Evaluating the numbers: Mount Angel raises infrastructure fees

July 2015 Posted in News

By Kristine Thomas

Mount Angel City Manager Eileen Stein knows the key to get a city council to raise a rate, fee or tax is for her to do her homework and present the facts.

The facts are Mount Angel’s system development fees are the lowest in the county by far. And they haven’t been adjusted for more than a decade.

On July 1, Mount Angel system development fees will go from $5,049 to $8,188, an increase of 62 percent to help pay for water, sewer, storm, transportation and parks. But though the percentage increase is high, it still doesn’t bring fees in line with costs, needs, or neighboring communities. The council approved a second step, and fees will go up again on July 1, 2016 to $11,326.

“The last time the city council raised its system development charges was in the 1990s,” Stein explained.

System development fees pay for improvements to the city’s infrastruce, she said. In 2013 there was just one building permit issued. So far this year, Stein said eight new homes are scheduled to be built.

“Our pace of development has really increased,” she said. “There are plans for the third phase of the Maryhill Park development and an upcoming annexation that needs approval for a retirement housing development near The Towers.”

Stein added she is noticing more infill building on vacant city lots.

She said she did an analysis of all the financial conditions of all the major operating funds and where investments need to take place. Stein also is looking at how the city will pay for updates and repairs to its sewer and water systems.

“We may look into raising water and sewer rates to provide the revenue we need to upkeep the city’s infrastructure,” she said.

One question she often hears is why don’t property taxes provide the revenue needed for infrarasture projects.

“In Mount Angel, we receive $650,000 a year in property taxes. There are many properties in our city that are off the tax roll,” she said. “The police department’s budget is $900,000 a fiscal year. Our tax revenue doesn’t even pay for the police department.”

By analyzing the city budgets and future financial picture, she wants to be able to make sound recommendations to the council on what it should consider for the city’s long-term financial sustainability.

“We are recommending forming an advisory committee to look at our city’s street, sewer and water systems,” she said.

Mount Angel’s water situation

Mount Angel’s water comes from grounds wells, including two wells on private property.

The city of Mount Angel’s water is supplied to the city’s storage facilities and distribution system from three city operated groundwater wells. The wells produce water yearround, The wells are the city’s sole water supply source.

Well Nos. 5, 6 and 7 have an existing combined production capacity of about 2.69 million gallons per day.

Several city wells – old well and well Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 4 – have been abandoned or taken out of service due to production capacity and water quality issues.

Mount Angel’s water system contains two reservoirs with a total combine storage capacity of approximately 1.3 million gallons. Water from all three groundwater wells is pumped into the distribution system and conveyed to both reservoirs.

Stein said more than running out of water, the city of Mount Angel is concerned about water quality.

While the water is safe to drink and meets all state and federal drinking requirements, there are concerns about taste and look of the water.

At this time there is no plan for rationing being considered.

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