Local governments saying no to storm drainage bills
A $13,250 bill to Mesa County from the Grand Valley Drainage District will go unpaid for now as county personnel seek an explanation for the charge.
The district’s board of directors decided in April to begin charging the county, the town of Palisade and the cities of Grand Junction and Fruita a monthly fee starting in June for using the district’s equipment by allowing water that drains off local government-owned buildings, streets, roads, alleys and other land to spill into the district drainage system rather than building and using their own storm water drains.
The fee may be impossible to enforce, though, according to Acting Mesa County Attorney David Frankel.
A letter Frankel drafted to Mesa County commissioners explains that the district can assess taxes and fees, but not on exempt properties. The county is exempt from taxation on real property under state statute. Frankel added that he does not believe county roadways can be charged the same way as property is by the district and, since it would take taxpayer money to pay the bill, Frankel added the fee may violate Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights prohibitions against creating or raising taxes without voter approval.
“I think we have some strong arguments against this charge,” Frankel told commissioners Monday during a discussion of the bill’s validity.
Drainage istrict staff wrote in a rationale for the “urban storm water fee” that local government bodies are unwilling to fund engineering studies to determine how the district can handle an influx of runoff from urban land, including roadways.
The board decided to charge local government entities to raise money for water quality monitoring, operating and maintenance costs in urban parts of the valley, and to study regulations associated with non-agricultural water, among other costs.
The district plans to charge the county $13,250 per month, the city of Grand Junction $11,911 per month, the city of Fruita $4,278 per month and the town of Palisade $354 per month.
Fruita and Grand Junction have notified the district that they do not plan to pay the fee. Palisade Town Administrator Rich Sales said Monday that he plans to discuss the bill with town trustees to decide what to do.
County commissioners on Monday directed Frankel and Julie Constan, an engineer with the Mesa County Public Works Department, to draft a letter to the district asking why it believes it has the authority to bill local governments and how the district determined how much to charge each entity.
District documents show the rate for each entity is based on square footage of “impervious areas” those entities are responsible for, but does not specify which land and roadways are involved in the calculation or whether all of those roads and properties touch parts of the drainage system.
Drainage District Manager Kevin Williams did not return a call for comment Monday afternoon.