Businesses in Chambersburg will see an increase in their storm water pollution fee – even though nothing has changed on their property

November 9 – Chambersburg Borough Council met for the first time last night since the election last week and congratulations and handshakes were passed around.

Allen Coffman, Councilmember for the First Ward, joined Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen this morning during First News to recap the meeting.

Ryan pointed out, “One of the things I want to start off with was the thoughtfulness out of some of the folks on borough council that will not be returning to borough council and also saw a handshake and a congratulations out of the present borough council president. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I thought that was some very nice gestures out of the present borough council and kudos. Hats off. Nicely done. I thought it was a nice gesture.”

Coffman said, “The election was a week ago. It’s done and over with now.”

There were about 22 people in-person at the meeting last night. Estimates are there were about 14 people on the Zoom meeting.

Council consolidated the borough’s debt by getting another bond issue. Ultimately, it will save the borough around $600,000.

“It was the right thing to do,” Coffman said. “Save money and we should do that wherever we can. That was done. There was very little debate about it and we saved money and that was a good thing.”

Michael Baker International provided an update on the comprehensive plan.

Council also discussed a new Civil War traffic marker which will be placed on the square in the near future to help visitors to Chambersburg understand the part that Chambersburg played during the Civil War.

Coffman continued, “The thing that surprised me was when we got to the point of public comment regarding the 2022 preliminary budget, there was very little discussion about that. What I attempted to do at the time was to bring in some discussion about the storm water pollution control fee notices which went out within the last couple days and all the business owners will be getting here pretty shortly. I got a call from one of my constituents about this. I tried to plead the case of this gentleman getting what appears will be a bill for $500 a month and nothing has really changed other than the fact that he gets a bill for storm water. My plea was and I think it was completely either missed or misunderstood by a lot of our council members was we have $7.7 million from this federal fund that’s supposed to help people recover from the coronavirus thing and I was suggesting that maybe we should use some of that money to help these business owners because as a typical example here Ventura Foods down in the lower end of town after January, they’re going to get a bill for $1,000 a month for storm sewer pollution control fees. That’s something they didn’t have before and I don’t know whether they planned for it. It seemed like the sentiment of council was well they should have known this was coming, they should just write a check for it and let’s move on. If you remember going back not too long ago there was statements made about people who were renting houses in the south end of town and their rents went up $200 a month and that was a catastrophe. Yet we don’t have that same feeling toward our businesses which use our utilities and support people’s jobs here in Chambersburg. I just thought that was a little bit odd.”

Ryan asked, “Isn’t that worthy of a conversation come January again?”

“Oh yeah,” Coffman agreed. “Absolutely, it should be. And those folks that are getting these notices in the mail or email, however it comes, if they have questions about it, they need to be calling Andy Stottlemeyer. The number is 717-251-2434 and ask him if those numbers that they’re looking at on this sample utility billing is correct so that they can understand it. Yeah, there was a lot of time spent on getting this fee worked out, but that was last summer and sometimes people have a way of overlooking things that happen. I just think there’s a way to use some of this relief money from the feds to maybe help these people through the first year of this storm water pollution control fee.”

Ryan said, “You said somebody’s getting a bill of $500 more a month? Or is that a year?”

Coffman said, “They will get a bill of $500 for storm water, yes, and you look at their property and say what’s changed? Nothing’s changed. They’ve just gotten a bill.”

“Wow,” Ryan said.

Jansen said, “They called it the rain tax and I really think it’s an abuse because they’ve not been able to prove how this money actually is effectively changing things and that really bothers me. To me it’s just another way to take in money for a supposed crisis when you can’t really prove what’s happening with this funding is actually making a huge difference in the end and what it’s trying to actually do. I find that disturbing.”

Coffman pointed out, “The perfect example of this is right across the street from the studio. I guess it was about a year ago, maybe two years ago, when they were trying to do that connection of storm water to the line on South Main Street and that project had an overrun. I can’t remember exactly what it was. $40,000. $60,000. I remember you asking me about it. Part of the problem was we’re talking about storm water systems there that could be 100 years old and you try to tie into something that’s 100 years old it’s crumbling apart, so they keep moving further down the street to make the connection. It’s not an easy problem to solve and it’s not going to be solved in a matter of a year or two or five years. It’s going to be a continuing problem that will have to be addressed.”

Another issue that was discussed was the Loudon Street Flood Mitigation project.

Coffman explained, it “includes a property at 195 Loudon Street, which is the homeless shelter and somehow we’ve decided to take that on as a mission for the borough, too. That’s not our property. Yeah we can go out and try to get a federal grant for that from FEMA, but I don’t know whether we’ll get it or not. Maybe we won’t.”

Ryan asked, “By the way, who’s the ‘we’ on this? Is this Jeffrey Stonehill? Who is the ‘we’?”

Coffman said, “I don’t remember council asking to do this. I don’t know exactly where it originated from. All I know is we talked about it last night and we’re talking about $650,000 funding to take that out. That’s not our property. I don’t mind buying property that’s specifically earmarked for borough use, but I don’t think the borough should be in the real estate business. Period. That’s where I’m at with it.”

Ryan added, “If you look at this piece of property. You’re coming into town off radio hill. You go past there’s a tire dealership there, you go over the bridge, on the left hand side is this building that is falling apart and somebody in borough hall and I need to know. I want to know who’s leading the charge on paying 600 and some odd thousand dollars for that.”

Jansen noted, “It’s not worth that much. Again, if you’re going to get a grant for it, then get the appropriate amount of money for what the property is worth. You don’t go and get far more than it’s worth. Oh I know it’s grant money, it’s free money. No it’s not free money. That’s all of our money and we cannot be abusing the system this way and always overpaying just because it’s federal money.”

Ryan said, “So we’re going to overpay for Southgate or that’s the dream of someone who it’s not his or her money. It’s the taxpayer’s money. So we’re going to overpay for that and then we’re going to overpay on this. The brakes have got to be put on this. Somebody’s got to splash some water in somebody’s face in Borough Hall right now.”

“Figuratively speaking,” Jansen noted.

“Of course,” Ryan agreed.