City may raise fees to cover storm damage

By Jane Stebbins, Pilot staff writer January 04, 2013 09:30 pm

 

The Brookings City Council will discuss increasing System Replacement Funds (SRF) by $2.35 a month and asking voters to keep in place for another 10 years a wastewater bond set to expire this year.

It means property owners will pay an additional $2.35 a month to pay for damage inflicted by November’s storm. The bond would set homeowners back between 26 and 39 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation a month, depending how the bond is structured.

The discussion begins at 4 p.m. Jan. 7 at city hall.

 

The Nov. 19 storm unleashed an unprecedented amount of rainfall and resulted in the failure of culverts, created sinkholes in roads and made a sewer lift station slip off a cliffside. A home along North Bank Chetco River Road was swept off its foundation in a landslide, and the cliff edge creeped closer to three along Chetco Cove.

Funds were freed up on an emergency basis from the SRF and general fund reserve accounts, but more is needed to make up the difference to fix what’s left and develop plans for future weather events.

The city and county collected data from affected residents and business owners in November and December to determine if FEMA funds might be available.

Officials hoped that FEMA funds would help with the $5 million in damage to infrastructure throughout the county.

But, while the county met its FEMA threshold criteria of about $72,000, it didn’t meet the state level of $8 million to $9 million, said county emergency services coordinator Don Kendall. In Brookings, damage totalled about $1.7 million, of which $1.4 million still must be funded.

FEMA usually only covers damage done to public infrastructure, and its funds were depleted after Hurricane Sandy ripped through the northeast last fall. Congress approved a $9.7 billion measure to help with additional expenses in that region of the country. 

A sinkhole near Brookings City Hall in 2011 depleted SRF funds, making it that much harder to pay for damages incurred by the latest storm, said City Manager Gary Milliman in a memo to council.

Work that needs to be done includes the remaining reconstruction that wasn’t covered by available funds, creating a new storm drain master plan; conducting a system-wide inspection, rehabilitation work and GIS map; replacing storm drains with larger ones near Napa Auto and Lucky Lane; improving facilities near Memory Lane and Buena Vista Loop; consolidating and increasing the size of the parallel drainage facilities near City Hall and the Curry Medical Center; and making drainage improvements through Azalea Park on Old County Road.

To address the shortfall, Milliman will ask the city council to consider increasing SRFs $2.35 a month for 10 years.

Currently, property owners pay $2.79 each month into each SRF department: sewer, water, stormwater and streets. Those funds are used to improve or replace their respective infrastructure. The bulk of money generated from the proposed increase would pay for repairs and future work related to stormwater infrastructure; some will go to repair the sewer station damaged at the end of Beach Avenue. 

Staff will also ask the council to consider asking voters to keep in place an existing property tax rate of 39 cents per $1,000 assessed valuation first established to fund a wastewater treatment bond and set to expire in 2014.

That tax generates about $250,000 a year and is sufficient to pay off a bond over six years for the current needed work – or at a lesser rate of 26 cents per $1,000 over 10 years. Such a bond is considered a property tax for income tax deduction purposes.

A ballot question probably would not go to the voters until November, Milliman said, as costs for the stormwater master plan and system-wide inspection won’t be known in time for a May election.

He also recommends the remaining balance of the restoration financing funded through SRF increase be rolled into the bond and that the SRF be scaled back to its current level upon sale of those bonds.

Voters could approve a measure that would have a provision that payments would not begin until the current bond is paid off in December.