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Phone surveys are testing water for tax increase

A sprinkling of Enumclaw residents have received telephone surveys recently, answering questions about groundwater, pollutants and more.

It’s all part of an ongoing effort that will someday come together as a stormwater utility tax charged to city residents.

Thus far, the city has not imposed the tax permitted by state law. It’s been on the drawing board for years, said Lindsey Winborn, who oversees the matter for the city’s Public Works Department.

Winborn said the city is moving slow on the issue, primarly out of respect for the economic climate that has put many families in a financial pinch.

The stormwater utility tax is one more charge assessed as part of a city’s monthly bill, along with traditional items like water, sewer and trash collection.

Enumclaw is the only local city not assessing a stormwater utility tax.

Buckley charges more than the rest, collecting $17.15 monthly from those in single-family homes and double that amount from businesses. Black Diamond began collecting the tax in 2009, initially charging residents $13. After an angry backlash, the rate was dropped to $10; the first of the year, however, brought at increase to $11.50.

Bonney Lake charged $10 a year ago, bumped the rate to $12 this year and has already mandated an increase to $14 for 2011. In Sumner, residents pay $9.97 monthly, a decrease of four cents from a year ago.

Winborn said the state allows municipalities to collect the fee to help pay for the collection of stormwater, which comes primarily in the form of rain and snow but is also generated by people washing cars and watering lawns. Many of man’s daily activities release pollutants that find their way to rivers and streams.

The city has a consultant working on a stormwater improvement plan, Winborn said, and the new tax will eventually pay for associated projects.

Stormwater is collected separate from wastewater and does not go through the city’s treatment plant. It runs off rooftops and down driveways, is commonly collected in gutters and disappears into storm drains. The water is channeled through pipes and above-ground ditches, funneled both north and south out of the city. Stormwater moving north is directed to Neuwaukum Creek, so it eventually dumps into the Green River. Stormwater heading south finds its way to Boise Creek and, eventually, into the White River.

Thus far, stormwater collection costs have been paid through the city’s street fund, Winborn said. When the department finally goes before the City Council with a recommendation to implement a stormwater utility, he said, the accompanying tax will likely be less than $10 monthly, he added.

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