LINO LAKES — Although the topic has come up a couple of times in the past and then gone down the drain, this time it is likely to stick. The city of Lino Lakes is one step closer to officially establishing a stormwater utility.
The City Council authorized WSB to prepare a stormwater utility feasibility report back in January. The purpose of the utility would be to establish a more equitable and dependable funding source to meet stormwater permit requirements and maintenance activities within city boundaries.
Bob Barth, of WSB, explained that the city of Lino Lakes has actually endeavored to establish a stormwater utility twice before, back in 2006 and again in 2010.
This time around, the report recommended the city establish quarterly fees of $12 per parcel for residential parcels and $175/acre of impervious surface for commercial, industrial and institutional uses. The per-acre charge would also apply to multifamily residential buildings. The proposed fees are based on an estimated stormwater annual operating budget of $579,200. Stormwater management costs, which are currently included in the city’s operating budget, would be shifted to the new utility.
“It’s always been a pressing matter …” Barth said. “Lino Lakes is a bit of a newer community, but you are at a point now where some of the infrastructure you placed in the ground at the beginning is probably reaching the middle of its useful life, so having a funding mechanism to replace and rehabilitate that is important.”
The City Council held a public reading for the first reading of an ordinance that would establish the stormwater utility Aug. 9.
Resident John Stoulil had questions about how the topic came up in the first place. “Is this mandated by the state? How did this all of a sudden come up? I understand you want to update things, but did some agency say you’ve got to get this program going and initiate this fee? I’m a little confused where this started,” he said.
Community Development Director Michael Grochala explained that a stormwater utility has been a provision of state law for several years, and specific requirements from federal mandates have been growing since the early 2000s.
“We are going through and inspecting 20% of all of our infrastructure, annually inspecting our ponds; those requirements have continued to grow over time … Now we are getting to a point where we need to look at a dedicated funding source for stormwater to take care of those improvements,” he said.
The resident then told the council they should call it a tax increase, rather than a fee.
Resident Mike Settimi said, “I live on one of these ponds and I’ve never seen a Lino Lakes truck out there doing anything with it. We have had beavers that cut trees down and we have had neighbors out there in waders cleaning out the pathway between the pond and the lake.”
Grochala explained that that specific pond may be privately owned, say, by a homeowners association, but agreed to look into the issue further.
Scott Fox provided comments of support as a longtime resident. He noted that he has worked for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s municipal stormwater program for 35 years. “Western Kentucky University conducts a reoccurring survey of stormwater utilities nationwide … There
are currently 204 communities in Minnesota that have a stormwater utility,” he said. “I know that the city has been struggling with this issue for a number of years, but moving forward, I think it is something the city needs to adopt and move forward with.”
He added, “I’ve lived here for 20 years. I really enjoy this community, and I want to see it grow, but I also want to see this community protect its water resources.”
Mayor Rob Rafferty commented, “We are putting X amount of dollars at this point and yet at the same time we are losing ground and we are not actually addressing as much as we should.
It’s the same thing we have with roads … It is a never-ending task, but we have to continue to put things in place so that we are addressing that.”
The council will hold the second reading of the ordinance establishing a stormwater utility at its Aug. 23 meeting.
Lead Editor Shannon Granholm can be reached at 651-407-1227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.