Two Harbors residents can expect to pay higher stormwater utility fees beginning this summer.
During its Monday, March 19, meeting, the Two Harbors City Council unanimously approved increasing the monthly stormwater fees from $2 to $4 in an effort to offset assessment fees for underground utilities during the upcoming streets and alleys improvement project. The increase is effective June 1.
The cost of new stormwater utilities for the 2018 street improvement project totals $233,580, according to the agenda item summary.
"This is something that we're really pushing to get the infrastructure fixed," Mayor Chris Swanson said.
The rate increase is part of several efforts by the City to reduce assessments for property owners living along the eight streets and alleys slated for repair this summer. The City is also hoping to add a half-percent sales tax with revenues going toward updating streets, alleys and underground infrastructure, but that must first be approved by the state Legislature and pass a citywide referendum.
"In the small communities, there is no one fund that is going to solve the problem that we're faced with," Swanson said. "We have to be willing to take little bites from a lot of different places to make up the money we're going to have to spend on this."
Council President Miles Woodruff said he's heard residents complain about the rising utility fees.
"I just think people are getting kind of upset," he said.
The rate is charged per unit, meaning businesses will likely have more than one unit, especially if their parking lots cover wide areas, while most homes will just have one.
The stormwater fee was last increased in 2013.
Similar to the proposed half-percent sales tax, the Council justified the increase in stormwater fees as spreading the cost for road improvements on the entire community instead of just people living on the affected road.
"In our finance committee discussions about it and kind of walking through the CIP (capital improvement plan), we feel that stormwater wasn't just a neighborhood thing - it was a citywide issue," City Council Vice President Cathy Erickson said. "By improving the stormwater, the whole city benefits from it."