Greenwood removing hurdle for businesses

With a goal of being more inviting to businesses, Greenwood has changed the way it charges a fee to connect to the city’s sewer system.

The changes make the fee easier for a new business to calculate, and eliminate the charge altogether in some instances.

City officials have said the sewer availability fee would lead some businesses to walk away from opening a location in Greenwood because they could not afford the fee, and was the most common complaint the city had received from businesses.

Now, instead of relying on complex formulas, the city council has adopted a set of defined fees for connecting to the sewer system. The council also eliminated the fee in some instances. Previously, any time the use of a building changed, the fee would be charged. Now, the fee will only be charged if a new or larger meter connection is added or if a property owner requests a reservation of capacity.

The sewer fee was formerly based on complicated calculations involving factors ranging from the number of seats in a restaurant to the amount of fixtures in the restrooms, Greenwood Project Manager Kevin Steinmetz said. The goal was to determine the impact of a business on the sewer system, but the city found that it wasn’t an accurate measure, he said.

Instead, the city will now base the sewer availability fee on the size of the water meter installed for the building, using the amount of water that can flow into the building as the measure of how much is going to flow out.

This week, city council members approved the changes 8-0, saying the change was needed to make Greenwood more friendly to businesses. Council member Ezra Hill was absent.

Businesses would walk away from development because of not being able to afford the sewer connection fee, council member Linda Gibson.

The fee was one of the most common complaints the council has received from businesses, council president Mike Campbell said.

The previous sewer fee process was difficult and time-consuming for small business owners, many of whom would have to fill out the paperwork themselves, said Greater Greenwood Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Christian Maslowski.

“This is such an exciting, refreshing change,” Maslowski said. “It is smart economic development policy for the city.”

The new system allows business owners to plan ahead and know exactly what they will be paying the city, he said.

The system was burdensome for both businesses and city employees, and the new system will save time for everyone involved, Steinmetz said.

While the number of times the fee is charged is expected to go down with the changes, Steinmetz doesn’t anticipate a large drop in revenue. Most of the money from the sewer fees come from new construction, he said. The fees will range from $2,073 to $339,972.

The city brought in $718,000 from the sewer availability fees in 2015, which was charged 292 times, Steinmetz said.

Homeowners should not be affected by the changes to the sewer availability fees, because they already were being charged a set rate of $2,073 to connect to the system, city attorney Krista Taggart said.

By the numbers

The one-time fee to connect to the sewer system is now tied to the size of the water meter being installed.

5/8 to 3/4 inch: $2,073

1 inch: $5,389.80

1.5 inch: $12,023.40

2 inch: $20,730

3 inch: $47,679

4 inch: $84,993

6 inch: $190,716

By the numbers

Here is a closer look at how often the one-time fee has been charged, and how much it has collected:

Charged

2012: 341

2013: 442

2014: 344

2015: 292

Revenue

2012: $745,625

2013: $822,021

2014: $947,536

2015: $718,142

Author photo
Jacob Tellers is a reporter at the Daily Journal. He can be reached at jtellers@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2702.