City looks to increase stormwater feeCity officials say they have little choice but to raise Red Wing's unpopular storm water fee.
By: Jon Swedien, The Republican Eagle
City officials say they have little choice but to raise Red Wing's unpopular storm water fee.
During a budget workshop Thursday, council members tentatively agreed to increase the monthly fee from $4 to $5 per household in 2011. While businesses pay more than households, their fee would also go up 25 percent.
Council members were less than enthusiastic about the hike.
"I have a fundamental problem with raising that fee," Council member Dean Hove said.
Despite their reluctance, council members said they are compelled to increase the fee because the federal government mandates Red Wing take steps to manage storm water run-off.
Storm water management -- which includes sweeping streets, installing rain gardens and storm ponds, and maintaining storm water infrastructure -- curbs the amount of sentiments and harmful chemicals entering storm drains and, in Red Wing's case, the Mississippi River and Lake Pepin.
Red Wing instituted its storm water fee in 2008 as a way to pay for storm water management.
The storm water fee has caught the ire of some residents who question its purpose and its validity.
"Don't feel alone," City Council President Mike Schultz told residents Thursday. "Other communities have this mandate as well."
Indeed, numerous cities across Minnesota have instituted similar fees.
City officials, meanwhile, don't dispute there's a need to manage storm water run-off, Red Wing Public Works Director Rick Moskwa said. But they are frustrated the federal government mandates practices but doesn't provide funding, he said.
Currently, federal environmental regulations require cities curtail the volume of storm water entering storm drains, Red Wing Deputy Director of Public Works Bob Stark said. Soon cities will also be required to test for water quality, Stark said.
Moskwa added it's important residents help prevent unwanted runoff. Residents can pitch in by keeping streets and sidewalks clean from debris like grass clippings and chemicals like oil and gas.
@Sub Heads: Fee hike wont cover all costs
Managing storm water is expensive.
The city has budgeted $835,000 for storm water management in 2011. And despite the $1 hike -- which council opted for instead of city staff's original proposal for a $2 increase -- the fee won't cover all Red Wing's storm water costs.
The city will likely to spend an additional $300,000 in property tax dollars on storm water management, City Council Administrator Kay Kuhlmann said.
The council also decided Thursday to use the proceeds from a recent land sale to pay off $200,000 in debt belonging to the city's storm water utility fund.