February 8, 2020

Mallory Herrmann

The city council’s public works committee is still grappling with how to fund a stormwater study.

After their January meeting ended with a request for data on the city’s annual stormwater maintenance and repair costs, they spent their February meeting looking at those numbers without getting any closer to a solution.

Stormwater problems have long plagued the city; as Dena Mezger, director of public works, noted, she’s been working on such issues since 2003. With recent emergency projects costing the city in the range of $600,000 each and an expected increase in costs related to maintaining regulatory compliance, the city is seeking to create a utility program to better – and more proactively – address stormwater needs.

Mezger says that the city’s current process is very much a reactive program and that not much routine maintenance is occurring.

“We just don’t have a plan for this infrastructure that’s in the ground now or that we’re putting in the ground,” Mezger said. “We don’t really have a plan for how to take care of it when it does wear out and it reaches the end of its life.”

But to start such a utility program requires an initial study, with an estimated cost of $400,000. After a framework is implemented, revenues generated from the utility would support routine maintenance and inspection, construction of small projects, system repairs, regulatory compliance, and design and project management.

Over the last seven years, the city has spent around $500,000 each year in stormwater operations (excluding any expenses associated with stormwater capital projects funded by the 2007 bond program or CIP sales tax). During the last two years, the city has also begun tracking engineering division expenses related to stormwater, totaling about $91,000 in 2019 and $97,000 in 2018.

Councilmember Fred DeMoro noted that he’s already receiving calls from constituents worried about flooding problems again this spring. They’re wanting to know what we’ve done, he said.

Councilmember Craig Faith asked city staff to bring back some of the funding proposals that have been discussed in the past – and to “keep thinking, keep working on it” – for the committee’s March meeting.

All members of the committee (Councilmembers DeMoro, Faith, Phyllis Edson and Rob Binney) were present at the Feb. 3 session.