City makes plan for storm water

By Jack King

Few people worry about storm-water runoff in a drought, officials admitted, but the subject generated almost two hours of debate at Wednesday’s meeting of the city’s public works committee.

The public works department developed a plan for managing storm-water runoff from commercial lots that was approved by the city commission Jan. 22. But city officials are still trying to reach an agreement with home builders over a plan for residential developments.

The public works committee appointed a committee of builders, city officials and city commission members Wednesday to help design a plan.

The committee members are: Builder John Bourne, City Commissioner and builder Randy Crowder, District 1 Public Works Committee Member Charles Ferguson, City Commissioner Isidro Garcia, Planning and Zoning Administrator Louis Gordon, engineer Chad Lydick, builder Bobby Newman, builder Dennis Rogers, Assistant City Manager Joe Thomas, Public Works Director Harry Wang, former City Commissioner Gloria Wicker and an as-yet-unnamed member of the city’s planning and zoning commission.

Most of Wednesday’s discussion centered on where the city should put storm-water retention sites — whether it should put small sites on residential lots, or larger sites in residential subdivisions
Retention sites are depressions designed to hold runoff, then let it evaporate, reducing the impact of storm water on downstream areas and reducing the amount of water a city’s drainage system must handle, Wang said.

A quarter-acre lot would need a retention site 25 feet by 20 feet and 6 inches deep. A one-eighth-acre lot would need a larger retention site — 50 feet by 17 feet and 6 inches deep — because it has less absorbent area. But a one-acre lot would not need a retention site at all, because its total area would serve to retain the water, Wang said.

Crowder said retention sites at the lot level would be unenforceable, because contractors build and sell houses without landscaping and there would be no way to ensure the retention site requirements would be met.

Wang said other cities make some lot design requirements part of a house’s permitting requirements. City building safety department Director Pete Wilt said currently the city has no lot design requirements for homes, but does require a minimum floor height for homes that results in a lot slope to curbs and gutters.

Builder Dennis Rogers asked the city officials why they oppose developers providing park-like land in subdivisions that can be used as retention sites.

Assistant City Manager Thomas said the primary reason is the cost to the city of maintaining the sites, which includes the cost of equipment, plus salaries and benefits for workers.

Crowder suggested the city subcontract the maintenance work, so that a private firm would bear the overhead costs. Out-of-the-way subdivision-level retention sites, that don’t require a lot of maintenance, could be a compromise solution to the debate, he said.

Wang said the city also could institute a small storm water utility fee to help pay the cost of drainage infrastructure. Such a fee would have to be approved by the city commission, he said.

In other business, Wang said the city is seeking money to fund repaving North Prince Street. Increased traffic, especially in the last 10 years, has the street in poor condition, he said.

Thomas said reconstructing Prince Street from Llano Estacado to 21st Street — about a mile — would cost about $1.5 million. Putting an overlay on the street would be less expensive, about $200,000, but would not solve the street’s major problems, he said

Thomas said city officials have discussed the problem with state highway department officials, but will wait to discuss it further until they see how much money Clovis gets to repave West Seventh Street under the state’s municipal arterial road (MAP) program.