Staunton looking at a big price tag for nutrient reduction efforts as fire departments look to get new trucks

Published: Feb. 9, 2023 at 11:44 PM EST
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STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) - The main discussion for Staunton’s City council on Thursday revolved around money.

In their work session, council members received an update on the city’s TMDL and Stormwater runoff reduction efforts. It’s part of their Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit requirements related to the Chesapeake Bay cleanup.

Vice President Keith Thompson from Wiley & Wilson, a consulting firm, gave today’s presentation.

According to him, stormwater runoff contains three major elements: nitrogen, phosphorus, and total suspended solids. Currently, the city is in the second permit cycle, which requires a 40% reduction level.

Thompson said Staunton is on track to meet that goal in total suspended solids and nitrogen but not phosphorus. Previously, the city was on track with that as well thanks to street sweeping. However, the EPA no longer gives credit for that, leaving the city in a deficit.

Phosphorus can come from land development, animal waste, nutrient loading, and so on.

“Most of our BMPs are actually good at attacking that,” Thompson said. “You’re actually in a really good position on that because of the Western States project.”

The COVID-19 pandemic and flooding in Staunton also play a role in not being able to accomplish this goal.

Looking down the road, the MS4 permit requires a 100% reduction by the end of the third permit cycle, which is in 2028.

Thompson estimated that as of now to reach that goal, it would take nearly $11 million in resources including nutrient credit. A proposed solution is potentially increasing the stormwater for some based on a tier system. Right now, residents are paying about $3 per month for this fee.

”And that’s one good thing about having a stormwater fee, you’re able to have a revenue generation source that is equitable relative to who has the biggest impact on the stormwater while not impacting your general fund as much,” he said.

Thompson explained that the state of Virginia and the EPA require Staunton to be in the MS4 program due to its population density of urbanized areas based on the census, and there is no way to get out of the program. Staunton is a Phase II locality, which is smaller than phase I.

In the regular meeting, the council discussed Amendment 5 to the FY2023 budget, which included allocating $2 million dollars of American Rescue Plan Act funding to 2 new fire trucks.

Staunton Fire Chief Scott Garber said right now one of their trucks has been out of service 77 days over the last year, and another is “on its last leg”, so it’s vital that they receive funding for these new trucks.

“It’s to the point where the safety of our firefighters and the safety of our community is at a critical crossroads. If we run out of a piece of apparatus, we’re going to have to brown out Station 2,” he said.

Garber added that calls to the station increased about 11% last year, meaning the trucks have to run more and wear down quicker. He said build times and the costs of trucks are quickly increasing as well.

The council is scheduled to vote on this matter at their next meeting.

The city council also took action on an item that would bring three new apartment units to the ground floor of 2234 West Beverly Street. The request passed by unanimous vote as the council agreed on the need for housing and good use of the place.

To view the meeting’s full agenda, click here. The full meeting will be uploaded and available to view here.

Staunton city council is scheduled to meet again on Feb 23.