Web exclusive: MSD appeals stormwater decision

Staff report

The Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District recently appealed a Lincoln County judge’s decision to invalidate its impervious stormwater charge.

MSD on Dec. 30 filed a notice of appeal in Lincoln County Circuit Court over Judge Dan Dildine’s decision last July.

The judge ruled the district’s charge for stormwater services violated state law because MSD voters did not approve it. Dildine in November said the district did not have to refund roughly $90 million collected over two and a half years with the impervious charge.

The decision was rendered in a class-action lawsuit filed in 2008 by Chesterfield resident William Zweig and others.

A hearing on awarding plaintiffs’ attorney fees is scheduled Tuesday.

MSD “deeply respects” but “fundamentally disagrees” with Dildine’s invalidation of the charge, the district said in a statement regarding its appeal.

“MSD’s ability to establish user charges is well established and was extensively litigated in the 1990s,” the district stated. “Furthermore, MSD went to great lengths to satisfy all legal requirements for the establishment of a stormwater user charge, including review and approval of the user charge by MSD’s voter approved Rate Commission.

“Outside of if the appeal is successful or not, the issue of stormwater funding that provides effective and equal service must be solved. “

In response to Dildine’s ruling last July, the MSD Board of Trustees suspended the stormwater charge — at the time 14 cents per 100 square feet of area that does not hold water — and reinstated a previous system of flat charges and property taxes to pay for stormwater service.

The district expects a $20 million revenue shortfall by switching to the previous system. Trustees in October cut $15.5 million in stormwater services and projects from the fiscal 2011 budget. The district now can only provide customers inside of Interstate 270 with basic stormwater services, while customers outside of I-270 will receive virtually no stormwater service, officials have said. MSD expects funding for stormwater projects to run out in June 2012.

The Zweig case does not affect MSD’s ability to provide wastewater collection and treatment because those services are funded with separate user charges, the district has said.