Rio de Flag

The Rio de Flag comes within inches of breaching its banks as water from a monsoon flash flood drains through Flagstaff's Southside in 2010.

Jake Bacon, Arizona Daily Sun

Flagstaff residents may soon see an increase on their utility bills to help fund the city’s portion of Rio de Flag Flood Control Project.

At the Flagstaff City Council’s Tuesday evening work session, Chris Kirkendall, the city’s stormwater manager, presented a proposal for a temporary increase for the city’s stormwater fees.

The city’s stormwater three-year list of capital improvements is projected to cost about $7.9 million, according to Kirkendall’s presentation. On top of the short term projects, the city will be required to pay the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers $1.75 million for the city’s portion of the cost of design work for the flood control project.

Stormwater fees are based on Equivalent Rate Units, which is calculated by the square footage of impervious surface on a property. One Equivalent Rate Unite is 1,500 square feet of impervious surface, which can include buildings, pavement, compacted gravel surfaces, decks, patios, rooftops, sidewalks and other surfaces that prevent or significantly impede the natural infiltration of stormwater into the soil.

Residential properties can be charged for a maximum of five Equivalent Rate Units, but for commercial properties there is no maximum.

The proposed increases would bring the cost to $2.26 per Equivalent Rate Unit per month for 2018, 2019 and 2020. In 2021, the rate would decrease to $1.76. Without the proposed increase, the fee would still increase 10 cents per year during those three years due to built-in rate increases.

For the average residential bill, which includes three Equivalent Rate Units, residents would see a $2.10 increase in 2018, bringing the monthly fees to $6.78.

An average big box store has about 220 Equivalent Rate Units, and with the new increase, the business’ bill would increase about $154 per month in 2018. Local restaurants have an average of 14 units, which would equal a $9.80 increase on the monthly bill.

City Management Services Director Rick Tadder said the city bills customers for approximately 92,000 Equivalent Rate Units monthly. The increase over the three years would generate approximately $1.73 million more in revenue in addition to the $5.39 million that the stormwater fees over the three years would generate without the fee increase.

Tadder said the city’s general fund, which had been the source of some of the Rio de Flag funding in the past, does not have the capacity to continue to fund the flood control project, making the fee increase necessary to cover costs.

The issue will be back in front of the city council for a first vote on December 5 and a second vote on December 19.

The reporter can be reached at cvanek@azdailysun.com or 556-2249.

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Corina Vanek covers city government, city growth and development for the Arizona Daily Sun.

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