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City residents facing huge water rate hike

Port Orchard residents could see their water bill increase by around 56 percent over the next six years.

They currently pay an average of $41 per household every other month, for an average of 2.6 people, receiving their water bill on a bi-monthly basis.

But if Port Orchard’s city council raises the rates by the amount it’s currently considering, that number would increase to $64 per household every other month.

“It’s a pretty uncomfortable number,” said City Councilman Rob Putaansuu, who sits on the council’s Public Utilities Committee.

“We discussed a phased approach to it,” he said, “because we’re just not comfortable, in this economy, with a rate increase of that size.”

Other municipalities are having similar problems, though, he said, and they’re implementing similar increases.

The increases have been fueled by both the operating and capital budget, said Mark Dorsey, the city’s public works director and engineer.

“When I came here in 2008,” 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, the rate increases will put all relevant budgets back in the black.

“We’ve got an aging infrastructure,” 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 just not realistic right 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 plans to discuss the issue at their next work study session May 17 at 7 p.m., and the city plans to hold a public meeting to listen to the public’s input on the matter.

Some type of increase seems inevitable, though, Putaansuu said.

“The numbers are the numbers,” he said. “It’s just really unfortunate.”

 

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