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HASSO HERING

A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Albany may kill rainwater law, for now

Written May 20th, 2016 by Hasso Hering

stormwater

Albany’s new law setting up a storm water or rain tax utility is on the city council’s Monday work session agenda to be repealed. But even if it is repealed, it likely won’t be gone forever or for long.

The council adopted the ordinance in April. Tom Cordier, a retired resident of North Albany, promptly filed a referendum petition in hopes of forcing an election on the measure. He has gone to court to challenge the ballot title written for the measure by the city attorney’s office.

The ordinance creates the authority for collecting a fee from property owners to pay for repairing and operating the city’s storm drains, which all eventually take rainwater to the Willamette River. But the council plans to keep working on the details of the rainwater fee itself and then adopt the rate schedule in the fall.

Once there’s a pending ballot measure, under state law city employees can get in trouble for seemingly arguing for or against it. So, the repeal proposal reasons, it’s better to repeal the ordinance. Repeal makes the referendum moot because there’s nothing to refer, and this allows city staffers to freely discuss the rain tax details with the council and anyone else.

I asked Mayor Sharon Konopa about this late Friday. She told me by email: “Staff said since Cordier is wanting to stop the storm water utility by a petition initiative, we might as well repeal the ordinance until the fee is set and adopt both at the same time.”

Repeal now would save Cordier the trouble of trying to collect at least 2,900 signatures to get the ordinance on the ballot, but he would have to do so anyway later if he still wants an election once the rates are set.

Storm water work now is paid from the sewer and street funds. The city could continue to do so and raise sewer rates accordingly to meet any new requirements. But that would hit homeowners disproportionately hard because sewer charges are based on water consumption, while the rain tax would be based on the size of rain-collecting surfaces such as parking lots and roofs.

As it happens, also on Monday and not directly related to the storm water utility, the council will consider a sewer rate hike, which the city staff recommends be 3 percent.  The Albany council’s Monday work session will be held in the City Hall council chambers starting at 4 p.m. (hh)



12 responses to “Albany may kill rainwater law, for now”

  1. tom cordier says:

    Overlooked issue:
    State law for Referendum petitions(RP) for Cities allows only 10 days to collect signatures of 10% of registered voters after the Ordinance is passed. Ballot title and signature sheets and signature gathering happens concurrently.

    The current generous City code trumps the state 10day rule by offering 30days to file a Ref Pet after the Ordinance is passed–and an additional 90 days to collect the 10% signatures.
    That city code (not city Charter) can be changed by 4 council votes. Mr. Delapoer stated in front of me, Skeet Arasmith and Sean Kidd that before Jim retires he will write an amendment to the city code to look like the State language.
    That timing change would be impossible to meet.

    Is the retraction of the Ordinance followed by code change to eliminate any possibility of an effective RP???
    Will the new Ordinance be labeled an emergency which would not allow RP’S.
    I don’t trust them at all.
    tc

    • hj.anony1 says:

      Good evening.

      tc, you write “… Mr. Delapoer stated in front of me, Skeet Arasmith and Sean Kidd that before Jim retires he will write an amendment to the city code to look like …”

      Meaning just like that …*puff* … legal language mirrors the State of Oregon. Civics are not taught in school anymore. You are right. And my recollection is fading but I’m pretty sure that statement was ?

      That aside, you seem like an interesting person to chat over a drink. Coffee sometime.

  2. Jim Engel says:

    My friends live just outside of Phoenix but have its utilities. So tell me why their monthly water/sewer bill is almost 1/3rd less what ours is here in Albany??!! Betcha ‘ole Bernie will fix that when everything is “free” ;-)…JE

    • GregB says:

      Good question Jim. We lived in Tucson, AZ for a number of years. As I remember, water was cheeper there than here in Albany. We certainly did not have a river (or canal) flowing thru town down there like Albany does. On the positive side for Albany water though, you can drink it right out of the tap. Down there, no.

    • Shawn Dawson says:

      This is the same down in California.

      Last year, during the CA drought, my friend who lives in the Bay Area was complaining about his water rates. I also read a newspaper article about it in a newspaper. The take away was that they had tiered rates, with the 3rd tier being very expensive (by their standards). However, this 3rd tier was the same rate as our water here in Albany,

      So I brought my water utility bill down with me (I travel there for work), and compared it to my friend’s to confirm. Yep, even during their drought, their water was far cheaper than ours, and they were bitterly complaining when they were asked to pay the same rate as Albany for their 3rd block of water.

      Water pricing is not about the cost of the natural resource, but is rather about the cost of delivery. An aging but workable infrastructure, that is paid off (as is the case in much of California) costs less than a new water plant on our local river.

      In extreme cases, such as in the west coast drought these past years, viewing water from a strictly financial point of view would fail as surely as the old commons. That is, there are some who argued in California (as I read in newspapers) that the various government agencies that delivered water in California were required, by law, to only charge what it costs to deliver the water. They attempted to sue the government on these grounds, arguing that they should have all the cheap water they wanted — regardless of the fact that ground water and reservoirs were seriously depleted.

      I do not know if our water prices in Albany are too high, too low, or just right. I think there is no such answer. It’s relative. We take the cost and quality of water for granted, and can not live with out it. I do hope that Albany has a plan to maintain water delivery pipes so that the quality is good for the next century. I’d hate to see what has happened in other localities happen here.

      -Shawn

  3. Bob Woods says:

    Relax folks. Cordier is old. Soon his shenanigans will pass and the taxpayers money won’t be flushed down the toilet because of his antics.

    • Peggy Richner says:

      I rarely agree with Bob Woods, nor do I this time. I’m pretty sure Mr. Cordier cares more for taxpayers’ interests than Mr. Woods ever has. Has Woods ever seen a tax he didn’t like?

  4. Bill Kapaun says:

    Let’s just promise to flush 3% less and we don’t need a rate increase.
    My Social Security increases for the last 3 years were 1.7%, 1.7% and 0%.
    What were the City’s?

    • Shawn Dawson says:

      Agreed. This is the problem with the built-in 3% rise in taxes — property and otherwise. Retired folks on a fixed income do not have such increases built in to their income stream, and every year the bigger bite makes them poorer.

      I would support a tax overhaul, were folks past a certain age (70 say, or even 72) are exempt from most taxes. Folks this age can not work, and should be given a break.

      -Shawn

  5. Veronica Taylor says:

    I would like to see the Wastewater Treatment Plant smell problem go away before you raise the rates anymore. I live across the street and I put up with the smell quite often. I have called them several times and they say they are working on it. We never had the smells before they Revamped it. I seems like it has manly gotten worse not better.

  6. GregB says:

    WOW, this is not the Oregon I grew up in. Things have changed so much in 68 years. And, it appears to me, it is changing even faster now days. Indoctrinate and brain wash the children and you(government) have power over them when they become adults. Yes, round em up like the sheep picture above.

    • GregB says:

      These comments by me were about the climate change article not the rainwater tax. My mistake.

 

 
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