Inver Grove Heights eyes storm water fee

  • Article by: LAURIE BLAKE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 22, 2011 - 10:02 PM

Needing new revenue to catch, control and remove pollutants from storm water, the city looks to adopt a storm water utility fee in December.

Five years after first discussing it, Inver Grove Heights now looks likely to adopt a storm sewer utility fee, making it one of the last large cities in the metro area to collect fees for the handling of storm water.

Inver Grove City Council members have been reluctant to present residents with a new fee. At least three prior attempts to establish the fee failed. But this year, the council has tentatively included revenue from a storm water fee in its 2012 city budget.

The council will act on the fee when it adopts the budget in December. If the fee is approved, all property -- including churches, schools, golf courses, cemeteries and parks -- will be assessed for the first time next year for storm water collection and treatment costs.

"To control, collect and treat storm water, there is a cost," Public Works Director Scott Thureen said in a report on the fee. "A storm water utility will spread these costs to those who contribute to storm water runoff."

The money will be used for sweeping streets, controlling erosion, cleaning and maintaining storm water ponds, repairing storm sewers and cleaning drainage ditches, Thureen said. If approved, the fee would appear on homeowners' city utility bills by July.

According to proposed rates that are still being refined:

• Owners of rural single-family lots in four different categories would pay $4.40 to $9.24 per lot per year.

• Single-family homes in four urban categories would be assessed $12.72 to $26.76 per lot per year.

• Single-family homes in the still-developing northwest area of the city would pay $45.87 to $96.32 per lot per year.

City Council members are considering the fee more seriously this year because the city is facing a growing list of state and federal directives on how to treat storm water to reduce erosion and control the pollutants it can carry into lakes, rivers and streams.

Meeting the directives is imposing costs on all cities and "it's becoming inevitable that we need to figure out a way to do what we need to do," Inver Grove Heights Mayor George Tourville said. "We can look at raising general tax dollars or take a look at a storm water utility fee."

The benefit of a utility fee is that "all property ends up paying according to the size of the property," he said.

The plan is to ease in the fee -- collecting $300,000 next year, just half of the $600,000 Inver Grove Heights spent this year on storm water, Thureen said. Storm water needs "could easily double in the not-too-distant future," he said.

South St. Paul is hoping the addition of a storm water fee will put Inver Grove Heights in a position to work jointly to relieve flooding at Seidl's Lake in a 26-acre neighborhood park on the border of Inver Grove Heights and South St. Paul.

The lake is a storm water catch basin with no outlet. When it fills with rain it floods, putting the park's walking trail under water, said South St. Paul engineer John Sachi.

A feasibility study recommended stopping the flooding by connecting the lake to South St. Paul's storm sewer system -- a project for which storm water utility revenues could be a funding source in the future, Thureen said.

Laurie Blake • 952-746-3287

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