Carson City supervisors move forward with stormwater rate increases

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The Board of Supervisors on Thursday voted to raise stormwater rates.

To change the rates, the board will need to pass an ordinance, which must be voted on twice at separate meetings to pass.

If the ordinance passes, rates will be go up in January, when water rates are also set to increase 3 percent and sewer rates 3.5 percent.

Thursday’s vote was 3-2 with Supervisors John Barrette and Brad Bonkowski voting no.

The increases will raise $3.2 million needed for stormwater drainage projects and to stabilize the utility's fund, which has never met financial goals established by the board.

Ratepayers will now be divided into new classes. All single-family residences will be in one category and their rate increase will be phased in over three years. Current rates are $5.69 monthly and will jump to $9.34 in January 2023. The recommendation from staff was a two-year phase-in starting with $7.52 in 2021 and $9.34 in 2022. With an additional year it is still to be determined what the rates will be in the first two years before hitting $9.34 in 2023.

Commercial users will now be grouped into four categories — small, medium, large, and very large — based on the amount of impervious surface such as parking lots and driveways at their property. Small users, or properties with less than a quarter acre of impervious surface, will be charged $30 monthly. Medium-sized ratepayers with under 1 acre of impervious surface will pay $45 in 2021 and $60 in 2020. Large property owners with 1 to 5 acres of impervious surface will pay $60 in 2021, $90 in 2022 and $120 in 2023. Rates for very large properties with over 5 acres in impervious surfaces will be phased in over four years, starting with $60 in 2021 and ending with $240 in 2024.

Barrette said he felt residents, whose rates are jumping 64 percent, were being treated more harshly than ratepayers in the middle whose rates were essentially not changing.

Brent Farr, president, Farr West Engineering, the consultant that conducted the rate study, said those smaller commercial properties whose rates won’t change are now lumped in with larger properties so are being treated less equitably now.

Farr also said medium-sized properties will see 100 percent increases while the largest ratepayers will see up to a 700 percent rise, significantly higher increases than residents.

Bonkowski did not discuss why he voted no, but he first made a motion to raise residential rates to $15 a month over four years in order to raise more than what he called the “barebones” to cover the city’s stormwater needs.

“We need to invest in our infrastructure,” said Bonkowski. “If we’re going to fix this and bite the bullet and take the heat for it, let’s do it from day one.”

His motion failed 2-3 with Supervisors Lori Bagwell, Barrette and Stacey Giomi voting no before a second and final motion made by Bagwell passed.

The rates also will be indexed to rise starting in 2024 based on the construction consumer price index with a cap on it of 3 percent, the same method used on water and sewer rates.

The board also heard an update on the coronavirus crisis. In the two weeks between July 20 and Aug. 2, 195 cases were reported in the Quad County area of Carson City and Douglas, Lyon and Storey counties. Of those, 69 were in Carson City with an average age of 38 years old, ranging from a 3-year-old to a 77-year-old. In Carson City during that time, four people were hospitalized with the virus and two people died from COVID-19, the disease it causes.

Crowell said he is asked repeatedly if we are doing all we can to fight the spread of the virus.

“Are we doing enough?” he asked health officials.

Jeanne Freeman with the city’s emergency response center said they are monitoring workplaces and facilities where there are outbreaks and that more than half of the cases are getting the virus from social gatherings or other common interaction.

“The message continues to be to wear a face covering. And if you’re not feeling well do not socialize with your friends. You are putting other people at risk,” said Freeman.

Sheri Russell, chief financial officer, reported that despite the shutdown the city’s consolidated tax collections went up 23 percent in May.

“Which is incredible,” said Russell. “I can’t believe this isn’t some kind of error that will be corrected in June.”

The board also approved a preliminary plan of expenditure for about $10 million in federal funding the city is getting for expenses incurred due to the pandemic. As part of the plan, the city awarded $1.55 million to the Carson City School District, $1.85 million to Carson Tahoe Health hospital, and $200,000 to Eagle Valley Care Center. Some of the remaining money will be allocated to non-profits at the board’s next meeting.


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