Stormwater charges debated by Carson City Utility Finance Oversight Committee

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The Utility Finance Oversight Committee met Wednesday for an update on work to revamp Carson City’s stormwater rates.

Brent Farr, principle engineer and president, Farr West Engineering, who is conducting the rate study, presented three possible models for redoing the stormwater rate structure and got direction from the UFOC on where to focus.

The committee zeroed in on the middle methodology, a sort of compromise between the formula based solely on the amount of impervious surface at a property and one, similar to the existing system, which doesn’t take impervious surfaces into account.

Farr said 85 percent of communities that charge stormwater fees use a methodology based on impervious surfaces. But, the model is difficult to implement because the amount of impenetrable surfaces — parking lots, driveways, rooftops — would have to be determined on all city parcels.

Also, the change to a structure based only on impervious surface would significantly raise rates on large commercial businesses and the city’s schools.

The model preferred by the committee would be a hybrid. It would create one single-family residential property rate and then divide all others into four categories based on a range with the “very large” category charged the highest rate.

Farr said much more analysis would be needed to determine the specific rates, including an inventory of impervious surfaces, but the example he used was $6 per month for single-family, and then $20, $40, $80 and $160 for the four categories of non-residential properties.

Currently, homeowners pay $5.69 while commercial properties, even ones as large as Walmart or the city’s car dealerships, pay $40.96.

The first methodology, using the exact impervious area at each site in the city, could take a property like Walmart from $41 a month to $650.

“It is the closest to complete equity that you can get but it’s probably not palatable,” said Farr.

The third model would ignore impervious surfaces and use a bell curve to determine three categories of properties based on the entire property size. It would be the easiest to implement and more equitable than the current structure, but less fair than the other two proposed.

“I don’t see the bell curve as defensible,” said Michael Bennett, the committee chair.

Large properties like golf courses, which have little pavement and benefit the stormwater system, would be penalized due to their size.

The committee also discussed looking at other details such as incentivizing low-impact development, connection fees for new development, phasing in the new rates over several years, and increasing the rates over time to boost the stormwater budget.

“A $2 million budget is not enough for stormwater,” said Bruce Scott, committee member.

Initially, Public Works proposed a flat bump in stormwater rates phased in over three years that would increase the budget to $4 million, said Darren Schulz, director. But, the Board of Supervisors rejected that in favor of overhauling the rate structure.

Next, the city plans to hold a public meeting in September to get feedback from the public on the three methodologies.

Eventually, the UFOC will make a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors for a new rate plan.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Eddy Quaglieri, water utility manager, said the city is working to get a temporary order to, essentially, move the point of diversion for water from Ash Canyon and Kings Canyon creeks to the Carson River.

The change would allow the city to get credit for creek water, which is currently too turbid to treat and flows to the Carson River if not diverted, and pump water at the Carson River instead.


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