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Levee fees set to jump 35%+ and meeting set

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PLAINS TOWNSHIP, LUZERNE COUNTY (WOLF) -- There's a public meeting on Tuesday to discuss a hike in levee fees for many residents in Luzerne County.

We explain why one councilman thinks the entire county should pay the tax, which is set to jump 35% for homes.

"I'm just trying to make some positive changes," says Richard Adams of Kingston.

Adams made a public comment at Luzerne County Council on Tuesday, telling them to abolish the Flood Protection Authority.

Fees are set to rise from the current $47-$94 range per year, up to $63-$127 per year. It's even more for his two office buildings.

"The authority for years and years was one person, one engineer, and now it's like 16, and then these fees these are property tax fees," says Adams.

The authority hasn't increased the fees since they were started eight years ago.

It says the fee hike would generate $1.9 million per year for important work, up 52-percent from the current revenue.

Only those in the 1972 Agnes flood zone pay, but now one councilman says that more should.

"All the people who live in Luzerne County. That way, the fee would be more equally distributed and everybody would have to pay less," says county councilman Eugene Kelleher.

Kelleher says it should be like county roads: everyone pays for those.

However, authority officials say in a packet they gave to us that they cannot legally charge the entire county. They can only charge the areas that are protected by the levees.

"If we lose with a flood the county seat, and Kingston, and those places along there, how many people are affected?" says Kelleher. "Because now their doctor doesn't have a office to function out of for a while, how many businesses do they use, how many people work who live in other places?"

Some council members say it's time to take another look at the authority itself, which was separated from the county.

"Use the resources, both the rental space, all the administrative costs, within the county, and use the county equipment They're out there buying all this new equipment," says Adams.

Former 14-year LCFPA board member Stephen Urban told other council members that the Army Corps required the authority be set up years ago, when it put in 75 percent, and the county added 12.5 percent.

Urban says staff hasn't increased much since becoming separated, and notes that the levees worked during the big flood in 2011.

But, Adams says the fee is just another bill that homeowners are stuck with, and it's a "regressive" tax, since rich and poor pay alike.

He also claims it's "taxation without representation" since the authority board is taxing people, but is not elected by the people.

"When you make it more and more cumbersome to buy and sell property in our area, it's not good in a macro level, and more taxes and regulation does that," says Adams.

A public meeting will be held at the authority's office at 300 Laird St. #A1 in Plains Township on Tuesday at 6 p.m.

Councilman Rick Williams says having the authority under county auspices would make it easier to coordinate with emergency management officials during a flood.

Meantime, the council is set to discuss the matter again on May 23 at their work session following the 6 p.m. meeting.

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