By Jim Shilander
The City Council also voted Tuesday to hold an election by mail later this year for renewal of the city’s clean ocean fee, while including the first increase in the fee’s history as part of the vote.
The fee has been in place since 2002 with funds being used to support measures to mitigate the effects of urban runoff, including efforts to clean up Poche Beach, and assist city departments in their own clean water efforts. The fee was last renewed in 2007, with 75 percent approval. The council identified renewal of the fee as one of its strategic priorities for the year earlier this spring.
Assistant City Engineer Tom Bonigut said costs associated with the program had increased to the point where the current fee amount ($5.02 per month for single family residences on public streets and $4.39 for private streets) would not be sufficient to maintain the current programs without going into deficits within three fiscal years. The increased fee proposal (up to $6.23 per month for single family residences on a public street) would keep the program at its current levels for another 6.5 years. The fee is higher for residences on public streets due to participation in the city’s street sweeping.
Councilman Tim Brown voiced concern about whether voters would approve the increase, given the rise in costs of other utilities.
“I’d hate for people to see it as unwarranted,” Brown said.
Bonigut said “there were a lot of good things to share” about the progress being made at Poche and other areas as a result of the program. He also noted that the increased fee was still below what would have been in place had the program increased at the rate of inflation since 2002. Efforts have also been made to reduce the costs associated with the program, including reducing administrative costs.
The fee renewal received unanimous support from the council. Mayor Bob Baker and other council members said the results of the program justified work done over the past decade and asked voters to renew the fee.
“We are vehemently in support of this,” Baker said. “As a whole we think this a wonderful idea.”
A public hearing on the proposed increase is scheduled for the council’s October 15 meeting. Official ballots are slated to be sent to property owners 10 days later.