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Stormwater fees on the horizon in Sunnyside

YAKIMA - Yakima County has crunched the numbers and yesterday, Tuesday, commissioners approved monthly service charges for members of a regional stormwater group.

Sunnyside, Union Gap, the city of Yakima and Yakima County are all members of the group, which is trying to save money in implementing state-mandated stormwater improvements by working together.

The monthly charges commissioners approved yesterday are based on population size. The city of Yakima, for example, will be assessed a monthly service charge of $9,500, while Sunnyside's monthly charge will be about $1,300. Union Gap's is just over $600.

The monthly fees double for January and February of 2008.

Don Gatchalian is Yakima County's assistant director of public services. He says the county will fulfill specific tasks for the regional stormwater group, such as public education and working with environmental officials to make sure that permit requirements are met. The county will also be responsible for developing and submitting reports to the Department of Ecology, Gatchalian said.

He noted that fee rates will be adjusted after February of 2008.

"If we can work regionally we will comply with (stormwater) permit requirements and save money," Gatchalian said.

That assessment was backed up by Sunnyside Public Works Director Jim Bridges. "Absolutely, there is a savings," he observed. "If there wasn't, we wouldn't be in it (the regional stormwater group."

Bridges figures Sunnyside's cost to implement a stormwater plan on its own would be about $225,000 over the next three years. By going regional, he says, Sunnyside will spend about $120,000 over the next three years, a savings of $105,000.

On another stormwater front, Bridges confirmed that in 2008 Sunnyside will have to implement a stormwater fee assessment on residents to help pay for the project.

The city used money from a state grant to hire a consultant to get a better picture of how to administer the fees. That means, for example, taking into consideration the differences in potential for stomwater use between a residential home and a food processing business and assessing fees accordingly.

"We're probably two months out before we get some answers," Bridges said.

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