Carlisle considers stormwater fee like neighboring communities

CARLISLE, Pa. (WHTM) – Stormwater fees are the talk at many local government meetings, including in Carlisle’s Borough Hall Tuesday night.

The big question is who bears the burden of costs to improve the stormwater systems? More municipalities are having that discussion as federal regulations change, but also as infrastructure ages.

In Carlisle, there are a few spots that always flood during heavy rain.

Jeff Swope, executive director of Bosler Memorial Library, pointed out the intersection of South West Street and High Street. He says water can reach knee level during some storms.

“If we get a substantial amount of water, I suspect we could see this corner closed,” Swope said of forecasted rain this week.

Road closures happen pretty often at that intersection, and it’s not a mystery why.

“Much of the borough’s stormwater infrastructure is over 100 years old,” Assistant Borough Manager Susan Armstrong said., Carlisle’s Assistant Borough Manager.

“It’s not big enough to handle it, that’s why,” Public Works director Mark Malarich said.

Consultants came up with an estimate of $1.5 million per year to improve Carlisle’s 29-mile system.

“That fully covers the total cost for operation, maintenance, and rehabilitation of the storm water system,” Malarich said.

But how to pay for it is still up for debate; higher taxes or an annual fee?

A fee ensures everyone pays their fair share each year and the fund is maintained. A tax means certain entities like a municipal building or church are exempt.

The payment debate is happening across the state as dozens of municipalities’ stormwater permits expire next year. New regulations to keep waterways free of pollution often require expensive upgrades.

Hampden Township, Highspire, and Lancaster are some of the municipalities that have already implemented stormwater fees ahead of their permit expiration.

Carlisle isn’t due for a new permit yet, but it’s just another few years, and some people don’t want to wait.

“We would love to see there not be a small pond here when it rains,” Swope said.

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