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Drainage projects flowing faster thanks to storm water rate change

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – There’s a good chance this month you’ve driven down a flooded street or watched your front yard fill with water, but there’s relief in sight and much sooner than in previous years.

City leaders in Indy say they’ll be fixing those drainage problems much faster now. There are 380 storm drain projects the city wants complete in the next 20 years.

That might seem like a long time, but even that wouldn’t be possible if not for a change in your property tax bill.

Barrels line road on Rosslyn Avenue where a drainage project is underway to stop flooding on the street. (WISH Photo/Jeff Wagner

The colors of construction have flooded Rosslyn Avenue on the north side.

“It’s barrel city,” exclaimed resident Teresa Rhalston. “They’ve shut down this road, they’ve shut down the road down there.”

She said it’s been a headache looking outside her home but it’s better than the headache that used to overtake her block after strong storms.

“We had ducks that swam in mud puddles across the street from standing water,” she said.

And all across Indy, property owners like her have been wading in the same problems.

“Drainage and flooding issues have certainly been top of mind with all the rain that we’ve been seeing in the last six weeks or so,” said Scott Manning, spokesman for the Indianapolis Dept. of Public Works.

It happened right about the same time Indy adjusted how property owners pay their storm water fees.

Instead of paying a flat rate of $2.25 per month, they’ll pay based on how much area on property keeps water from draining like driveways, sidewalks, and roofs. The fee is $1.10 per 1,000 square feet of impervious area.

“We found on our analysis that the average will be about $4.40 per month,” said Manning, but he added that some property owners will pay much less.

DPW said the old rate only generated $4 million for capital improvement projects. To put that in perspective, the project along Rosslyn Avenue costs about $2 million.

But the new rate will bring in around $20 million, funding more projects as well as regular maintenance much sooner than before.

“Rather than waiting for a piece of pipe to fail we can go out and do some diagnostic work ahead of time and try to anticipate some of those problems and correct them before they become a major problem,” said Manning.

Ralston’s street used to be a major problem. But now with new pipes and drains lining the road, her drainage headaches are starting to dry up.

“It wasn’t quite as bad as what we used to have,” she said. Rhalston was worried though that the actual construction was causing water to pool in some yards. But she’s hoping that’ll stop once the project is finished.

DPW says by the end of the year, property owners will be able to go on the city’s website to see how much impervious area they have.