‘This is Colville’s biggest project’: public to meet on storm water utility

So, what’s more dire than the need to fix Colville’s streets, straighten out the issue of diagonal parking, or pass an ordinance concerning the feeding of wildlife in the ‘Ville’s neighborhoods? According to Eric Durpos, Municipal Services Administrator for the City of Colville, it’s how to fund the repairs for the city’s long-suffering storm water infrastructure. Durpos says the city has been searching for funding strategies, applying for grants, and cutting back on costs while updating an aging storm water system that is in critical need of repair. The City of Colville will hold a public meetings to discuss the possibility of creating a stand-alone storm water utility fee for Colville ratepayers. The first meeting was held Thursday, June 13 at Colville City Hall. The second public meeting will take place Tuesday, June 18 in the Colville Public Library basement at 1 p.m. The utility, if approved, could possibly tack on an extra $6 to $7 to Colville residents’ city utility bills each month. In 2010, the city passed an ordinance to raise water rates by four percent per year and sewer rates by 7.5 percent per year, which was the last rise in utility prices the city passed. According to Durpos, this is the most efficient, yet admittedly least popular option to try and generate revenue for the city’s storm water system. “No one likes the idea of having to pay another bill,” says Durpos. “But this issue has been in front of city council for almost three years. In that time, we’ve changed mayors and a few of the council members, so we have had to bring people up to speed on what’s going on, but this is something that needs to be addressed. I’d say this is Colville’s biggest project.”To proceed or not? Currently, the City Street Department manages both street maintenance and storm water line mainte¬nance. Dur¬pos says around $200,000 is subsidized from the city street department, and is spent on storm water issues per year, including flooding. According to Durpos, the creation and implementation of a storm water utility would provide funding directly for upgrades and maintenance to the current storm water collection system, as well as equipment and investing I capital projects for the city. In doing so, street funds could be allocated directly to maintenance and replacement of city streets. “We’ve looked at the possibility of loans, grants, etc., in an effort to find funding,” says Durpos. “I honestly don’t think the city should go into debt over this, but then it’s not up to me. Council will make the final decision.” The issue is one with a long history in the city. In 1998, DeLeo & Associates, then working as engineering consultants, helped the city devise a storm water management plan. This came at a time when many cities were deciding to implement a storm water utility fee, as a means to help fund needed infrastructure maintenance and repair. This plan included implementation of a storm water utility; however, this was never adopted by the city. Council approved Welch Comer to review and update the city’s storm water management plan. “I’ve made my recommendations to council,” added Durpos. “I am just at a point where I want to know if we proceed or not. If they decide to drop it, of course I will go with what they think is best. But this is something that will come up again if we ignore it.” The City of Colville is still in the planning stages and has yet to determine an actual amount that will be proposed as a monthly addition to the water/sewer bill that residents pay each month.