lane — the city has applied for more than $700,000 in C Funds “to just address the stormwater issues,” Steese said.

“These projects total right now, with the estimates we have, about $1.6 million dollars,” he said. “What this would allow us to do is to try and get ahead on these projects by repairing and replacing them before they get even worse and cause sinkholes, like happened at Oak Creek, or cause a road failure, like what we’re witnessing over on Dogwood or on Williams.”

The city did a $400,000 bond in 2016 “to reimburse costs we had in the Oak Creek project that totaled over $1.2 million,” Steese said.

The following year, the city increased the stormwater fee by $4 annually “to offset this cost,” he said.

The proposed FY 2021 budget contains a $2 annual increase.

“If council decides to move forward with this, should it be needed, council could discuss looking at potentially another $2 in a year or two to help pay this,” he said. “But for every dollar we raise, it generates about $15,000 in revenue in stormwater fund. So, when we raised by $4, then it generated about $60,000 to pay our bond. So if we raise another $2, it will put us close to $90,000.”

The bond repayment schedule would be about $120,000 per year, Steese said.

After paying off the 2016 bond, the city would be able to pay off the bond more quickly, he said.

Continued growth in the city, resulting in rising stormwater revenues, should help offset the additional expense, Steese said.

Mayor Butch Womack said Steese was “putting all these projects together to get them done and borrow the money to do it” through the ordinance before council.

“I know each one of you probably had complaints about something in your ward,” Womack told council. “I know we do every day up here, especially if it starts raining real hard.”

If the city were to fund the identified projects year by year with city revenues, “you’re looking at a five- to six-year schedule to get these projects done,” Steese said.

“What you’re seeing now is by the time we are working on a project, it’s failed,” he said. “So the goal would be to try to get ahead so that what we’re working on in future years is not projects that have failed, but projects we are being proactive on, to try and prevent them from failing and causing these issues.”

It’s like maintenance on a car, Steese said.

“It’s a lot cheaper to change the oil, to redo filters, than it is to replace the whole engine,” he said.

Councilman Brian Garrison said he was “all for” the bond.

“I think it’s due,” he said.

Councilman Kent Dykes said he liked the city’s proactive approach.

“There’s a lot of little projects out there that just become nuisances to us,” he said. “They’re very important to the people around them, for sure.”

As reluctant as she is to spend borrowed money, “this has to happen,” Councilwoman Pat Webb said.

“I’ve gotten plenty of calls, and I’ve only been elected since January,” she said. “To be competitive with other communities, we’ve got to have decent roads and decent stormwater collection areas. We’ve got to do something.”

Council unanimously approved first reading of the ordinance. Councilman Terry Moore was not at the meeting.

The city would know by second reading if the C-fund applications were approved, Steese said.