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Missoula storm water utility rates increase January 1

The Missoula City Council on Monday night approved an increase in Missoula storm water utility service fees for city property owners beginning next year.

A monthly single-family residential bill will increase to $4.21– or about $3.46 higher per month than the current rate.

Commercial property bills will vary widely, depending on property type and other factors.

The increase will improve the discharge of storm water quality to the city aquifer and local waterways.

Dennis Bowman, interim public works director, said the increase will also help the city recover the cost of labor, equipment, materials, and other expenses to construct, reconstruct and maintain the storm water infrastructure.

The fee increase will also help the city comply with state and federal storm water regulations, including compliance with the federal Clean Water Act.

“I don’t think anybody disputes the community benefit of this,” said council member John DiBari.

Mayor John Engen said it’s important to increase the rates now and make the improvements as soon as possible to maintain quality.

In flat rates, the council approved a regulatory compliance fee of $27.97, an administrative fee of $20.03 and a total storm water yearly service charge of $48.

The new rates go into effect on Jan. 1.

Bowman said the feedback he received concerning the rate hikes included elderly folks’ on fixed incomes and the high cost of living in Missoula. But he assured the council that the increase will pay for much-needed services.

“The money collected from the resident stays within the department,” said Dennis Bowman, interim public works director. “It doesn’t go to the tax base, it doesn’t go to the general fund, it doesn’t go to any other department. It stays strictly in the department.”

Previously, the utility’s 2019 yearly temporary rates were $23 for commercial properties and $9 for residential properties.

A FCS Group study on Missoula storm water utilities determined several factors, stating that storm water runoff is the leading cause of pollution in Montana. It noted that 60-plus miles of pipe discharge storm water to one of five water bodies and most of the city’s water is discharged to the city aquifer by way of 6,000 wells.

Contact Business Reporter Renata Birkenbuel at 406-565-0013 and renatab@missoulacurrent.com.