Sammamish Council approves utility rate increase to support stormwater fixes

Sammamish City Council approved a utility rate increase for the next 10 years that would help to fund ongoing stormwater-related projects in the city.

At the Oct. 17 meeting, the council passed an amended ordinance for annual rate increases of 19 percent in 2018, 2019 and 2020, with a 2 percent increase for every year following through 2028. The rate increase will go toward putting in more stormwater piping and treatment needed to get water out of public access ways.

The ordinance also includes a $1 million reserve to fund the implementation of the Town Center Regional Stormwater Plan, which was not included in the main increase, and to correct the lake level water quality issues. The reserve will take three years to be fully funded by the rate increase, city staff said at the meeting. The $1 million reserve originally had no defined purpose, but Councilmember Ramiro Valderrama made a motion to amend the ordinance to specify the uses of the money.

“It’s not given a defined purpose, we also want to make sure it is not duplicating what is already part of the stormwater rate increase,” he said. “Designating it to the Town Center or to the lower reaches lake level water quality, giving it defined purpose, avoids the problem of being misunderstood as to what the money is for … We are going to need a lot more money than this $1 million, but it’s a start.”

Valderrama said establishing a reserve without a purpose would be unjust to the citizens paying utility fees, and that understanding how the money would be used would keep the money where it is supposed to be and prevent any misunderstanding of its use.

The amended ordinance saw some resistance from Councilmembers Tom Odell and Kathy Huckabay, who said the definition could put unnecessary restrictions around certain uses for the money, and would use up council time in the event the money was need for an emergency that did not fall within the set definition. They said not having a specific defined use would allow the city to have more flexibility on where to apply the money to fix problems as needed.

However, staff said that a fund for emergency uses was already built into the rate increase the ordinance detailed.

Odell made a motion to remove Valderrama’s defined uses for the reserve fund, but it failed to get a majority vote and Valderrama’s original motion was approved 6-1.