City Council creates municipal storm water drainage utility

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

The Sweet Home City Council adopted an ordinance last week creating a storm water drainage utility, which is proposed to cost each household $4 per month.

The council held the third and final reading of the ordinance and passed it 6-0 at its regular meeting on Nov. 27. A resolution setting fees will be considered later. The ordinance takes effect on Dec. 27, and then the city will be able to begin implementation of the utility.

Along with the new utility, the ordinance provides for new Public Works positions to map, maintain and repair drainage lines and ditches throughout the city, based on the recommendation of consultant Paul Matthews. The recommendation also suggests the basic residential rate of $4 per month.

Commercial properties and multi-family properties, such as apartment complexes, will be charged a fee based on their size in terms of “equivalent dwelling units,” whicih the city has determined to be 3,200 square feet of impervious surface, an average based on measurements taken of 400 properties sampled throughout Sweet Home using aerial maps. Bills for commercial properties recommended at $7 to $68 per month.

All single-family residences will be charged for a single equivalent dwelling unit (EDU).

Certain industrial businesses already operate under a special permit and fee that allows them to send their drainage to the city’s wastewater treatment system, and they will not be affected by this ordinance.

Residents may have the opportunity to receive a credit if they can prove water from their property is not hitting the city’s storm water drainage system.

The new revenue will not provide the city enough money to go out and replace ditches with drainage pipes or expand the system much, City Manager Craig Martin said, but it will allow the city to proactively keep ditch lines cleaned out rather than reacting to specific blockages during rain storms.

Right now, employees working in the city’s roads, sewer and water divisions handle drainage problems as they arise.

City officials have been talking about implementing the ordinance for a year and a half. Earlier this year, Matthews completed utility formation study for establishing the ordinance and implementing the new utility.

The study mapped out a possible five-year budget plan.

In the first year of the plan, beginning on July 1, 2008, the city would spend $295,000 and require $194,000 from ratepayers for operation and maintenance of the city’s drainage system and $284,000 in capital improvements.

Money already budgeted to the utility, money also used to pay for the study, would be included in the budget plan.

By 2012, the cost for operation and maintenance is proposed at $261,000 with $236,000 needed from ratepayers. Proposed rates at that time would be $4.78 per month for residents, $8.36 for small commercial, $14.33 for medium commercial and $81.19 for large commercial.

Capital improvement projects are outlined for the first three years of the utility, with a cost of $163,000 in 2009 and $217,400 in 2010.

“Because of the timing on it, this might be something the council may want to bring through the budget process,” Martin told council members at their meeting. City staff will have a resolution for the council to look at in January.

The budget process starts in the spring with final council approval of the budget in June after a public hearing on the budget. The new budget takes effect on July 1.

Voting to adopt the ordinance were Eric Markell, Jim Gourley, Mayor Craig Fentiman, Scott McKee Jr., Rich Rowley and Jim Bean.

The seventh member of the council, Bob McIntire, resigned effective Nov. 20 and did not vote on the ordinance.

In other business, the council:

– Applauded McIntire for his service.

“Gentlemen, it’s been a pleasure,” McIntire said in parting comments. “I love every one of you, and city guys, you’re OK. I think this is probably the greatest council you ever could have.”

Deadline for applications to fill the council vacancy is Dec. 21 with review of applications and subcommittee interviews possibly completed by early January. The council may act on a recommendation from the interview committee at its meeting on Jan. 8.

For information contact the city manager’s office, 367-8969, or visit City Hall at 1140 12th Ave.

– Re-appointed Al Culver and Greg Stephens to the Planning Commission, with terms ending on Dec. 31, 2011.

– Re-appointed Katie Kohl and Lena Tucker to the Tree Commission, with terms expiring on Dec. 31, 2011.

– Appointed Jill Mahler, a high school junior, to the Youth Advisory Council. Openings remain on the YAC. For information contact the city manager’s office, 367-8969, or visit City Hall at 1140 12th Ave.

– Held the first and second reading of an ordinance correcting two typographical errors on an annexation completed earlier this year.