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Cottonwood Heights Journal

City considers implementing storm water fee

Nov 05, 2020 11:23AM ● By Cassie Goff

The Cottonwood Heights City Council is considering three potential options for implanting a storm water fee. (Tim Tingey/Cottonwood Heights)

By Cassie Goff | [email protected]

The City of Cottonwood Heights is considering implementing a new fee for residents and other property owners. A storm water fee of $7.50 per month for a single-family residential household would be collected to help fund the repair, operations, compliance, and maintenance of the city’s storm water system.

Over $19.2 million of capital projects related to the city’s storm water system has been identified by T-O Engineers through a city council funded study. In addition, $600,000 is needed for annual maintenance.

Out of that $19.2 million, $4,200,000 is needed for cleaning and camera installation, $500,000 is needed for immediate spot repairs, $1,236,710 is needed for 2016 project list priorities, $2,000,000 is needed for detention basins, and $11,221,497 is needed for pipe replacement. Cottonwood Heights has six major basins “where the water runs off from a local point and we move it out of there,” explained Public Works Director Matt Shipp.

With such large expenses identified, the Public Works Department suggested implementing a storm water fee to the city council. “Storm water fees will address operations and maintenance, capital projects, and regulatory compliance,” explained Shipp. “With the fee, personnel, street sweeping, storm drain cleaning, maintenance, repairs, upgrades, and capital improvements would be covered.”

Cottonwood Heights has been trying to get a handle on the storm drain system for years. When the city incorporated, much of the infrastructure was adopted from Salt Lake County. Unfortunately, the County had not mapped or maintained the system accurately. The Cottonwood Heights Public Works Department still finds new areas of the storm drain system. In addition, the areas that were accounted for were failing.

“Many pipes throughout the city are in poor conditions,” said Shipp. 

A storm water fee would be based on impervious surfaces throughout the city (artificial surfaces covered by water-resistant materials, like sidewalks and parking lots). One equivalent residential unit (ERA) would be roughly 5,000 square feet of impervious surface, typical for single-family households within the area.

Three different potential options have been proposed to the city council for implementation. Each would include a monthly fee between $5 to $9 per ERU ($60 to $108 annually for single-family households) with the potential of additional variables like annual rate increases and bond options. The recommendation from city staff members would be to implement a $7.50 monthly ERU fee with a rate increase so no bonding is necessary.

Through this model, everyone using the storm water system would contribute funding. “Those who are tax exempt would pay into the storm water fee so it’s a little more equitable,” explained City Manager Tim Tingey. “They would be paying for what they are using.” 

Out of 5,100 acres of taxable property throughout the city, 556 acres are tax exempt for various reasons (including educational and religious). That means, around 11% of the entire city is not contributing funding for the storm water system.

Currently, Cottonwood Heights utilizes taxes under the general fund to pay for storm water improvements. One of the concerns with the current setup is that storm water-related expenses compete with other budget items. However, with a storm water fee, there would be dedicated funding for the storm water infrastructure.

“There are over 70 miles worth of conveyance,” said Shipp. Conveyance refers to the system composed of drainage components like storm drains, pipes, street gutters, inlets, and catch basins, among others.

Federally, the Public Works Department is required to perform litter prevention and cleanup, public education, regular water testing, code enforcement, and other pollution monitoring and prevention activities.

“I have met with the city managers of Millcreek and Holladay, and they have been going through the same process,” said Tingey.

The Cottonwood Heights City Council will continue to consider the option of implementing a storm water drain fee. The tentative plan is to have more discussion through the end of October, start a public input period throughout November, consider adoption of a plan in December, and, if passed, fee collection in January so funds can be implemented during next spring and summer.