Duluth city councilor looks to lighten fee’s burden on businessesA Duluth city councilor has offered an alternative for street lighting fees that puts less of the onus on commercial customers than the plan recently proposed by city administration.
By: Peter Passi, Duluth News Tribune
A Duluth city councilor has offered an alternative for street lighting fees that puts less of the onus on commercial customers than the plan recently proposed by city administration.
But the new proposal by Councilor Dan Hartman also involves an increase for residential customers instead of the slight decrease proposed by the administration. Hartman’s plan probably will be discussed when the City Council meets for an agenda session tonight.
“I think it’s a fairer way of sharing the cost. Maybe it’s not the fairest, but I think it’s a good compromise,” Hartman said.
Where the city administration would have cut the monthly street lighting utility fee paid by residents by 10 cents per month, Hartman would increase monthly residential streetlight bills by $2.15, from the current level of $3.50 to $5.65.
Hartman characterized the residential increase as “pretty moderate, in the scheme of things.”
Businesses would be asked to take a bigger hit if Hartman has his way, but it wouldn’t be as expensive as the solution proposed by city administrators. At present, both residential and business customers pay the same $3.50 monthly service fee.
Based on the amount of impervious surface they control, commercial and business entities would experience monthly increases ranging from $5 to $47.50 under Hartman’s proposal.
The city has proposed commercial/business entities pay anywhere from an extra $13.50 to $98.50 per month.
Both Hartman’s proposal and the one put forward by the city would double total collections from the street light utility fee, bringing that sum to about $2.5 million. The fees are supposed to cover the cost of operating, maintaining and upgrading the city’s streetlights, including traffic signals. Duluth has more than 7,000 streetlights and traffic lights at about 100 intersections.
Dave Montgomery, Duluth’s chief administrative officer, reports the streetlight fund is running in the red.
Hartman said he heard from a number of business constituents who felt unfairly singled out by the city’s initial proposal.
“People could say here’s another example of the city putting all the cost on the backs of businesses,” he said.
In fact, the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce already was working on its own alternative proposal that also calls for a more equitable fee distribution between business and residential customers.
Chamber President and CEO David Ross said increasing fees is hard on both residents and businesses.
“But to have it solely shouldered by business we thought was unfair,” Ross said, calling the city’s plan “flawed,” “onerous” and “disproportionate.”
Learning of Hartman’s proposal Wednesday night, Ross said it sounds similar to theirs.
“I applaud it,” he said.