Granville-Person Cooperative Stormwater Services

Oxford, North Carolina, United States

Since 2011, Raftelis has been working with Granville County, Person County, the Town of Butner, the City of Creedmoor, and the Town of Stem, some of which are Phase II communities and all of which are located in the watershed of Falls Lake, an impaired waterbody in central North Carolina. The lake was added to the 303d list in 2008 for exceeding the chlorophyll a standard. Instead of waiting on the federal government to impose one-size-fits-all clean up requirements upon the areas that drain to the lake, Falls Watershed jurisdictions, stakeholders, and state regulators worked together to formulate a nutrient reduction strategy. The jurisdictions and others in the watershed have been working with one another and the state for the last five years to negotiate the most favorable rules possible. The rules are very stringent but were viewed as a better alternative than a Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL.

The group comprises two counties and three municipalities, which vary widely in the level of stormwater services they provide and in the Counties’ cases, are only partially within the watershed. For example, one of the towns is an extremely small municipality providing minimal municipal services and has no staff, while another City has a number of full-time staff and provides services such as streets and drainage maintenance and residential leaf collection.

Raftelis developed a solution that takes account each of these circumstances, as well as the jurisdictions’ desires for a cooperative yet flexible arrangement that maintains each local government’s autonomy. Each implemented a stormwater utility in 2012 or 2013, and adopted an identical rate structure, but has different rates because the cost and rate bases among the jurisdictions differ. The counties passed Falls Watershed and non-Falls Watershed rates as well. The rate structure is comprised of three components, each of which maps to the jurisdictions’ cost causation. The components are:

  • A fixed charge per parcel for costs that are customer-related
  • An impervious area unit (per Equivalent Residential Unit) for costs that are related to hard surface area
  • A gross area block charge for costs that are related to parcel area

Raftelis developed the impervious area data for all non-single-family residential properties and a sample of residential properties to support billing across all five jurisdictions – approximately 900 square miles.

The impervious area charge is a single flat rate for residential properties in the jurisdictions. Since the housing stock differs widely among the jurisdictions, each has an independently determined Equivalent Residential Unit, which has been established from sampling within each jurisdiction.

Each jurisdiction has a separate enterprise fund and different rates (which helps to preserve autonomy and independence), but all jurisdictions work cooperatively on stormwater issues and they share resources (to take advantage of efficiencies). The costs for shared resources, such as a stormwater utility services manager, are split among the jurisdictions on an equitable basis determined by the relative populations and land area and use of the particular service. The jurisdictions have signed interlocal agreements that define the terms for their cooperative work. Each year the jurisdictions adopt work plans that lay out the shared services and costs as well as jurisdiction-provided services and costs. Raftelis worked with the jurisdictions and their counsel to develop the ordinances and interlocal agreements necessary for the cooperative effort.

The fees for all jurisdictions are conveyed as a line item on the county tax bills. The fees are thus annual fees. The counties obtained local legislation that allows them to collect the fees using the same legal methods as they do for taxes, so for example, nonpayment of the fees can result in a lien on a property. Raftelis developed the bill files for the county assessors and updates them annually. We also continue to support each of the jurisdictions with regulatory compliance activities.