MONCKS CORNER -- More growing pains for Berkeley County.

For the first time, rural residents will have to pay annual stormwater fees under a plan that received initial approval Monday.

Council's Public Works and Purchasing Committee endorsed creating a stormwater management utility. The committee also endorsed an initial fee structure:

The fees will show up on tax bills that are mailed out in October if council approves the plan in time.

Residents who live in towns and cities in Berkeley County would not be charged. None of those municipalities charge stormwater fees now, although Goose Creek and Hanahan are considering joining the county program later, county engineer Frank Carson said

Charleston and Dorchester counties have been charging stormwater fees for years. Charleston County charges homeowners $36 a year. Dorchester County charges $31.97 for a 2,000-square-foot home on a half acre lot.

Many of the towns and cities have their own stormwater fees. Charleston charges $72 a year; Summerville, $48; North Charleston, $36; and Mount Pleasant, $30.

Berkeley County's fees will pay for monitoring rainwater runoff to make sure it meets federal pollution standards, Carson said.

The fees for businesses and industries are likely to increase after the program is started, based on the amount of concrete and rooftops, Carson said.

The ordinance goes to full council for a first reading later this month. It will require votes at three council meetings, and two public hearings also are planned.

Approval in some form is likely, since the program is already in the new budget council recently passed.

In other business, a council committee sidestepped a controversy by calling itself to order and then adjourning without taking any action.

A resolution to commend retired Council Clerk Barbara Austin for her years of service was on the justice and public safety committee's agenda. Chairman Steve Davis didn't show up, and the committee adjourned with no action.

Controversy has been swirling since the word of Austin's retirement got out last week. She had been caught in the crossfire of several arguments over who controls the public record. Council changed its rules in January to make it easier for council to fire the clerk, a move that provoked a heated debate while Austin sat and took notes.

Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.