Sunnyside stormwater rates under scrutiny

New stormwater rates under consideration in the city of Sunnyside are an improvement over the city's plan from three years ago.

At the same time, the rates need to reflect efforts by property owners to reduce stormwater run-off.

That in a nutshell was the view of Port of Sunnyside commissioners during a discussion on the rates last night, Monday.

The discussion took place during commissioners' regular business meeting and came to the fore because a port employee, maintenance manager Travis Jansen, sits on the city's stormwater committee.

Three years ago the city claimed it would cost $500,000 to put into place and maintain a stormwater system and levied rates that generated thousands of dollars on open, rural properties within the city limits.

The city has since backed off those figures and levies a flat $3.75 monthly fee per water customer.

In a report to port commissioners last night, Jansen said the current rate is not covering the costs Sunnyside says are required for administering a stormwater program.

According to figures provided to Jansen and the other committee members, Sunnyside's stormwater fees brought in $146,000 last year, but it cost the city $202,000 to run the program.

Jansen told port commissioners that the city is now looking to increase rates to cover a $220,000 budget.

Increasing stormwater rates to cover that additional amount will require the city to raise stormwater revenues by about 50 percent, he said.

To that end, Jansen said the stormwater committee is considering four options for new rates. The options range from charging a flat $5.65 fee per month to all water utility customers to charging rates based on the number of employees in a business.

The city's preferred option, Jansen noted, is to have residential stormwater rates at $4 per month, then charge multi-family housing $10 per month and commercial establishments between $10 and $70 per month depending on the number of people they employ.

While praising it as a much more reasonable rate structure than the one three years ago, Port Commissioner Jeff Matson noted none of the options provide a discount for property owners who have taken steps to mitigate stormwater run-off.

"If there are credits, then rates will have to be higher for everyone else," Jansen said of the city's perspective on the issue, while noting he has also raised the issue during stormwater committee discussions.

Matson said that having rates increase a little bit would be more equitable so property owners who have gone to the expense of installing stormwater systems receive some discount for producing less run-off.

"If it's not fair now it's only going to get worse," added Port Commissioner Arnold Martin,

Amber Hansen, the port's executive director, noted the city's preferred option to this point does not cover all properties within the city of Sunnyside. She says only those who receive city water bills are assessed the stormwater fee. "If you're on a well you don't pay this," Hansen noted.

She added that property owners with open ground are not assessed a stormwater fee at all under the preferred option.

Jansen said the stormwater committee hopes to present a rate proposal to the city council before City Manager Mark Gervasi retires next month.


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