Of the Keizertimes

On a night with heavy rain, Keizer City Councilors on Monday voted to increase the storm water rates.

Councilors agreed via a 6-1 vote to increase rates come January – for each of the next five years.

Bill Lawyer, Public Works director for Keizer, presented his proposed increase of an average of $.45 per Equivalent Service Unity (ESU). The monthly amount will increase each January for the next five years.

The current ESU rate is $3.83 a month. That rate will go up to $4.23 a month in January; by January 2017 that rate will be $6.34 a month.

Lawyer said the city incorporated a Storm Water Fund in 2007, based on federal requirements enforced at the state level.

“What choice did we have?” mayor Lore Christopher asked.

Lawyer said there were two options.

“We could either get the proper permits or face fines,” he said. “I believe the fine is $10,000 a day until you’re in compliance.”

After Lawyer gave examples of required parts of the fund, Christopher wasn’t impressed.

“It’s a hugely costly program that I don’t see we initiated or have any choice in,” she said. “Am I wrong?”

Responded Lawyer, “That’s it exactly.”

Councilor David McKane wasn’t wild about the idea of rate increases in place of money from the street sweeping fund.

“This starts January 1, not July 1,” McKane said. “When we get to the next budget cycle, there are people out there still struggling.”

Based on his concerns, McKane cast the lone dissenting vote in what was a 6-1 adoption of the storm water long-range financial plan.

A subsequent motion declaring an emergency and repealing the current ordinance was approved 7-0.

“I want to explore more what councilor McKane said, to look more at how we can reduce or eliminate the increase for the next year,” Christopher said.

Lawyer said the fund will be monitored each budget cycle.

McKane warned of future financial issues based on the long-range plan.

“From this day forward, the only way you’re going to fund the street fund is through storm water,” McKane said. “That’s unrealistic to expect…You will never be able to keep up with it.”