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Tigard street fees see final increase


TIGARD - After more than two years of debates and gradual growth, the city's street maintenance fee increased this week, in the final phase of what has been a gradual, three-year fee raise.

The fee, which is billed monthly to businesses and residences as part of their utility bills, is used to maintain city streets and prevent expensive reconstruction.

Starting Jan. 1, residents in Tigard will pay $5.45 a month for street maintenance. Businesses, which are billed based on the number of parking spaces they are required to have, will pay $1.23 per space.

For residents that's more than $1 more than last year and more than $3 more since 2009.

This is the third and final planned fee increase, which was gradually implemented to lessen the blow to tax payers.

The debate over the city's street maintenance fee has been going on for years.

In December 2009, the City Council approved a controversial fee increase that would triple its rate by 2012.

That number came after a review of the city's street network in 2004, which revealed that the annual revenue generated by the fee was not enough to keep up with the rapidly rising cost of asphalt, and was not adequate enough to maintain the city's 150 miles of roadway.

A well-maintained road can last decades, but if a road deteriorates past a certain point, the cost of bringing it back to adequate standards could quintuple, city officials said. The recent cost of the Burnham Street reconstruction was an example of what needs to happen when roads are neglected for too long.

The City Council was split on its decision but eventually agreed on tripling the fee because of the possibility of what could happen to the city's streets.

'You don't know how much I wish we didn't need to do this,' Tigard Mayor Craig Dirksen said at the time. 'But if we fail to do it, we'll all pay for it.'

The council eventually reversed its decision under pressure from the Northwest Grocery Association and other businesses, which claimed that businesses with large parking lots such as grocery stores would be hit unfairly by the increase and that the increase would be even more of a hardship because of the recession.

The council eventually came to a compromise, cutting the fee for businesses in half and the price tag for residents by about $1 and agreed to phase-in the fee increase over an 18-month period, beginning in July 2010.

With the final fee raise in place, the street maintenance fee is expected to raise about $1.7 million annually to help repair city streets. The amount is more than double what the city collected in 2009.