If Mayor Charlie Hales and City Commissioner Steve Novick are going to collect a $138-a-year street fee from Portland households, the most obvious place to charge residents is on their water and sewer bills.
Hales said at today's press conference debuting the street fee that he and Novick were considering utility bills as a possible means of collection.
"Another reason for the yearlong buildup here is to make sure the right collection mechanism is in place," the mayor said.
But Commissioner Nick Fish, who oversees the water and sewer bureaus, says the mayor will have to look somewhere else. Fish doesn't want the street fee anywhere near utility bills.
"I've been very clear with the mayor that I don't think the street fee should be on the combined water and sewer bills," Fish tells WW. "I've been very clear from the get-go: I think it's a bad idea."
The city is currently being sued for $127 million in spending of utility ratepayer dollars on projects not related to the water and sewer bureaus. Voters on Tuesday rejected a ballot measure that would have removed control of the water and sewer utilities from City Hall.
Fish is especially concerned that placing the fee on utility bills would open the city up to new legal jeopardy.
"It raises legal issues," he says. "We run the risk of crossing that line again. That's what gives me heartburn."