PRIDE-CHANEYVILLE, La. (BRPROUD)-More than 120 people from the Pride- Chaneyville area packed their local library Monday (October 17) night.
The residents came prepared with questions about the city-parish’s new proposed storm water fee.
The citizens started a petition against the fee, and were able to garner more than 300 signatures.
“We don’t have a voice on this and I think it’s absolutely wrong,” said Robert Wallace, a resident of Pride-Chaneyville. “I just think taxation without representation is wrong.”
The stormwater utility fee appears on resident’s property tax bills. Some property owners feel it’s more like a tax. Councilman Brandon Noel says he agrees.
“If it looks like a tax, it smells like a tax. Doesn’t matter what you call this money coming out of people’s pockets,” said Councilman Brandon Noel, district 1.
The fee comes as East Baton Rouge Parish faces pressure from state and federal regulators to fix flood risk and improve water quality. Mayor President Sharon Weston Broome says the fee will fund millions to take care of drainage and maintenance.
During Monday’s meeting, city-parish spokesperson Mark Armstrong addressed concerns from the public, explaining why this is a fee is not a tax.
“It’s just a fee for a couple of reasons. Of course, it’s charging for a service in this case.
The fee would be assessed to the usage of the storm water system,” said Armstrong.
Residents in district one say they don’t deal with the same drainage issues. Some say they will be paying for something they don’t need.
“Maybe one solution to the problem is to break the whole plan up by district and turn around and say, ‘hey district one doesn’t need this,'” said Randy Belter, a resident of Pride-Chaneyville.
The public cannot vote on this fee as council members declared the storm water system a public utility. This means council members can enforce a fee without having to put the issue before voters as a tax that’s based on property values.
Councilman Aaron Moak says as of now he does not feel comfortable voting on the fee.
“Right now, as far as not having the information we need and all these NDA agreements, I mean right now, I can’t pass this,” said Moak.
The next public meetings are scheduled to take place:
- Tuesday, Oct. 18: at Charles R. Kelly Community Center, 3535 Riley St. from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
- Thursday, Oct. 20: at Bluebonnet Regional Branch Library, 9200 Bluebonnet Blvd from 5:30 p.m. 7:30 p.m.
- Monday, October 24: at Fairwood Branch Library, 12910 Old Hammond Hwy. from 6:30 p.m. 8 p.m.
- Tuesday, October 25: at Jones Creek Regional Branch Library, 6222 Jones Creek from 6:30 p.m. 8 p.m.
The East Baton Rouge Metro council will vote on the fee October 26th.