The mayor of Leavenworth proposed a review of the city’s stormwater maintenance fees. But he was unable to obtain a consensus from his fellow city commissioners in order to move forward with the idea.
Mayor Mike Griswold discussed the proposal Tuesday during a study session of the Leavenworth City Commission.
The city collects annual stormwater management fees from property owners. Money collected from the fees are used to pay for repairs and improvements to the city’s stormwater system, which carries rainwater away from buildings and roads. The water is channeled into creeks and watershed areas.
The city collects about $1.3 million from the fees each year.
Individual fees, which were approved in 2018, range from $84 for a single family home to up to $3,125 for large a industrial building.
Commissioners heard complaints about the fees last year. And they made a change to the fee charged per each unit in apartment buildings.
Griswold said commissioners also had agreed to discuss the entire fee schedule at some point, but this meeting has never occurred.
Commissioners heard comments regarding the fees from two audience members during Tuesday’s meeting.
Former City Commissioner Phil Urban said he supports having a stormwater fee, but he does not necessarily feel the existing fee structure is fair.
“Nobody wants to pay a fee, but we know we have to,” he said.
David Drake argued the fees are too high. He suggested the best way to reduce the fees is to devote money from other existing revenues to help pay for the stormwater management program.
Griswold proposed two options, which he reviewed Tuesday.
One option called for the city manager and other staff members to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the fee structure. Griswold said this process should include public input through the use of a focus group.
The second option called for the formation of a committee or advisory board to work on the issue.
Griswold said he believed the first option was the best way to proceed.
Commissioner Camalla Leonhard was not a member of the City Commission when the fee structure was instituted. But she noted that commissioners at the time had conducted multiple public meetings on the issue.
“It was an 18-month process,” she said.
She argued the program is going well.
“I do not want to delve into this anymore,” she said.
Leonhard expressed concern that if commissioners look into changing the fee structure, at least some people will end up paying more.
Commissioner Jermaine Wilson said he believes in the program, and he expressed concern about “ripping off the Band-Aid again.”
He said one possible problem he does see in the program is the fact that owners of small homes are charged the same amount as owners of large houses.
Commissioner Mark Preisinger said he does not want to change the fee structure.
“Every solution comes with a new problem,” he said.
He said commissioners did entertain suggestions from the public when they were putting together the program.
“All of our meetings were in public,” he said. “We never met in secret.”
He said commissioners looked at other possible methods for calculating the fees. He said commissioners decided they wanted something simple that everyone can understand.
“We put a great amount of study in this,” he said.
Mayor Pro-Tem Nancy Bauder said she would like to wait a couple of years to see how the program goes.
“We just started billing,” she said.
She said an advisory group may be something commissioners want to consider in the future.
Griswold said there was not a consensus to move forward with his proposal.
“That is democracy in action,” he said.