City Council to talk sidewalk fee again
By JAYSON JACOBY
Baker City Herald
Four months after the City Council came close to imposing a monthly fee on residents and businesses to raise money for repairing rough sidewalks and building new ones, councilors will take up the matter again on Tuesday.
On March 11 councilors passed by a 5-2 vote the second of three required readings of an ordinance setting a monthly fee of $1 per residential dwelling unit and $2 per business.
The council passed the first reading on Feb. 26.
But the Council never voted on the third and final reading, which would have allowed the city to start charging the fee.
Councilors postponed that final reading in part because some members including Mayor Jeff Petry, who voted no on each of the first two readings pointed out that the ordinance didn't explain how the city would dole out the share of fee revenue set aside to help property owners pay to fix old sidewalks or build new ones.
"I wanted to see the details," Petry said this morning. "There were so many questions that weren't answered."
City officials have tried to answer those questions by drafting a set of rules governing how property owners could apply for a sidewalk grant.
Councilors will consider the new version of the ordinance during their meeting Tuesday evening at 7 o'clock at City Hall, 1655 First St.
The new version, like the original, sets the monthly sidewalk utility fee at $1 for each residential unit and $2 for each business.
City officials estimate the fee would bring in about $60,000 per year.
Also like the original ordinance, the version councilors will consider Tuesday requires the city to set aside at least 25 percent of the fees collected each year for grants that property owners could apply for to offset the cost of repairing or replacing sidewalks.
The City Council could allocate more than 25 percent for grants.
The new version of the ordinance also mirrors the original in mandating that all the fee revenue, including dollars that aren't given out as grants, "shall be used solely for the purposes of the design, construction, reconstruction and maintenance of the public right of way sidewalk system."
And, as in the original version, the proposed ordinance would expire June 30, 2013, unless a future council decided to continue charging the fee.
The new ordinance does, however, differ in a couple of ways from the one councilors nearly approved earlier this year.
For instance, the new version does away with the provision allowing residents or business owners who dispute the amount of the sidewalk fee to petition the city manager for "a revision or modification" of that fee.
Also, the new version includes a section, which was not part of the original, that allows the city to turn off city water to a home or business that is at least 30 days late in paying the sidewalk fee.
The proposed rules for handing out sidewalks grants is not part of the ordinance, but will instead by included in a resolution that councilors will consider if they approve the ordinance.
The grant rules limit property owners to applying for one grant in any 12-month period, and to a maximum of $1,000 per grant.