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Stormwater fee to be assessed on monthly utility bills

In February, Sunnyside will begin assessing a monthly stormwater utility rate of $3.75 for each residential and business unit.

The fee is based on an average of 10,000 square feet for a typical city lot. Those with bigger lots will see an incremental increase in their rate.

The Sunnyside City Council on Monday night approved the fee, which is intended to help the city meet federal and state mandates that require all cities with populations of 10,000 people or more to have stormwater systems in place.

"It's a necessary evil, but not one I agree with," newly named mayor pro tem Bruce Epps said of the stormwater requirement.

This past summer the city contracted with HDR Engineering of Pasco to study what the stormwater fees should be

Sunnyside has formed a regional stormwater group with Yakima County, as well as the cities of Yakima and Union Gap to work together to help lessen planning costs for the utility.

Sunnyside Public Works Director Jim Bridges said the regional group has received $425,000 in grant funds to help in the stormwater planning effort.

Bridges estimates the city would have spent about $225,000 over the next three years if it had gone its own way in developing a stormwater utility.

By collaborating with other municipalities, Bridges figures that three-year total will actually be about $57,000. That represents a savings of nearly $175,000.

Undeveloped parcels are exempt from the stormwater utility rate. Senior citizens and the disabled on low incomes qualify for a 25 percent discount.

In related news, council also approved a resolution calling for public involvement and participation in the development of the stormwater utility.

Bridges said the move also calls for public education, including in the schools, regarding the danger of dumping hazardous chemicals since the city's stormwater flows into the Yakima River.

Interim City Manager Mark Kunkler said city residents and businesses should begin seeing the stormwater fee on their March utility bills.

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