The Sammamish City Council continues to dither while residents in the Tamarack subdivision suffer from stormwater drainage from uphill development and fish downstream are threatened by the same drainage.
In a contentious Council meeting last week, accusations flew that a tax hike of 5% for stormwater management was a thinly disguised effort to force the City to accept the entire responsibility for solving the drainage problems affecting Tamarack that have been more than 10 years in the making.
Looking at a $1 million fixit
Fixing the issue could cost more than $1 million, a figure that hasn’t been entirely vetted by staff because a plan to identify the total work scope hasn’t been completed.
Deputy Mayor Ramiro Valderrama accused Council Member Kathy Huckabay, who says the city must step up and foot the entire bill, of trying to push through the 5% tax hike to begin accumulating funds for the Tamarack project.
Huckabay said the current stormwater management fund balance is a mere $23,000, down from $5 million at one point. A 5% tax hike will begin to replenish the fund, she said, raising $239,000 per year.
Council Member Tom Hornish objected to 5%, citing 2 ½% as a more acceptable figure, largely because there is no Tamarack plan in place. Council Member Christie Malchow sided with Hornish and Valderrama in what would become a 4-3 vote to adopt the 5% hike. Mayor Don Gerend and Members Bob Keller and Tom Odell sided with Huckabay on the level of the hike.
Still no answer for Tamarack
But the underlying issue of Tamarack remains unresolved and may be so for yet another year.
Pressure is building on the Council to come up with a solution to the flooding and downstream impact to fish in Lake Sammamish. Residents from Tamarack appear at nearly every Council meeting, usually repeating what has been presented before, pleading for solutions.
At last week’s meeting, residents told the Council that the idea of a Local Improvement District (LID) to impose a special tax assessment to cover 75% of the cost of fixing the problems would never pass; a special vote of the affected area is required to approve an LID.
Valderrama argues for an LID, saying the City will set a precedent if it assumes 100% of the cost. Gerend, Odell and Huckabay voice support for the 5% tax in part because they agreed Tamarack will never approve an LID.
Tamarack residents said the problems began more than 10 years ago when the City began approving uphill development without requiring adequate stormwater management.
Failing fiduciary responsibility
Valderrama repeatedly said the Council was “failing its fiduciary responsibility” to thoroughly study the issue and the costs involved.
Hornish said that if the City pays 100% of the cost of fixing the Tamarack drainage, it will mean a $1.2 million shortfall in the City’s budget.
Odell said it will be “a good year before a rate study is done.”
A fee greater than 5% was discussed in the finance committee, but the figure was not revealed during the Council meeting.
“This is a tax on citizens without any purpose put on it,” Valderrama in a last-ditch effort to kill the motion.
He failed to carry the day. The 5% tax was approved on the 4-3 vote.
What am I missing here?
1. The city has neglected this problem for a long time.
2. Residents are frustrated with the city’s lack of remediation.
3. Remediation is expensive.
4. The LID-area residents would reject making them pay for most or all of it and would rather see it distributed across the city.
5. Some council members want to raise the funds to remediate this through a 5% tax. (Paying for projects? Madness, I tell you, MADNESS!).
6. Some council members want to just study the problem some more without committing funds or a revenue source. (Let’s just call them the people with fence splinters in their behinds).
7. Some council members want to raise SOME funds which may or may not be enough to remediate.
8. In the end, a majority of council votes supported raising the tax to provide remediation funds. I assume we still operate democratically and this passes.
I am just unclear why paying for the remediation with a tax is a BAD “accusation”. That seems to me to be the RESPONSIBLE thing to do. We can quibble about scale and scope, but I think that Council is right in adopting the funding to pay for this work now.
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