Stormwater utility question flows downhill to Valley
A discussion on whether to continue funding a consultant working on a stormwater utility will be held in Minden next month.
County Commissioners Larry Walsh and Dave Nelson both expressed concerns about spending an additional $44,200 on the consultant if the proposed utility’s funding didn’t go to voters.
Commission Chairman Barry Penzel said unless the utility addresses cleaning residents’ culverts, it’s missing a major piece.
“Culverts are a key question,” he said. “Why spend money and not clean culverts?”
A stormwater utility has been presented as a means to prevent some of the damage done in the north valley flash flooding in 2014 and 2015.
On Thursday, commissioners discussed extending a contract with House Moran Consulting to complete preparation for the utility.
County Manager Larry Werner said he wanted to find out from the board whether there was any interest in continuing the effort.
He pointed out that the contract would bring the project to the point where commissioners could either approve it or ask voters.
Commissioners approved a $199,225 contract with House Moran in 2016 to complete the preparation by July 2017.
Werner said that as the project moved forward, 16 community meetings were held instead of the originally envisioned four.
“The complexity of integrating the concept of a countywide stormwater management plan with the three towns and 14 general improvement districts necessitated the meetings and development of multiple alternatives,” he said.
According to Werner, the utility is designed to raise $1.45 million.
Fees paid by homeowners and businesses would be based on how much water they contribute to the drainage system. Fees would be based on the amount of impervious surface on properties in terms of equivalent residential use.
Because the towns and most general improvement districts already provide stormwater maintenance, residents there would pay $1.12 a month, according to initial studies.
Residents living in the county outside those boundaries are looking at $4.42 a month per unit.
Werner estimated a business like the Starbucks Plant could pay upward of $30,000 a year.
The utility would provide a credit to adjust the fee for those who retain runoff on their property greater than that generated by a standard storm. The property owner would have to pay for the engineering analysis to receive that credit.
Douglas County did clean culverts after the two big flash floods, though Deputy District Attorney Doug Ritchie said culverts belong to property owners.
Ritchie said that the ditch belongs to the county, but residents need to get an encroachment permit to put in a culvert.
“It is a very complicated issue,” Ritchie said. “If the homeowners puts a culvert in to access their property, then they are responsible for the culvert.”
More than 130 residents turned out at two weeks of meetings last year to learn about the utility.
County commissioners will discuss the contract at their Oct. 5 meeting. Commissioners meet 1 p.m. at the historic Douglas County Courthouse, 1616 Eighth St.