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Campbell Residents Upset About Storm Water Bills

Residents in unincorporated Campbell County are being charged a storm water fee by Sanitation District 1 even though the rain water on their property drains through natural watersheds like creeks before making its way into the Ohio River.

Because there are no storm water drains collecting the water that runs off of their property, some residents believe it is wrong they are charged a fee when they cannot identify a tangible service connected to their property from SD-1. Those who have not paid the fee and have delinquent billing accounts with SD-1 are being subpoenaed to appear in small-claims court over the issue.

Bob Thomer is one such affected resident who voiced his frustration over being subpoenaed over $611 of owed storm water fees, at the Campbell County Fiscal Court meeting on Wednesday night in Alexandria. 

“Water from my property runs off into a creek and that creek goes straight to the Ohio River. It doesn’t go through any SD-1 network or facilities. I think it’s unjust, I didn’t sign up for them to take my money, I’ve never paid it and I don’t think I’m ever going to,” Thomer said.

Not everyone in unincorporated parts of the Campbell are charged such a fee, but Judge/Executive Steve Pendery said that the billing is done by census blocks of what is defined as urbanized areas. Pendery said that there are something like 15,000 residences across Northern Kentucky that are outside of SD1 coverage that are billed for storm water. He listed other taxes and fees that people are charged for even though they don’t directly benefit from the various services.

“When you get down to it and think about government and the various charges that are made, there aren’t very many of them that actually directly benefit a particular citizen. I don’t have any kids in school, Catholics don’t send their kids to public school, I don’t have any agricultural land so the extension office really doesn’t have much to offer, if you go down the whole list of things that are on the tax duplicate there aren’t really many of them that necessarily directly apply,” he said.

County Commissioner Charlie Coleman, though, opposed that county residents are being charged a fee for a benefit they are not seeing firsthand. He pointed out how the City of Cold Spring has opted out of the SD1 storm water system and made a motion that the County do the same.

Commissioner Brian Painter said that he recognized why people are upset over the issue and called sending out bills rather than asking to regulate watersheds a governmental overreach.

“I think the watershed approach is fine,” Painter said. “I think billing people outside the non-attainment area has got some dubious qualities at best.”

County Attorney Steve Franzen said that because an agreement had already been made with SD1, it wouldn’t be as simple as withdrawing those in the unincorporated portions of the county from being billed.

“What I think we ought to do is try to determine what process we can follow to try to address the issue that Mr. Thomer has raised here tonight,” Franzen said.

Both Pendery and Franzen agreed that any changes made in the future to the agreement would not have the ability to retroactively wipe out the debts already incurred by those who have been billed but have not paid.

Commissioner Coleman’s motion to withdraw unincorporated portions of the county from the storm water agreement with SD1 died for lack of a second; however, Commissioner Painter made a motion to study the storm water issue and make a divide between the attainment and non-attainment areas to better craft an informed motion for the next meeting. Painter, Pendery and Commissioner Tom Lampe all voted for Painter’s motion, but Coleman abstained.

More movement on the issue from the Fiscal Court now appears to be imminent and more information should be learned during further Fiscal Court meetings in the near future. 

-Bryan Burke, associate editor