Swanton Business Disputes Storm Water Monthly Charge Increase from $3 to $590

A public hearing was held during the April 26th Swanton Village Council meeting to allow representatives of Foertmeyer & Sons Greenhouse, located at 420 N. Hallet Ave. in Swanton, to give reasons why a recent increase of $3 to $590 to the storm water utility portion of its water bill should be adjusted to a lower rate. 

Village Administrator Rosanna Hoelzle cited a Village Codified Ordinance from 2006 that gives the Village the authority to charge a rate based on the amount of impervious area (structures, parking lots, roadways) calculated to be on the property “that contributes directly or indirectly to the storm water system of the Village.”  A survey of the Foertmeyer property found over 168,000 square feet of impervious area and the assumption was made that all the rainfall drained into the Village’s storm water system.  She explained that she, as Administrator, had the authority to offer a maximum 30% discount to the business which would reduce the charge to $412.  Ms. Hoelzle also explained that the $3 rate was a standard residential charge that had mistakenly been billed to several Swanton businesses for quite some time and that the Village would not be pursuing back payments. And she acknowledged that the property was unique in the Village and there could possibly be arguments made to further reduced the charge.  It was made clear to all in attendance that the storm water charge was completely separate from the water and sewer charges.

Speaking for the property, which was purchased approximately one year ago from Schmidt Brothers Inc. was Mark Foertmeyer, owner of the Greenhouse.  He thanked the Council for the opportunity to speak and said they were happy to be part of the Swanton community.  “I want you to know that we’re not trying to get back to $3.00.  That’s a pretty good deal but I don’t think that’s a fair deal for the community,” said Mr. Foertmeyer in his opening remarks.  “I’m just hoping we can discuss some of the uniqueness of the property.  Some of the reasons we feel the assessment is high and hopefully, we can come up with a mutually agreeable amount we all can live with and move forward.

Mr. Foertmeyer said, based on a recent conversation with a surveyor, that water from his west side parking lot does drain into the Village’s system but most of the rest drains back towards the east, towards a drainage culvert and the fall of the land pitches away from the highest point which is Hallet Ave.  “Schmidt Brothers put a lot of drainage into that property,” he said.  “If you understood the system that is in place, all of the water that comes off those greenhouses drains into field tiles and drains back to the drainage ditch that we have and then that takes the water away so it’s not actually entering into the storm sewers here at all.  And I think that’s one thing that really needs to be assessed.”

According to Mr. Foertmeyer, the method the Village used to calculate the impervious area was basically using measurements taken from a Google Maps photo of the property and not an actual survey to determine the flow of the water.  “I think if we can come up with a number that is accurate then we will have a fair assessment,” he said.  “If we can take the time to find a correct number, I think we can certainly move together and do what we need to do to finance the sewer system.”

The Council agreed there should be more research on the matter and no decision was rendered.  Foertmeyer and Sons did pay two full months of the new rate but future payments have been put on hold until the situation is resolved.

Pictured:  Mark Foertmeyer, owner of Foertmeyer & Sons Greenhouse

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