Mar 19, 2020

Minnesota City Utilities Commission Proposes Storm Water Fee Increases

Duluth, Minnesota residents may soon be paying some bigger utility bills. 


duluth public utilities commission

By a 7-0 vote, the Duluth Public Utilities Commission approved a resolution of intent, laying out a plan to increase the storm water sewer system fee the city charges residents by 11.25% for each of the next six consecutive years.

The monthly storm water fee local homeowners pay would grow from $6.75 to $12.80 by 2026, which is a 90% jump over six years, reported the Duluth News Tribune.

According to Eric Shaffer, Duluth's chief engineer of utilities, the city will need to step up its investment in its aging storm water system or run the risk of increasing failures. 

411 miles of pipe, more than 10,000 catch basins, 5,000 manholes, 2,500 culverts and 100 miles of open ditch must be maintained in Duluth’s storm water system. The city is estimated to need to invest about $4.6 million into its storm water system, compared to the $1.2 million per year it now budgets for the work, reported Duluth News Tribune.

The city expects it will cost about $1 million yet this year to purchase and install six blocks of new storm water infrastructure on East Second Street, which is being rebuilt as St. Luke's reconfigures its medical campus, added Shaffer.

Jim Benning, Duluth's director of public works and utilities, said he and Shaffer had explored whether it might be possible to push back the timeline for Second Street work, given other pressing financial commitments to complete work on Superior Street, Woodland Avenue and Decker Road.

“The answer is 'no,' because the medical district is depending on us to complete these improvements. So, we're kind of between a rock and a hard place on this one,” said Benning.

The resolution calls for public meetings and forums in June to outline the proposed increases and collect public input before taking any final action, likely in September. Recent concerns about COVID-19 and the danger of the virus spreading through public gatherings may push this deadline back, however.

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