City seeks input about water rate increase

Port Orchard’s city council has scheduled a public hearing for July 26 and Aug. 29, to solicit input about several proposals to raise the city’s water rates.

“I guess my thought in doing this is to give the community the opportunity to see what we’re talking about and have them tell us option a, b, c or d,” said Councilman John Clauson.

Mark Dorsey, the city engineer, says that the rate increase is absolutely necessary, it’s just a matter of when it’s implemented.

He presented several options to the city council during a meeting on June 21.

  • In Option A, the rates would go up by $12 per month, effective immediately.
  • In Option B, they would increase by $6 per month in 2011 and another $6 per month in 2012.
  • In Option C, they would go up by $6 per month in 2011 and another $6 per month three years later.
  • In Option D, they would increase by $4 per month in 2011, another $4 in 2013, and an additional $4 in 2015.

The city council typically rounds the bill up to $12 per single family household per month for convenience, when discussing the issue.

But the precise, unrounded amount that each bill would increase by works out to $11.74 per month. The city plans to be split that money so that $2.97 per month would cover operating costs, while $8.77 would go towards a capital improvement plan to fix the aging water system’s infrastructure.

Each single family residence would see the same rate increase, but their bills would vary, somewhat, depending on how much water they use, as they do now.

Single family households that use less than 3,000 gallons on a bimonthly basis, would see their bimonthly bill increase from $18.50 to $30.24.

If they use more than 3,000 gallons, they would see their bill go from $22.50 to $45.98, and families that use more than 5,000 gallons of water wouldn’t see a difference in their consumption charge.

It’s the minimum requirement to cover the city's bills, Dorsey says.

“When I came here in 2008,” he said, “I inherited a water system in the red, a sewer system in the red” as well as several unfunded mandates from the state for system improvements.

City leaders hope, though, that the rate increases will get the associated budgets back in the black.

“We’ve got an aging infrastructure,” Councilman Rob Putaansuu said. “We need to figure out a way to pay for that.”

Fees associated with new building could help pay for the capital improvements, if the economy was stronger, he said, but that’s not realistic now.

“In the short run, I don’t see that as a viable option,” Putaansuu said. “There’s not a lot of new connection fees.”

The city council discussed, at a meeting on June 21, the best way to inform the public about the rate hike and public meeting about the issue.

They’ve considered spending about $3,000 for postcards about the public hearings, putting a notice in the next cycle of water bills or buying advertisements in several newspapers to ensure that their constituents have been notified.

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