Feb 10, 2021

Colorado City Reconsiders Storm Water Rate Fee

Longview, Colorado, is considering changing its storm water rate structure.

longview colorado

The Longview, Colorado, city council is considering changing the storm water utility rate structure, which could affect hundreds of bills.

According to a new study, dozens of city companies are paying at least $1,000 per month less than they should for their storm water fee, reported The Daily News.

The city charges the fee on monthly utility bills to pay for storm sewers, which carry rain water that flows off property and eventually to the Columbia River. According to the city, other companies and residents are being underbilled while others are being overbilled. 

According to Longview Stormwater Manager Steve Haubner, unless this rate is changed, the city could be vulnerable to lawsuits, reported The Daily News.

Consultants and staff recommended options to correct the rate structure at the city council’s Jan. 21 meeting and a new date for the council to review the changes has not yet been set.

A rate study was initiated when businesses complained about the possibility of inconsistencies in storm water fees around 2019, reported The Daily News.

The storm water fee pays for the maintenance and creation of water infrastructure and also covers the city’s cost to meet federal Clean Water Act benchmarks. 

The city staff had not evaluated the storm water rate structure in about 20 years, according to Haubner. A survey of parcels’ current impervious structures needs to be updated to ensure the data is correct, he added.

According to Haubner, many parcel owners are currently underbilled and the revenue generated from charging those customers would allow the actual storm sewer rate to stay stagnant for three years, reported The Daily News.

Since 2005, the monthly storm water base rate for a single-family residence has increased from $2.66 to $14.50. To meet 2021’s budget, the fee would need to increase by 9%. The increase would change the base rate from $14.50 for a single family residence to $15.81 this year.

According to city consultants, to keep the base rate at $14.50 for the next three years, the city could change the way it calculates its storm water fee. 

This would mean measuring the storm water rate by updating the average square footage on a single dwelling’s structure that is impervious, as well as reevaluating how many impervious structures are on properties in the first place.

Commercial property is measured by how many of what the city deemed impervious units comprise a parcel, which is 2,500 square feet at the base rate of $14.50. Staff recommendations suggest that 3,000 square feet is more appropriate, however.

Consultants surveyed 729 of the city’s 1,007 commercial storm water fee accounts. With the staff suggestion, 208 accounts would see no change, 169 would be paying $100 more; and 159 would pay $100 less.

Four accounts would see a $1,000 decrease in their bill and 26 would get $1,000 increase, reported The Daily News.

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