Storm sewer issues continue to plague Union’s Strawberry Fields subdivision.
The city is looking at creating a taxing district that could finally address the problem.
City Administrator Jonathan Zimmermann told aldermen at the Monday, July 6, personnel, finance and public works committee meeting that a sewer district might be the best way to deal with the issue. The subdivision, located between Highway 50 and Old Highway 50, east of Walmart, could need two detention basins to protect against flooding.
Those would cost an estimated $320,000.
“We have no funding mechanism to pay for that,” Zimmermann said. “When it floods, people want us to come in and fix it, but we have no revenue to fix it or responsibility to maintain it.”
The city plans to further discuss the taxing district.
The issue only impacts about a third of the dozens of homes in Strawberry Fields, Zimmermann said. So far, flooding has happened only in yards, not in homes.
Having enough residents to approve the taxing district was a concern for Alderman Bob Schmuke.
“I’m afraid that if there are more people that it doesn’t affect, they’re just going to vote it down,” he told Zimmermann.
Storm sewer concerns at Strawberry Fields have come up over the years.
In 2018, Strawberry Fields resident Gerald Green told a city committee that his and his neighbor’s backyard often struggle to handle rain.
Green suggested at the time that because Strawberry Fields was annexed into Union, the city has some responsibility to address stormwater concerns.
But Alderman Paul Arand told Green that the city only deals with services like water and sewer, not stormwater.
Zimmermann said Green’s concerns can likely be traced back to stormwater standards, or a lack thereof.
Strawberry Fields, developed in the early 1990s outside of the city limits, was governed by county code. At the time, the county did not address stormwater, Zimmermann said.
The city of Union didn’t add stormwater management to its codes until 1997, he said. Those codes only apply to new developments and are not retroactively applied to older subdivisions or property annexed into the city.
Zimmermann has said that when the city annexed Strawberry Fields, it only took in the streets, and that Union does not maintain backyards.
The city does not tax for stormwater, nor take over any stormwater issues. Zimmermann said, at the time, that a sewer district was among the solutions for Green.
In a sewer district, every member of the watershed would have to sign on and agree to be taxed, according to Missourian archives. Property owners upstream in the watershed would have to agree to be part of the district.
The taxed money would then be used for projects. The district would have a board, elections and a budget to maintain.