A public meeting Wednesday will start the search for solutions to the city's drainage problems.
Fixing the city's drainage problems will take money. A written survey of Lawrence residents will help decide how much, and who should pick up the tab.
In surveys distributed this month to neighborhood associations and interested individuals, the city and its stormwater consultant are testing the public's pulse to find out just what will be needed to finance drainage repairs across town.
It's no simple question, Mayor Jo Andersen said.
"We're saying, OK, do you want to live with wet yards and basements?" Andersen said. "And, if you want to fix those problems, how much are you willing to pay?"
Through a new "stormwater utility" -- a fee assessed on monthly utility bills -- the city could finance digging new drainage ditches, installing new sewer pipes and preserving wetlands areas, Andersen said.
The fee likely would range between $2 and $3 a month for the average residential customer, said Dena Mezger-Zanoni, a senior civil engineer for Burns & McDonnell, the city's stormwater consultant. Large industrial companies could expect $200 to $300 increases on their monthly bills.
The surveys won't necessarily settle the issue, she said. Several public meetings and more in-depth study will be needed to settle on actual projects for completion.
"It isn't really a vote," she said. "It's more of a case where the city staff can gauge how much public information and education it will take to show why this is needed."
That public education will begin Wednesday night, when city staffers will join Mezger-Zanoni and other engineers for a public meeting at city hall, Sixth and Massachusetts.
From 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., officials will be available to answer questions from residents concerned about whatever drainage problems they may have heard about, noticed or experienced.
Written surveys also will be available that can be completed during the meeting or at home. The deadline for submissions is Nov. 1.
The surveys contain several questions about specific drainage problems, such as where and when a respondent's home or yard gets flooded. Other questions focus on opinions, such as which is more important: water entering structures or overflow and flooding in streets and yards?
In the end, the consultants' stormwater master plan -- at a cost of more than $250,000 -- will give commissioners a road map for fixing the city's drainage system.
"People can either live with it, or recommend funding sources," Andersen said. "Right now, there isn't any money to make stormwater repairs."
- Would you be willing to pay an extra $2-3 per month on your water bill to finance citywide stormwater drainage improvements? Answer the J-W Access question on page 2B.