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.