Steamboat City Council begins exploring stormwater utility fee
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Steamboat Springs City Council is exploring a stormwater utility fee that would be charged to city residents and used to cover costs of stormwater management, such as water quality and drainage.
As the city’s infrastructure grows older and federal and state governments increase their standards for environment and watershed health, the city’s general fund has faced a significant strain in trying to keep up, Steamboat Water Resourced Manager Kelly Romero-Heaney and Steamboat Public Works Director Jon Snyder told council members Tuesday.
“Providing these services can be costly, and it is common for cities and towns in Colorado to finance these expenses through a user fee based on storm water utility,” Romero-Heaney said.
The idea is still under consideration, but if council chose to move forward, Steamboat residents would pay a small fee that would go toward protecting water quality. While an exact amount has not been decided yet, Romero-Heaney said the fee would be less than what residents currently pay for water and sewer bills. Aspen and Silverthorne recently enacted a storm water utility fee, and Romero-Heaney said the city would likely look to those communities for guidance.
Tuesday was the first time council members discussed such a move, and their first step would be to hire a consultant to study whether or not the idea is feasible in Steamboat.
“By no means is this set in stone,” Romero-Heaney said in an interview. “The reason we’re starting the discussion early is because throughout this process, it’s so important that the city is transparent and that we provide a lot of opportunity for public engagement.”
City staff estimated the consultant would cost between $50,000 and $100,000, which could either be included in the 2022 budget proposal, or if the council would like to move sooner, could be added as a supplemental ordinance to the 2021 budget.
While council members expressed support for potentially doing the study, most said they did not want to spend money on it until the city receive funding from the federal government, which City Manager Gary Suiter said could be months from now.
“I’m not comfortable spending money on consultants when we don’t really know how were going to get this money from the federal government,” said council member Heather Sloop.
Most of the council’s discussion centered around funds to conduct the study and touched very little on enacting the actual fee, but some council members said such a measure seemed sensible, especially when compared to other forms of taxes the city has discussed.
“Looking at all the taxing mechanisms that have been presented and not understanding some of them, this seems like it’s one of the easier decisions that we should enact to help curb the cost of what it takes to run the city,” said council member Michael Buccino. “This is a very easy mechanism to just generate money. It can be very minimal, but it has a big impact.”
Others said the first priority is figuring out clear answers as to how much residents would pay, which the consultant would be tasked with figuring out.
“I would like to have some more clarity on how much our citizens would pay,” said council member Lisel Petis. “I’m just not ready to pay a consultant to do this yet.”
Council members tabled the discussion until their July work session.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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