Stormwater utility fee discussion continues
The Jamestown City Council is asking for more information regarding possible fee structures for its planned stormwater utility fee.
Jamestown Mayor Dwaine Heinrich told the rest of the City Council Tuesday that they "didn't want to pass it and then find out what is in it."
The stormwater utility fee is intended to be charged to all parcels of land in Jamestown including properties that are exempt from taxes as government owned, nonprofits or for economic development. The fee structure was calculated to raise about $500,000 per year which would be used to cover the operational and maintenance costs of the stormwater system in Jamestown.
"The delay is unfortunate but reality," he said. "We want to take a look at this and do it fairly."
The council is requesting AE2S, consulting engineers on the fee implementation project, to present additional information at the Aug. 22 Public Works Committee meeting. Particularly, AE2S was directed to explore the effects of setting a cap of $200 per month for all parcels, consider a $3 per month maximum for agricultural and vacant parcels and provide a 50 percent reduction for properties owned by governments or educational institutions.
The decision to explore other options came after five property owners in the community expressed concerns about the stormwater utility fee as it would affect their property.
Clarice Liechty, former mayor and property owner in Jamestown, said two of her properties had stormwater retention ponds that slowed the runoff from her property but there was no reduction to the stormwater fee for the infrastructure.
She also questioned the efficiency of city government.
"Where has all the money gone," she said.
Daniel Bieber, California resident who owns 42 acres on the east side of Jamestown, said the fee on his parcel of $111 per month was unjust.
"I'm not using any city services," he said. "I feel I'm being bamboozled. ... I wouldn't pay for anything where I don't get a service."
Bieber said the terrain of his property has a contour forming a basin with "no escaping runoff."
"The whole thing is unusual and unfair at this point," he said.
Bieber speculated the fees would exceed the value of the property over a 10-year period.
Shawn Gaddie, financial group manager for AE2S, said it was not unusual to have questions during the implementation of the stormwater utility fee. He also explained the fee was structured so a highly developed parcel, such as a store or a mall, would pay approximately six times the fee per acre than agricultural or vacant land.
"But the fee can be quite large for larger parcels," he said.
The stormwater utility fee for any parcel was based on the size of the parcel and the use of the property. The largest fee would be paid by the Jamestown Municipal Airport Authority at about $5,200 per month for its 1,400 acres of land.
Second largest would be the state of North Dakota with a fee of $1,860 per month for the 425 acres of the North Dakota State Hospital grounds.
Cavendish Farms would receive the third-largest fee at $862 per month. Cavendish Farms is within Jamestown city limits but located about two miles from the nearest stormwater infrastructure, Heinrich said.
The Jamestown City Council has included $500,000 in revenue from the stormwater utility fee in its 2020 budget that it is attempting to balance.
"There are budget problems," Heinrich said. "This in and of itself does not solve them."