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Grandview stays calm in face of stormwater regs

Grandview stays calm in face of stormwater regs

by John Fannin

GRANDVIEW - The good news is 2010 census figures show Grandview has topped the 10,000 mark in population.

The bad news is Grandview's population has topped 10,000.

It's double-edged data because all cities in Washington with a population greater than 10,000 must submit to state-mandated stormwater regulations.

In a desert region like the Lower Valley there's not a lot of stormwater, but rules are rules and local cities like Sunnyside and now Grandview must comply.

Compliance comes with a cost and it isn't always a pretty picture.

In Sunnyside, for example, the city council approved, then tossed, a stormwater fee system that levied thousands of dollars on owners of pasture land. Council went back to the drawing board and came up with a monthly fee of about $3 per property owner.

Grandview officials are well aware of the stormwater issue and have been preparing for the past couple of years.

"We're just now hitting (stormwater) requirements, but we've been actually trying to comply for a number of years," said Grandview City Administrator Cus Arteaga.

To that end, the city four years ago purchased a vactor truck to help with maintenance of the sewer system. The truck not only cuts down on the risk of injuries to workers, but it can also be used for stormwater work like maintaining catch basins that collect water run-off.

Arteaga says the first five years of stormwater compliance essentially requires documentation and public education.

For example, by 2014 the city has to establish a public hotline to field calls about spills and illegal discharges into the stormwater system.

One of the other requirements by 2014 is tracking stormwater-related costs.

Arteaga says he's already doing that and estimates that $80,000 to $100,000 in this year's street budget is related to stormwater work by city crews.

Speaking of costs, Arteaga is also inspecting the city's infrastructure to determine if there will be capital costs after the five-year period expires in 2017.

By planning ahead now, Arteaga says the city should be able to set enough money aside over the next five years to fund stormwater-related construction.

Grandview is also learning from the efforts of Sunnyside, Yakima County and other entities that instituted stormwater measures.

"A lot of this work has been done by grant funding in other cities, so we're going to see what other ordinances are out there," Arteaga said of a stormwater ordinance the city will have to adopt.

He says the city should be able to meet stormwater regulations without additional hires or equipment.

It also appears the city won't even have to assess a fee like Sunnyside did.

That's not to say Grandview couldn't adopt a small stormwater fee eventually, but Arteaga says the goal is to avoid additional fees given the city's recent move towards an annual $20 car tab fee for street repairs.

"I think overall we're looking pretty good," he said. "We want to continue to be good stewards and work within the dollars we have."

As a result, hitting the 10,000 figure - and stormwater requirements that go with it - may not be as bad as first thought.

"I joked with Jesse (city councilman Palacios) that I'm gonna retire when we reach 10,000," Arteaga laughed. "Now we're there and it doesn't seem that bad."

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