Storm water ruling could make waves

Judge Bradbury concludes five public entities aren’t obligated to pay what Lewiston calls a utility fee

By Cody Bloomsburg of the Tribune

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Public entities within Lewiston city limits will no longer be subject to the city’s storm water utility fee.

In a ruling issued on Friday, 2nd District Judge John Bradbury found the fee is against the Idaho State Constitution.

Five public entities, Nez Perce County, the Port of Lewiston, Lewis-Clark State College, Lewiston Independent School District No. 1, and the Lewiston Orchards Irrigation District, filed the suit in September alleging the monthly utility charge was a disguised tax, which the city did not have the power to levy.

To read Judge Bradbury’s ruling, click HERE.

In his ruling, Bradbury wrote that he understood the city’s position, but concluded the fee was indeed a tax and therefore it must find its answer in the Idaho Legislature.

While it remains unclear if the entities will be reimbursed for fees already paid, or if residents will be excused from the fee as well, the ruling still represents an unexpected budgetary challenge for Interim City Manager Dan Marsh, whose office just last week put together a balanced budget for 2011.

Marsh said there was about $1 million in estimated revenue from the fee in the upcoming budget, including fees from residents.

“We’re going to regroup and move ahead,” Marsh said.

City Attorney Don Roberts said the city will be reviewing its options, one of which will certainly be appealing the ruling.

Theodore O. Creason, of the law firm Creason, Moore and Dokken, represented the public entities and said he felt his clients’ case was strong from the outset and was pleased with the outcome.

Lewiston School District Superintendent Joy Rapp said while the district has many valued and productive relationships with the city, the fee represented an $18,432 bill this year alone, which would double next year.

Bloomsburg can be contacted at [email protected] or (208) 848-2278.