Newrule fines stormwater violators

Published on Thu, Apr 26, 2007 by ara Nelson

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New rule fines stormwater violators

By Tara Nelson

Blaine residents whose storm water systems discharge into the city sewer system could be faced with fines of up to $120 per month if they fail to make recommended improvements, Blaine City Council decided this week.

In a regular meeting Monday, council members voted 7-0 to approve an ordinance that would permit officials to charge triple the monthly service fee to those, who after written notice, fail to reroute their storm water into the proper system.

Blaine Public Works director Steve Banham said the measure was important to saving the city – and other ratepayers – a huge expense from having to pay to treat storm water through the city’s wastewater treatment facility.

Banham said while he couldn’t give an estimate to the dollar amount the city spends treating diluted wastewater, he said if the city had no inflow and infiltration, or water that should not be in the wastewater system, the city would not have had to build the new wastewater treatment facility planned for Marine Drive.

“That whole component quadruples the amount of water we need to treat during heavy rain events,” he said. “What we want to do is give people a financial incentive to get out there and fix it. This lets them know if you delay, you’ll pay.”

Banham, however, added that residents, who fix the problem after being fined would get half of their money back after correcting the problem. He also said the city will offer residents the option of an installment plan if they can’t afford to pay upfront to fix the problem.
City officials plan to use camera equipment and smoke testing in the city’s sewers to identify property owners that illegally use the sanitary system for storm water drainage. After that, residents will be given written notice and 60 days to correct the problem, he said.

“Our intent is not to go out and start billing a bunch of people,” he said. “We plan on giving people time to correct this.”

Unified cemetery fees
The measure also increases storm water and water utility connection fees by 3.7 percent to adjust for cost-of-living increases, reduces fireline costs by two-thirds and creates a unified fee schedule for use of the city’s park facilities and cemetery.

Banham said because the city currently has two cemetery fee schedules for residents and non-residents, it created an unusual “catch-22” for individuals who lived in Blaine for most of their lives and wanted to be buried here.

“You’d have someone who had lived in the community for most of their lives, and they would go to a retirement center or someplace within the county but not in Blaine, and then they’d pass away and want to be buried in Blaine, so it just seemed fair to eliminate that,” he said.

Blaine finance director Meredith Riley said as a result, the city has raised overall cemetery rates by $50 to compensate for the forgone revenue.

Reduced fireline rates
The measure would also reduce the monthly rates for firelines, or water lines dedicated for sprinkler and firefighting purposes, after some residents expressed concerns that rates were too high.

Although fireline service rates vary by meter size, a two-inch meter, for example, would be reduced to $4.59 from $13.47, he said.

He also said reducing monthly rates for firelines could provide an incentive for individuals to install more sprinkler systems.

“We really didn’t want any disincentive in our rates to people putting in firelines because it’s a good thing,” he said.