County wary of doubling water fee

By WARREN CORNWALL

Herald Writer

While the Snohomish County Council is considering more aggressive spending on parks and planning, it hasn’t embraced a plan to more than double a countywide fee to homeowners.

The increase in the annual fee for managing water runoff could prove one of the most contentious points between the council and County Executive Bob Drewel’s representatives when public hearings for the 2001 budget begin Monday.

Drewel’s budget included an increase in the fee from $31.75 to $65 in 2000, and to $80 in 2002 for people in urban areas.

County finance director Dan Clements said the increase was needed to meet growth pressures and comply with federal regulations protecting Puget Sound chinook salmon. Surface Water Management, the county agency that collects the fee, heads the county’s chinook protection efforts and management of streams, canals and water runoff.

"It wasn’t something that was thrown out lightly," deputy finance director Roger Neumaier said of the increase.

But some council members are leery of raising fees when they aren’t entirely certain what the agency will do with the money.

"For some reason, I’m having a bit of difficulty being able to tell citizens exactly what they’re going to get for their rate increase," council member Dave Somers said.

Somers said the agency will almost certainly need more money to cope with federal environmental regulations. But he said he planned to introduce an amendment asking for a thorough examination of water management projects in the coming year.

Councilman Gary Nelson voiced similar questions about how the fee increase would be spent. Clean water and salmon regulations still need to be fleshed out before the county can really know where it should spend the money, he said.

"I don’t believe you can show a justification for it in light of the uncertainty," Nelson said.

Council staffers have proposed a series of scenarios, ranging from Drewel’s fee increase to no increase at all. Without an increase, the council would drain the agency’s reserve fund from $1.5 million to $500,000. That could leave the agency vulnerable if it encountered unexpected costs, Clements said.

"We don’t think that’s such a hot idea," he said.

Demands on the agency already have outstripped its budget, and most other Puget Sound cities and counties have higher fees, he said.

Meanwhile, a controversy over spending on sheriff’s deputies has failed to take shape, despite early predictions. Ty Trenary, president of the Snohomish County Deputy Sheriff’s Association, had initially vowed a high-profile campaign for the county to hire more deputies, complete with billboards, rallies and newspaper advertisements.

There has been no public sign of protest from the deputies since Drewel’s budget was unveiled, however. Trenary could not be reached Friday for comment.

Other potential changes from Drewel’s budget include:

  • Cutting $600,000 for the Snohomish County Health District, meant to replace money lost when the state car tax was canceled by Initiative 695.

  • Postponing hiring and equipment purchases to save money expected to be lost to tax caps and rollbacks from Initiative 722.

  • Borrowing roughly $17 million to buy land for parks and to speed up planning for water drainage around the county.
    Talk to us

    > Give us your news tips.

    > Send us a letter to the editor.

    > More Herald contact information.

  • More in Local News

    Traffic idles while waiting for the lights to change along 33rd Avenue West on Tuesday, April 2, 2024 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
    Lynnwood seeks solutions to Costco traffic boondoggle

    Let’s take a look at the troublesome intersection of 33rd Avenue W and 30th Place W, as Lynnwood weighs options for better traffic flow.

    A memorial with small gifts surrounded a utility pole with a photograph of Ariel Garcia at the corner of Alpine Drive and Vesper Drive ion Wednesday, April 10, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
    Death of Everett boy, 4, spurs questions over lack of Amber Alert

    Local police and court authorities were reluctant to address some key questions, when asked by a Daily Herald reporter this week.

    The new Amazon fulfillment center under construction along 172nd Street NE in Arlington, just south of Arlington Municipal Airport. (Chuck Taylor / The Herald) 20210708
    Frito-Lay leases massive building at Marysville business park

    The company will move next door to Tesla and occupy a 300,0000-square-foot building at the Marysville business park.

    Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
    Oso man gets 1 year of probation for killing abusive father

    Prosecutors and defense agreed on zero days in jail, citing documented abuse Garner Melum suffered at his father’s hands.

    Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin steps back and takes in a standing ovation after delivering the State of the City Address on Thursday, March 21, 2024, at the Everett Mall in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
    In meeting, Everett mayor confirms Topgolf, Chicken N Pickle rumors

    This month, the mayor confirmed she was hopeful Topgolf “would be a fantastic new entertainment partner located right next to the cinemas.”

    Alan Edward Dean, convicted of the 1993 murder of Melissa Lee, professes his innocence in the courtroom during his sentencing Wednesday, April 24, 2024, at Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
    Bothell man gets 26 years in cold case murder of Melissa Lee, 15

    “I’m innocent, not guilty. … They planted that DNA. I’ve been framed,” said Alan Edward Dean, as he was sentenced for the 1993 murder.

    FILE - A Boeing 737 Max jet prepares to land at Boeing Field following a test flight in Seattle, Sept. 30, 2020. Boeing said Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, that it took more than 200 net orders for passenger airplanes in December and finished 2022 with its best year since 2018, which was before two deadly crashes involving its 737 Max jet and a pandemic that choked off demand for new planes. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
    Boeing’s $3.9B cash burn adds urgency to revival plan

    Boeing’s first three months of the year have been overshadowed by the fallout from a near-catastrophic incident in January.

    Police respond to a wrong way crash Thursday night on Highway 525 in Lynnwood after a police chase. (Photo provided by Washington State Department of Transportation)
    Bail set at $2M in wrong-way crash that killed Lynnwood woman, 83

    The Kenmore man, 37, fled police, crashed into a GMC Yukon and killed Trudy Slanger on Highway 525, according to court papers.

    A voter turns in a ballot on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, outside the Snohomish County Courthouse in Everett, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
    On fourth try, Arlington Heights voters overwhelmingly pass fire levy

    Meanwhile, in another ballot that gave North County voters deja vu, Lakewood voters appeared to pass two levies for school funding.

    Judge Whitney Rivera, who begins her appointment to Snohomish County Superior Court in May, stands in the Edmonds Municipal Court on Thursday, April 18, 2024, in Edmonds, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
    Judge thought her clerk ‘needed more challenge’; now, she’s her successor

    Whitney Rivera will be the first judge of Pacific Islander descent to serve on the Snohomish County Superior Court bench.

    In this Jan. 4, 2019 photo, workers and other officials gather outside the Sky Valley Education Center school in Monroe, Wash., before going inside to collect samples for testing. The samples were tested for PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, as well as dioxins and furans. A lawsuit filed on behalf of several families and teachers claims that officials failed to adequately respond to PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, in the school. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
    Judge halves $784M for women exposed to Monsanto chemicals at Monroe school

    Monsanto lawyers argued “arbitrary and excessive” damages in the Sky Valley Education Center case “cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny.”

    Mukilteo Police Chief Andy Illyn and the graphic he created. He is currently attending the 10-week FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. (Photo provided by Andy Illyn)
    Help wanted: Unicorns for ‘pure magic’ career with Mukilteo police

    “There’s a whole population who would be amazing police officers” but never considered it, the police chief said.

    Support local journalism

    If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.