Jackson Stormwater Fee Headed to Voters

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A fee that provided for leaf pickup and street sweeping -- which a judge ruled unconstitutional last fall -- could come back to Jackson, this time with a stamp of approval from the voters.

"[We're] going to the citizens and asking the community to come together to solve this problem, to get our streets fixed, our streets cleaned and make sure that we have some sort of a process come fall for getting the yard waste and leaves removed from the community," said Jackson Vice-Mayor Derek Dobies, who helped spearhead a petition drive to get the fee back on the ballot.

In all, more than 500 Jackson residents signed petitions to put a stormwater fee to the voters in August. The city council unanimously approved the proposal Tuesday night.

A stormwater fee was first instituted in Jackson in 2011. Homeowners were charged $32 a year while businesses paid a monthly fee depending on the size of their property.

A court ruled the fee unconstitutional last year, saying voters would have to approve such a "tax." As a result, leaf pick-ups were suspended this fall and street sweeping was never done.

And the residents noticed.

"This fall, the leaves were terrible," said Larry Lienhart, a Jackson resident. "Big inconvenience, big mess. It just showed this year how many people notice that when they didn't do it, it was a mess."

Dobies noticed too.

"As the snow's melted, you look around anywhere and you notice the cleanliness factor and how the stormwater fee actually cleaned up the streets," he said. "When fall hit and people were forced to bag their leaves and haul them away to a different drop off location, they realized, myself included, the convenience of having curbside leaf pickup provided."

City Council members say opponents are equally in favor to having the fee on the ballot.

"I think the council has shown quite a great effort towards giving the people more say in their local government," said Councilman Dan Greer. "I'm really proud of that fact and this gives everyone an opportunity to vote yes or no."

Barring changes to the wording of the ordinance, the issue will appear on the August ballot, which Mayor Jason Smith says will allow enough time to get the necessary equipment in place, should the fee be approved.

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