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Stormwater skunk

Albany city crews regularly find debris, sediment and sometimes animals in stormwater pipes. (This skunk sprayed the camera, according to the city.)

Stormwater service charges could go up 3 percent starting March 1 if members of the Albany City Council vote to approve a resolution to that effect later this month.

Councilors agreed during a work session Monday to have city staff prepare the rate resolution for a public hearing to be held at the Feb. 28 meeting of the council. 

In a separate action, councilors voted 5-1, with Rich Kellum dissenting, to have a resolution prepared for this Wednesday's meeting that would place a 5-cent-per-gallon gas tax request on the May ballot to help fund street repairs.

The city is gathering responses to a community survey, which closes Feb. 28, that asks residents, among other things, how they want to fund road fixes. 

"We don't have a lot of options when it comes to streets. This (gas tax) is one thing we're looking at," Mayor Sharon Konopa said.

Of the 1,062 survey responses received so far, only about 30 percent say the roads are in poor condition, said Jorge Salinas, assistant city manager. The rest have said roads are fair to good.

But Konopa said she hears continual complaints and wants to at least ask the question. 

"If they don't think the streets are bad enough, they'll vote no," she said. 

The 2018 Albany Community Survey is available through Feb. 28 in both English and Spanish on the city's website, www.cityofalbany.net. Results will be posted at cityofalbany.net/2018survey.

Wednesday's meeting starts at 7:15 p.m. in the council chambers, 333 Broadalbin St. S.W.

The public hearing on stormwater service charges will be part of the Feb. 28 meeting. Councilors said they plan to consider a resolution that would hike the current charges by 3 percent starting March 1.

The effect on a single family residential customer would be about 20 cents per month on top of his or her current stormwater service charge bill, said Jeff Blaine, Public Works Engineering and Community Development director.

If the council approves such a charge, it would bring in about $52,500 per year.

The 3 percent decision is far below the recommendation staff members originally proposed, which was 13 percent per year. Residents would have started by paying about 87 cents more for stormwater service charges for the first year, or about $7.61 per month.

Based on that total, by the end of 10 years, the city would be receiving $2.7 million annually: $2 million to address failing pipes, $300,000 for regulatory compliance and $400,000 for stormwater improvements related to street projects. 

Even that plan was aiming low, Blaine told councilors. Approximately 50 percent of the city's piped stormwater system had been inspected and assigned a condition rating to date, and 8 miles of pipe has been identified as either failed or anticipated to fail in the next 10 years.

In addition, Albany also is facing a requirement, at some point, to get a stormwater discharge permit from the Department of Environmental Quality. City engineer Mark Yeager told councilors even the best-case scenario could cost Albany $900,000 per year — and the draft permit currently under discussion would cost an annual average of $1.6 million.

But councilors said they preferred to start small while working to educate residents about the need to increase the charge.

"It's a big, big deal, and the need is large. I got all the parts and pieces, but the general citizen doesn't," Councilor Bill Coburn said. 

"I don't think there's an issue about what the needs are," Coburn went on. "The question is, how would you, Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer, like to pay for it?" 

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