Carson City residents will likely start paying a storm water utility fee in about a year, city officials said.
Between now and then, the city's Development Services Division still needs to determine the specifics of a comprehensive storm drain system and what the various options are to pay for building and operating the system.
For that reason, Development Services Manager Mahmood Azad doesn't even have a rough estimate how much the city will bill residents to better manage the storm water program.
Storm drainage became a top priority for City Hall literally overnight with the New Year's Flood of 1997 that turned several west side streets into rivers. A Storm Drainage Advisory Committee composed of residents was formed a year later to bring community input into the storm drainage planning process.
The committee during the rest of this year will evaluate proposals from Lumos and Associates, a Carson City engineering firm that is the lead consultant in establishing a storm water utility.
The committee's two-year term expires next month but City Manager John Berkich is asking the committee to remain active for another year. Only two of the seven committee members have indicated they may want to resign.
"We're here to tell you our work is not done," Berkich said. "The critical part is in the months ahead."
The committee will be the sounding board between Lumos and the Board of Supervisors as Paul Lumos and his staff present construction and fee proposals.
"There is a broad range of funding resources," Lumos told committee members Monday. "A storm drainage utility or user fee is one of those options. But we'll have a number of other things we'll look at."
Tony Marangi, a Carson City flood insurance adjuster since 1952, has monitored the committee closely since its inception.
"I want the public to know it's inevitable we're going to have a major flood some time," Marangi said. "A utility is the only way we're going to raise enough money to protect our city. All of the public has to pay. Everybody's going to be affected."
Lumos said establishing a rate structure for a storm drainage utility presents challenges not faced by water or sewer utilities, where people pay for a direct benefit received. A key factor for a storm utility is how much does a property contribute to the flooding problem, Lumos said.
Storm drainage so far has been subsidized by the general fund, but that has yet to involve any major projects, such as the Shenandoah detention basin that breaks ground Wednesday at the far north end of the city.
"We're looking at making it an enterprise fund like water and sewer, where it pays for itself," Lumos said.
He said building a storm drainage system will cost less than operating and maintaining it, which will likely use 55 to 65 percent of the utility fees collected.
The advisory committee would play a crucial role in deciding which Lumos proposals to recommend to the Board of Supervisors.
Berkich wants City Hall's costliest project ever to have as much public input as possible, which is why he established a lay-person advisory committee.
"If the staff does it, it's a bureaucratic solution," Berkich said. "A commitment like this needs to be bought off by the whole community."
Got a flood problem?
Call Mahmood Azad, the city's development services manager, at 887-2355, ext. 1008.
Want to join the Carson City Storm Drain Advisory Committee?
Two positions will likely be filled in the next month. One for a contractor and another for a citizen-at-large living on the east side.
Call the Carson City Personnel Department to apply at 887-2103.
How about join the committee's new focus group to offer technical advice or anecdotal input regarding flood control? Call Mahmood Azad at 887-2355, ext. 1008.