MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (WDVM) — Berkeley County Council’s public hearing about the stormwater management fee, otherwise known as the rain tax, caused quite a controversy over the county last week. However, a final decision has been made.
Within a week, the fee has been reduced by over a dollar, to $3.50 and will be billed to 45,200 homeowner addresses countywide.
“I think the main thing is to understand that this is a requirement under federal and state law,” said Environmental Attorney Richard Lewis. “Part of the county that’s under the urbanized area watershed has to do this. Otherwise, they’re violating the clean water act.”
Concerns from residents ranged from senior citizens who are on a fixed income to residents who don’t pay for water or sewage from the county. So, seniors who qualify for homestead exemption will get 15% off and the service area for the fee will be revised approximately around March.
“They still don’t like a fee, the council didn’t like having to do the fee but it’s a necessary thing and we reduced it significantly from what was proposed,” said Berkeley County Council Legal Director Norwood Bentley.
A final, permanent fee will have to be processed through three phases to accurately get a headcount of how many homeowners are inside the service area lines. County Council members said that it would be reckless of them to make a concrete decision without knowing for certain how many homes are affecting the stormwater management.
“Overall, it looks like we’re getting a start there but trying to get people to understand the MS4 regulations and EPA regulations is very hard to do,” said West Virginia Delegate Tom Bibby.
The fee goes into effect in 45 days from today.