By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

Federal and state mandates leave no choice but a stormwater fee increase, city officials said last week.
The City of Keizer’s public works department leaders will make a push for a stormwater fee increase that will add about $2.25 every other month to residential water bills.

It has nothing to do with the general fund shortfall that has top city staff scrambling to fill. In fact, the roughly $5.40 bimonthly fee paid by water users in Keizer mostly goes into its own specially designated fund, although a portion does make its way into the general fund.

But Elizabeth Sagmiller, environmental program coordinator for the City of Keizer, said the city faces three mandates, yet only has funding for one. (See sidebar for an explanation of what these mandates are).

“(The Department of Environmental Quality) expects us to do what is in our plan, not what we have budgeted for,” Sagmiller said.

They say fines for non-compliance

with each could go as high as $25,000 per day.

She, along with Public Works Director Rob Kissler, will make their case in front of the Budget Committee this month. The city has known about the Water Pollution Control Facilities (WPCF) permit need since September 2008. However, officials there anticipated the state wouldn’t fund the program as soon as it has.

“The department as a whole wanted to avoid fee increases as long as possible,” Sagmiller wrote in a white paper explaining what permits were needed and advocating for the new fees.

Sagmiller is the only full-time permanent employee dedicated solely to stormwater program management. Other temporary employees have helped with specific projects, like mapping the city’s catch basins. The department will propose adding two full-time employees in the coming budget cycle.

“They will be working in the field, directly with customers on issues; any kind of erosion control; working with outside staff on potential hazards or accidental discharges” like sewer overflow, Kissler said.

The goal is to be “very near” compliance in all three mandated aspects of stormwater runoff by October 2011, Kissler said.

“These are mandated programs,” Sagmiller added. “We don’t have a choice, but it’s the right thing to do. In protecting water quality we’re protecting the community.”