WATERLOO — Property owners will see their utility bills go up in July.
That increase caused by a hike in the city’s storm water utility fee could be significant for industrial sites, retail stores, hospitals and other areas with big buildings and parking lots.
Waterloo City Council members voted 6-1 Monday to raise the monthly storm water fees to begin addressing an estimated $30 million list of citywide drainage projects.
Councilman Steve Schmitt, who last week questioned whether the city was properly using the current storm water revenue, cast the lone dissenting vote.
Residential property owners have been paying $2.75 monthly since the storm water fee was first adopted in 2009. That fee jumps to $4 per month beginning July 1, with that rate escalating by 25 cents per year for the following five years.
Commercial, industrial and institutional properties will see the same increase in the base rate. But those properties also pay $2.75 for every 5,000 square feet of impervious surface area on their sites, which also will increase to $4.
When the storm water fee was adopted 10 years ago, the city estimated the cost to Deere & Co.’s Waterloo operations would be $6,000 a month. Waterloo Community Schools and Hawkeye Community College would be paying $2,400 and $1,040 a month respectively.
While council members had significant debate over the fees when the issue first came up two weeks ago, the measure was adopted quickly this week.
Resident Todd Obadal brought up an issue raised earlier by Councilman Pat Morrissey regarding residents paying the fee when there wasn’t a storm sewer in the street near their homes.
“We are assessing sewer fees onto people that don’t use the sewers in order to fund this,” Obadal said. “I believe the purpose of this money is good, but it needs to be done in the proper way.”
Morrissey said he was still interested in discussing who pays the fee, but noted that issue is governed by a separate ordinance that can be brought up and changed at a later date.
The current city ordinance essentially requires all properties owners to pay the fee, assuming rain falling on the lot leaves their property and eventually finds its way into a city storm sewer or drainage ditch under the city’s control.
The city currently gets about $1.7 million annually from the storm water fee, which is used to pay for storm sewer maintenance, storm water staff, street sweeping and some minor drainage improvements.
City Engineer Jamie Knutson said the increase will allow the city to pay for major drainage projects in areas where storm sewers and ditches overflow during heavy rainfall events.