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Storm water utility benefits all

Everyone benefits from a storm water utility - yes or no?

Some of the residents in Park Rapids say no ... and say it emphatically. For example, what about the resident whose parcel is on Fish Hook River and slopes from the public street to the river? Seems like a great argument. But, consider, it could be argued that such a parcel is actually receiving the greatest benefit from a storm water utility and therefore should pay more to the system. One might ask, "How can that possibly be so?"

A Storm Water Utility is a system designed to reduce flooding, reduce flood insurance rates, and reduce surface water pollution, and stabilize rivers and streams. Who benefits most from such results - the parcel adjacent to the river or the parcel located a mile away? In fact, all persons benefit from a storm water utility. Aside from the benefits noted above, standing water in streets is removed (safety), it promotes more sound development practices (one isn't permitted to just send runoff to a neighbor or downstream), and watershed management is made much easier.

This matter has actually been tested in the court system and the jurist affirmed that all properties, regardless of location, benefit from a storm water management system (Teter v. Clark County).

Another concern raised to the council that the action was just another tax; that the city was just looking to raise revenues. Actually, there are no new costs. The city has been paying for storm water utility infrastructure through bonding and special assessments. The public pays for the bonds through an annual bond levy and special assessments are attached directly to a parcel and billed on annual property tax statements. It is not a new revenue, but a different method of collecting it. Money collected via the storm water utility billing will go toward storm water management and not transferred to the general fund from which the City's general operations are funded.

Lastly, let's look at credits. Just as an educator might say to a student, "I don't give grades, you earn them." So, too, one might look at credits in the same way. The property owner can reduce the parcel's storm water contribution to the utility collection system in various ways. For example, the more green space on a parcel, the more opportunity there is for storm water to enter the soil. And, retaining storm water on site via a swale is a method to reduce storm water runoff from entering the storm water utility.

If you have questions on credits, what are they, how to obtain them, etc., please contact the city at 732-3163.

The information in this article is largely taken from "Stormwater Utility User Fee Credits" that appeared in the Nov.-Dec. 2007 edition of Stormwater - the journal for Surface Water Quality Professionals.