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Avondale Estates City Commission approves stormwater extent of service policy, expanding responsibility

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Avondale Estates City Commission approves stormwater extent of service policy, expanding responsibility

The city of Avondale Estates is looking into solutions to address stormwater issues on Hess Drive related to the channel that runs parallel to the street. Photo courtesy of Google Maps.

Avondale Estates, GA — The city of Avondale Estates will be taking on more responsibility when it comes to stormwater infrastructure and is looking into a solution to address stormwater issues on Hess Drive.

At the March 23 city commission meeting, the board adopted an extent of service policy with a 3-2 vote. Mayor Pro Tem Brian Fisher agreed that the adopted policy was the way to go, but wanted to figure out a solution for Hess Drive before adopting the policy. Commissioner Lionel Laratte favored the second option the board was considering, which would have expanded the city’s responsibility even more, but at a higher cost.

Extent of service refers to what stormwater infrastructure the city is responsible for and what private property owners are responsible for, with the understanding that all stormwater the city’s system handles does include some water that comes off of private and public properties, Assistant City Manager Paul Hanebuth explained at the Jan. 12 City Commission meeting.

The adopted extent of service policy means the city is responsible for all conveyances intersecting public rights of way and city-owned property. It would not include conveyances along roads owned by the Georgia Department of Transportation. With this option, the city would be responsible for about 15,600 linear feet of stormwater conveyances, which is 227 pipes and channels.

The policy would allow the city to be more consistent when making decision around stormwater infrastructure, it would expedite repairs, and it would help the city plan for future budgetary needs.

This option would be for 30 years worth of replacement. The policy would go from 2021 to 2050.

“By adopting EOS one, we are actually covering more than we currently do, so we are actually taking on more infrastructure responsibility than we currently cover in the city,” Commissioner Lisa Shortell said.

According to the city’s stormwater management code, a stormwater conveyance is “natural or constructed stormwater conduits, features, facilities or best management practices designed or used for the collection, conveyance or treatment of stormwater through open or closed drainage systems …”

This could include pipes, ditches, swales, roads with drainage systems, rights of way, storm drains, and detention ponds, among other things.

Option two, which Laratte favored, would have included all conveyances intersecting public rights of way and city-owned property, as well as all connected downstream conveyances to detention ponds or outfalls. This also does not include conveyances along roads owned by the Georgia Department of Transportation. With this option, the city would be responsible for about 20,000 linear feet of stormwater conveyances and 277 total stormwater conveyances.

To go with option one, however, the city would have to increase its stormwater fee by 4.5% every year to keep the city out of debt at the end of that 30-year period. Option two would cause the city to increase the fee by 6.5% every year.

Along Hess Drive, there is a channel running through yards and driveways are built over it. The channel serves as an important piece of stormwater infrastructure.

“What I would like to do though, because I feel like Hess [Drive] is a separate issue and sticks out on its own, I’d like for us to consider entering into an easement agreement with the homeowners where it’s specific about what they’re responsible for and what the city’s responsible for,” Fisher previously said.

The city is going to work with Brown and Caldwell to analyze the private infrastructure to determine what, if any, public responsibility exists with the stormwater impacts from that infrastructure, City Manager Patrick Bryant said at the March 23 meeting.

“From that determination, the board will then be able to make a decision as to whether to incorporate some of that structure into our stormwater system,” Bryant said.

If the city commission did incorporate infrastructure into the city’s stormwater system and take on the maintenance of it, that would be done through easements.

Residents on Hess Drive have urged the city, at the March 9 city commission meeting, to find a solution to the many stormwater issues the street faces and take into consideration the amount of water that flows when it rains.

Shirley Harris has lived in her home on Hess Drive since 1996 and the creek was there when she bought her house. The previous owner of her home built the culvert, so water could flow smoothly.

“Yes, I knew the creek existed, but a change was made that impacted us that put more water than the initial builders and designers meant for it to happen,” Harris said.

She didn’t have problems with significant stormwater on her property until about 2000 when a small waterway behind her home was redirected by DeKalb County so all the water came to the front of Hess Drive.

“When that happened, I began to see a lot of groundwater coming up, water coming over the culvert. I now have multiple areas of deep erosion from the water coming up,” Harris said.

Residents said the county’s decision to redirect the waterway is the root cause of the issues they are facing.

There are easements between the houses on Hess Drive and Viscount Court, Hanebuth previously said.

“There is infrastructure that handles water, both the obvious one that we all see on Hess, but there’s also a pipe system that goes about halfway down Hess, between the houses on Hess and Viscount, that handles water. It joins the culvert at Billy Elek’s driveway,” Hanebuth said.

When it rains, Harris said it looks like there’s a lake in front of her house. She has holes in her backyard, she puts rocks down in that area of her yard to prevent erosion, but to no avail.

“I’m seeing within my house — which is the first one impacted by the reroute — big cracks in my bedroom ceiling, which I never had,” Harris said. “I’ve been there 26 years. My house is splitting.”

In 2003, a culvert on Hess Drive failed, and DeKalb County replaced it at the time. Harris said there was another infrastructure failure that occurred about six months ago, and that Elek’s culvert is currently failing.

“My driveway is impassable and absolutely presents a public safety issue. I… The hole is about 5 feet by 3 feet now,” Elek said. “You can completely see the pipe, which we have known for years is undersized.”

“Things are failing, and they have been for years,” he added.

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