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The City Journals

Council majority votes no on storm water utility fee

Oct 04, 2018 04:15PM ● By Jana Klopsch

Maxwell Lane is a street of concern for certain council members and residents due to wear and tear caused by storm water. (Holly Vasic/City Journals)

By Holly Vasic | [email protected]

An ordinance of the South Salt Lake City Council to create storm water utility, implement storm water user fees, establish a storm water enterprise fund and to establish a storm water user fee rate was denied in a majority vote on Sept. 19.

South Salt Lake City Council Member of District 3 Sharla Bynum said, prior to the motion being made, “If we don’t vote for this tonight we are failing our residents.” She also brought up Maxwell Lane, a street she represents in her district, that has experienced wear and tear from storm water. 

District 4 Council Member Portia Mila, echoed Bynum’s concerns. “There is multiple Maxwell Lanes around,” said Mila. 

After a Bynum motion, the vote failed 3-4 with Bynum, Mila and Council Member Ray deWolfe voting in favor of the storm water fee.

deWolfe agreed it may not be the most popular vote. “Is it unpopular? Yes. Is it needed? Yes,” he said. 

The vote for the ordinance to consolidate a fee schedule, thus establishing a storm water user fee rate, that immediately followed reflected the implementation of the storm water fee and enterprise fund. As of now, no storm water utility fee, storm water enterprise fund, storm water fee schedule, or storm water fee rate will be implemented.

In attendance at the Sept. 19 council meeting was the Storm Water Section Manager for the Utah Division of Water Quality Jeanne Riley. Prior to the vote taking place she spoke to the council explaining that an audit done in 2016 by the Utah Division of Water Quality had shown the city of South Salt Lake having multiple compliance issues. At-large Council Member Mark Kindred asked, “If this does not pass does this result in an automatic fine from (Utah Division of) Water Quality?” Riley responded, “No.” 

She explained South Salt Lake holds a permit with the Division of Water Quality. “The city is required to fund the necessary resources to be in compliance with that permit,” Riley said. “The requirement with us is compliance with the permit,” which the city has worked to bring those water quality issues into compliance over the past two years. 

Riley said most cities, like South Salt Lake, have a storm water utility fee to fund such operations. At this time, the goal is to bring South Salt Lake into compliance with the six minimum control measures that cover issues such as new construction, which had problems across the board in 2016. Though there has been improvement, enforcement could escalate if the division feels progress isn’t being made. 

“There is still work to be done,” Riley said. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which oversees the Division of Water Quality, can step in if needed, though it has not happened at this level, yet. 

Residents who spoke at the council meeting were mixed about being charged extra money for storm water that has no place to go. Most agreed that something needed to be put in place, especially during the winter when the snow needs somewhere to melt.  

Despite the ordinances regarding the storm water utility fee failing, the issue at hand is not over yet and further discussion is expected by the council.