STORM DRAINAGE UTILITY CLOSING FIRST BUDGET YEAR
Storm Drainage rates became effective on March 1, 2005, as authorized by the Fife City Council in 2004, when the Council set rates and a budget for Fife Storm Water Utility. The Council’s decision was the implementation of a plan that began in 2001, when the City of Fife responded to the Federal Clean Water Act requirement to meet new standards for storm water. The Storm Water Utility will bring the Fife community into compliance with the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).
Storm water is the leading contributor to water quality pollution in our urban waterways. As urban areas grow, it is also the state’s fastest growing water quality problem. Under the Federal Clean Water Act, the City of Fife is obliged to meet new and higher standards for water quality; the storm drainage utility was created to provide the funding necessary to meet those standards, and also to fund a program of improvements to the storm runoff collection system in the City of Fife.
These improvements are as described in detail in the City’s Comprehensive Plan, as adopted in 2002, and listed below:
- Fife Ditch Crossing of 54th Avenue East
- Fife Ditch connector in the vicinity of 62nd Avenue East and 20th Street East.
- Firwood Ditch feeder in the vicinity of 48th Street East, east of 70th Avenue East
- Hylebos Creek culvert replacement at 12th Street East
- Hylebos Creek floodplain remapping
It is anticipated that the list will be updated in the years ahead, as projects are completed and new projects are added, and that the drainage utility will also fund smaller projects, that may not be formally added to the capital improvements list.
The City of Fife has also provided services to Drainage District 21 through an interlocal agreement with the District that was executed during the summer of 2004, and has provided funding for improvements to the tide gates at the Fife Ditch pump station, through an interlocal agreement with Drainage District 23 and other partners. Drainage District 21 provides main-line creek, ditch, culvert, and tide gate maintenance in southeast Fife and portions of Edgewood, Puyallup, and unincorporated Pierce County. Drainage District 23 provides similar services in north Fife and portions of Milton, Edgewood, and unincorporated Pierce County.
Fife staff has answered many questions from the city’s utility customers regarding the city utility, the drainage districts, and their respective fees and programs. Some frequently asked questions include:
Why do I receive a bill if I don’t have a storm drain on or adjacent to my property?
|Under federal guidelines, the City of Fife is responsible for all water discharged into natural water bodies. This includes “interflow” that is intercepted by storm systems, (“interflow” is water that soaks a short distance into the ground and then moves laterally before returning to the surface.) In fact, many potential pollutants reach surface waters through this path, as the water that soaks into lawns picks up pesticides or fertilizers and carries them to waterways. The city’s storm utility will fund the monitoring of such pollutants. The city’s storm utility will also fund future improvements that may include construction of storm drains near your property. Like many governments and private parties, the City of Fife funds projects through a combination of cash financing and borrowing. It must put aside funds in advance of building projects in order to pay cash for project costs or for a down payment towards borrowed funds.
|I didn’t ask for the service, why do I have to pay for it?|
|The City of Fife has created a storm drainage utility because Federal law requires cities establish programs and funding capabilities to address cleaning and controlling storm water. The City Council set rates that it believed fair and appropriate in order to fund programs that are necessary to meet local needs and comply with federal regulations. The programs will improve the environment and reduce flooding; the specific balance of work, funding, and rates involved compromise, and no compromise can leave every party fully satisfied.
|Part of my storm drainage bill shows a charge for “impervious area.” What does that mean?|
|Impervious area is the area in which runoff does not soak directly soak into the ground. The City of Fife storm rates vary for five classes of property, based on the percentage of impervious area: 0-20, 20-40, etc., so unless a specific property is right at the break in category, a few square feet more or less doesn’t impact the rate.
|I already pay for the drainage district and for Pierce County Surface Water Management on my property tax bill. Why is the City of Fife charging me another fee for the same service?|
|The three levels of government are paying for three parts of the storm drainage system, not for the same system three times. It could be compared to a restaurant and seeing the menu with separate prices for appetizers, entrées, and a desserts. A la carte pricing does not mean that the diner has to pay three times for the same meal, but it does mean that the final bill will show three separate charges for food. With respect to the drainage district assessments, if district 21 or 23 charges a property, it is because the district commissioners have determined that the property receives a benefit from district activities. In most cases, for property that is not directly adjacent to a district-maintained main-line stream or ditch, it is because runoff from the property reaches the stream or ditch through either a private or municipal pipe or ditch or it is determined to reach the ditch through interflow. The City of Fife is charging for water quality monitoring, for funds to construct improvements to the local collection system, and for programs to support the legal mandate of the Federal Clean Water Act. Pierce County Surface Water Management has a variety of programs; the one with the greatest benefit to Fife is the maintenance of the Puyallup River levee system.
|Will this storm drainage billing be indefinite, or is it for a set period of time?|
|The City’s storm drainage billing is not expected to end, though it may be adjusted as projects are completed, environmental regulations change, or inflation reduces the value of revenues. The City of Fife’s rates, which are based are impervious area, do not have the “built in” inflation adjuster of the drainage districts’ rates, which are based on assessed value.
|My property still floods in the winter. Now that the City of Fife is charging me for storm drainage, does that mean that the City will fix my drainage problems?|
|The City of Fife is committed to completing the capital program as described above, and to updating that to address other problems in the future. The City is prohibited from providing improvements on private property unless such improvements benefit the general public. The long range goal is to provide an effective drainage system throughout the City of Fife.
|I have tenants at my property; can I have them pay?|
|Yes, if you have tenants at your property, or if you use a real estate or financial management company, the City of Fife is willing to bill an alternate address. It will be necessary that the property owner fill out and sign a form directing the City of Fife to bill an alternate address and acknowledging that the property owner is responsible for ultimate payment. Please Fife’s Finance Department for more information.|
|How do I pay my utility bill?|
|The Finance Department wants you to know that there are a few standard procedures in paying your utility bills that will make the process more efficient for everyone.