Residents will likely pay more to control flooding and to have their trash picked up beginning next month.
The City Council has all but formally voted to raise the monthly storm-water service fee 57 cents and the monthly garbage collection fee 50 cents as part of the 1998-99 city budget.The council is scheduled to adopt a $90 million budget June 16. It goes into effect July 1. Council members have had little public discussion about raising the rates.
Officials say Provo needs to increase the $2.43 monthly storm-drain fee to $3 this year and to $3.50 over the next three years to fund a series of long-planned improvement projects. The city has an estimated $25 million worth of pipes, drains and detention basins to build, said Greg Beckstrom, director of the Provo Storm Water Service District.
The Provo River and its tributaries threaten to inundate sections of the city with water each spring. Runoff from east-side mountains routinely brings excess water to southeast and southwest Provo. Flooded intersections and basements aren't uncommon during heavy rainstorms like the ones that swept through the city Thursday.
Councilman David Rail said he favors the increase because the additional revenue will allow the city to finish the improvements and eliminate the risk of flooding in about 11 years rather than 16 to 18 years.
Another council member sees the higher storm-drain rate as a necessary evil.
"I'm always hesitant to raise fees for things because of our families that are on fixed incomes," said Council Chairman Greg Hudnall. But "we've got to do something to combat what's going on."
Councilwoman Shari Holweg said she was surprised to see the increase incorporated into the storm water district's budget without adequate discussion. She said she hasn't made up her mind on the issue and intends to call for public hearings before the council votes. Holweg opposed the fee when it was imposed six years ago, favoring a bond instead.
Holweg, however, doesn't have as much of a problem raising the garbage collection fee from $9.50 to $10 per month. "I can see it on the garbage more than anything else," she said.
Dave Gunn, public services director, said the landfill charges the city more to dump refuse and the cost must be passed on to residents. The higher tipping fee imposed last summer cost Provo an additional $5,400 per month, he said.
"I've been eating that for a year now. I need a rate increase to compensate for that," he said.
Again, Hudnall said he hates to see the fee jump, but the costs for services are going up.
Rail said he has no problem with the higher rate.
"It is an enterprise fund. The idea is for it to pay for itself," he said.