Why has Amarillo created a Drainage Utility?
Amarillo has extensive stormwater drainage management needs as most recently evidenced by the large number of citizen drainage problems reported during 2010. City funding for drainage management does not currently meet community needs. Historically, the City has relied on the General Fund to support the construction of projects to reduce flooding and for maintenance of drainage infrastructure such as storm drain systems, ditches/channels, and roadway culverts. Each year, the City’s drainage management program competes with other general government activities for the limited General Fund capital resources. In other words, the available funds are allocated to priority projects that include many items of essential basic infrastructure. Often, drainage projects are unable to be fully funded due to other needs and limited funds.
A Drainage Utility, is a user-fee based funding program for municipal drainage management. This is a common funding mechanism throughout Texas and the funds are dedicated only to appropriate drainage and drainage management projects. The Drainage Utility was created to ensure that stable funding for drainage management activities are available. Evaluation of a Drainage Utility was identified several years ago with the Development Policy Review Committee and was further identified in the City of Amarillo’s recent Comprehensive Plan process. Since that time, the City has retained a professional consultant to further the evaluation, presentation and consideration of the Utility.
As an example of the system needs that will be addressed by a Drainage Utility, please consider that there are fifty-five (55) currently identified drainage improvement projects for which preliminary engineering evaluation and cost estimation have been completed. The total design and construction costs for these projects are $66,000,000. The lack of dedicated funding has severely limited implementation of these identified capital improvement projects.
The City’s drainage system currently includes over 180 miles of storm drain pipe and roadway culverts, 15 miles of constructed ditch/channel, and over 3,300 curb inlets. There is a need for a proactive, dedicated maintenance program that includes: 1) infrastructure evaluation to determine structural condition, 2) replacement/rehabilitation (before failures such as a pipe collapse) and 3) regular removal of debris, sediment, trash, and vegetation.
A Drainage Utility Study was undertaken to: 1) assess the City’s funding needs for flood reduction construction projects and for an improved drainage infrastructure operations and maintenance program, and 2) to establish potential Drainage Utility customer monthly billing rates required to support the City’s drainage management program funding needs to provide better life safety and property protection drainage services.
City staff and the consulting team presented the Drainage Utility Study to the City Commission in 2011 for their initial review. The Drainage Utility Study is available for viewing under the "Resources" page.