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Stormwater fund draws harsh criticism

Park Rapids implemented a stormwater utility fund earlier this year. Some property owners are questioning whether the fees are fair. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

Several upset citizens are questioning the fairness of a storm water utility fund established in Park Rapids earlier this year.

Park Rapids approved the storm water utility fund in May, joining many other cities around the state. The fund allows the city to collect fees and create a fund that will be used to build storm water sewers and maintain existing ones.

Several people attended Tuesday's Park Rapids City Council meeting to ask the city about the new fees.

Many of those who attended own commercial property, which is charged at a higher rate than residential. A typical residential bill would be $2 monthly.

Some commercial properties could pay $1,000 or more a year depending on the size and type of property.

"This is totally wrong," said Dick Rutherford. "The business man is always paying and it's time to stop."

In a previous article from the city of Park Rapids, it was suggested that some of the funds could go toward equipment and salaries of equipment operators working on storm water projects. The vision is to help offset the cost of new storm sewer construction that will occur over the next several years.

The projected collection is $30,000 to $36,000 a year.

Some questioned how they could be charged a fee for storm water when their property didn't have storm water. City officials say it's a benefit to the whole community.

"I don't have storm water," said Craig Rossman. "How can you charge me for that?"

"There's no storm running by my place," Jeff May said.

Several others had a similar complaint.

A storm water utility is considered equitable based on the premise that contributors pay, according to the city's policy. The fee is directly related to the amount of runoff produced by a developed parcel and the charges are based on a scientifically determined runoff factor, which takes local soil conditions and intensity of specific uses into consideration.

The fee is based on the size and the intensity of the use of the parcel - not the value of the parcel.

Amy Miller questioned how people could go about getting credits.

"Some people don't think they can call or do anything about this," she said.

Certain properties could qualify for credits depending on if certain runoff ponds or gardens are implemented. But these require city staff to check and verify the projects. Property owners will need to apply for a credit for the storm water fee.

Some plans may require the advice of an engineer while others may simply require verification the property owner has complied with the ordinance. Numerous methods are spelled out to detain, retain or treat water.

Green space could also meet the criteria for up to a 50 percent credit.

The council directed staff to look at the policy and do some research to make sure the fees were correct and fair.

SEH, the firm the city contracted with to develop the policy, will also be invited to hold a presentation explaining the policies. The public will be invited to attend and ask questions.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
(218) 631-2561