Orem's City Council adopted an increase in storm sewer rates Tuesday night but not without some concern over how it's all going to wash out with credits and exemptions to the new fees.
Each household in the city will now pay twice the $1.50 rate that's been charged for a number of years.Each business or apartment complex and grocery store and church will pay a fee based on the amount of impervious surface it owns.
A typical large grocery store can expect monthly bills of $222; an LDS meetinghouse $117 per month; an elementary school $195 per month; and a large department store a whopping $453 per month.
Convenience stores and banks can expect to start paying $21 a month, said Richard Manning, director of public works for Orem.
"The impact to Alpine School District will be very large, the high schools and the junior high schools have a lot of surface area," said Manning. "But they've been kept abreast of our plans."
The rates actually were recommended by a citizens ad hoc committee that studied the situation for months, said Manning.
That same committee, headed by former Mayor Delance Squire and resident Ted Kelly, suggested four exemptions to the fees: public streets and highways, privately owned streets, railroad rights of way and undeveloped parcels of property.
Manning explained that roads provide a natural conveyance system for storm water, "sort of like above-the-ground pipes." Undeveloped property is one of the best natural detention areas for storm water, he said.
However, Manning said the committee didn't completely agree on credits, and the city isn't ready to offer credits for another year.
Manning said the science isn't developed enough for the city to know what improvements should get credit and what should not.
Storm Drain Committee members recommended that any credits be limited to a maximum amount of 40 percent.
At least two council members were uneasy with putting a rate in place when they had originally promised the possibility of getting some relief through credits.
Councilman Timothy Christensen said new builders won't be able to build toward earning credits and the rates don't reflect any consideration of the absence of a credit plan.
Councilman Stephen Sandstrom said he doesn't understand why a business that pipes all of its storm drainage shouldn't get 100 percent credit, "since the business isn't contributing to the system."
Manning said there are too many unanswered questions about storm and ground water to define what works and what doesn't.
Mayor Stella Welsh added that she recently attended a seminar that addressed storm water concerns and she said, "Nobody has the answers."
The council ultimately approved the new rates with the provision that credits will be retroactive to the date the fees begin to be collected, once public works officials determine who will get the credits.