Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hidden cost of government: Retention ponds

Josh Hallett photo


By RICHARD SWIER
Contributor


SARASOTA, Florida - In Florida we have something called retention ponds. When a home or business development is created part of the plan must include one or more ponds to retain storm water. The idea is by keeping the water within the home or business development it will not run over into adjacent properties and flood them.

I know you ask but what about the sewer systems? That is a good question, many times local sewer systems run into local streams, lakes and retention ponds when we have what is called a "gully washer."

So this all sounds great, that is until government gets involved and says that your retention pond must be inspected for "invasive species of plants." What?

So who decides what plants are invasive, requires an inspection and how much does this cost the homeowner and business? The first two questions are hard to answer because government never seems to want to take full responsibility for its actions. So is the case with the requirement to inspect retention ponds for invasive species of plants. The primary cause of this unfunded mandate is county government aided and abetted by your local water management district. Sometimes the Florida Department of Environmental Protection gets involved. So there you have it, three agencies each with their hands in your and my back pockets all in the name of protecting us from the clear and present danger of "invasive species of plants."

Are you starting to see the madness in this? I create a law that leads to another law that costs taxpayers money.

As Frederick Hayek so clearly stated, "Who can seriously doubt ... that the power which a multi-millionaire, who may be my neighbor and perhaps my employer, has over me is very much less than that which the smallest [bureaucrat] possess who wields the coercive power of the state and on whose discretion it depends whether and how I am to be allowed to live or to work?"

By the way, the cost is easy to determine.

A good friend of mine who owns a business in Lakewood Ranch, Florida sent me a copy of his bill for the inspection of his retention ponds. The cost to inspect his two retention ponds over a two-year period totaled $4,500. That is a lot of money when you consider that nearly every home and commercial development in our county, let alone the state of Florida, has retention ponds, most required by local building codes and comprehensive plans.

In Sarasota County alone there are thousands of retention ponds. So if there are a thousand active retention ponds requiring inspection that adds up to $4.5 million in inspection fees over a two year period.

But there is some good news. The government is kind enough to stop inspecting some ponds after a three year period if no invasive species of plants are discovered. But like a bad penny the inspector can come back at some time in the future.

While many are focused on the out of control regulation by federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (ever wonder what they are protecting us against?) you and I may not notice how local government is out of control as well. While federal regulations may cost us billions, local regulations cost us millions. It all comes from your and my back pockets. That is the bottom line.

I trust local communities and business to look after their common areas and decide if their retention pond(s) need maintenance. That is where the decision should be, not with the government intruding into every aspect of our lives.

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Richard Swier is a Red County editor where this article first appeared.

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