Enumclaw Council to vote on rate for new utility

Residents will start seeing a new $5.24 stormwater bill every month starting September.

A new city utility is about to make its debut in Enumclaw, with a final step — the establishing of rates — expected to come Aug. 13.

Members of the City Council determined late last year that a stormwater utility would be created, effective Sept. 1. It joins things like water and sewer services, natural gas and trash collection as one of the city’s “enterprise funds” — meaning revenues must match expenses and money collected can be used solely for that utility.

A public hearing regarding rates was on the council’s July 23 agenda and the first reading of the enacting resolution was passed. A final vote is expected during the next meet of the city’s governing body.

Enumclaw has been a rarity among Puget Sound cities and towns, paying for stormwater services from its general fund. That means stormwater has competed for dollars with other municipal functions like police protection, parks and recreation, and services for youth and senior citizens.

The July 23 public hearing brought zero comments from the community. The only new input was provided by the Enumclaw School District, which lobbied, by letter, to have its financial impact reduced.

The district noted both King County and the city of Black Diamond have provisions that allow the district to pay less than the normal rate. The district cited both education programs in its schools and steps taken at the high school to reduce stormwater impacts when asking for a rate adjustment.

Councilman Hoke Overland offered support for the school system, stating he would agree to a rate discount up to 50 percent. He was countered by Councilman Chance La Fleur, who noted the council’s Public Works Committee discussed possible exemptions but, in the end, recommended everyone pay the same rate. Councilman Anthony Wright added that a 50 percent break for the school district would mean an additional 20 cents monthly for homeowners.

The first reading of the rate-setting resolution passed without a provision for schools.

The resolution calls for rates of $5.24 per month per “Equivalent Service Unit” or almost $63 annually. That would cover the basic operation and maintenance of the new utility ($4.44), provide funds for debt service (53 cents) and build a fund for future capital needs (27 cents).

Single-family homes count as one ESU. There are 14 categories to be assessed in all, with most charged one ESU for each 3,200 square feet of impervious surface — that means things like buildings, parking lots and paved driveways, anything that does not allow water to naturally seep into the ground.

Single-family homes make up the largest of the 14 categories, with commercial buildings coming in second. Other categories include things like city buildings, parks, the Expo Center, the golf course and schools.

A city study showed there are presently 8,354 ESUs factoring into the rate structure.

Once the city begins collecting for the stormwater utility, it will be included on monthly bills, along with other utility costs.

The rate assessed in Enumclaw will be significantly lower than residents pay in neighboring communities. According to a memo provided by Public Works Director Jeffrey Lincoln, the rate is $22.64 in Buckley, $16 in Black Diamond and $12.68 in Sumner. Bonney Lake charges $14 per household, Puyallup charges $10 and, in Auburn, the rate is more than $20 monthly.

Stormwater consists primarily of rainfall, but can include water from washing cars and sprinkling lawns and gardens. Essentially, it means any water that doesn’t percolate into the ground.

Because water picks up contaminants as it runs off impervious surfaces, the federal Clean Water Act holds communities accountable.

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