City unsure how soon to impose water rate hike

Port Orchard’s city council could decide to raise the average household’s bi-monthly water bill from $22.50 to $45.95 immediately.

Or it could phase in the increase over several years.

“It’s shocking, the way it’s being presented,” said Councilman Jerry Childs.

But it’s the minimum requirement to prevent a shortfall in the operating budget and save enough to replace the 70-year-old pipe system the city’s using.

The average household will pay an additional $2.97 per family per month to break even in the operating budget and another $8.77 per family per month to save up enough to replace the water system in 20 years.

The city council members offered several ideas about how to collect the money at a work study session Tuesday night.

“I just want to kind of do it fast,”  Childs said, “because of the catastrophic vulnerability the system has.

“Not jumping on that and just doing it is kind of like picking a scab,” he said. “You just keep never really getting to the point. You just keep drawing things out.”

But several other members suggested implementing the increase over the course of six years.

Some liked the idea of increasing the rate by $6 per month every three years, and others preferred increasing the rate by $4 every two years.

“The bottom line is, there’s a lot of people who can’t afford it (all at once),” said Mayor Lary Coppola.

Gil Michael, who belongs to the Port Orchard Planning Commission, read a letter from Port Orchard resident from Gerry Harmon offering a different suggestion about how to meet the budgets.

Harmon suggested the city charge households based on the amount of water they use rather than charging them at a standard base rate that assumes 2.6 people live in each house and each of them use an average of 100 gallons of water per day.

“Your schedule should encourage people to conserve water,” she wrote. “Yet your highest users get their water for about half the cost of those at the bottom of the schedule.”

The city’s highest users pay $2.30 per 1,000 gallons, while the lowest users pay $5 per 1,000 gallons.

“I truly believe you could come up with a water schedule that raises enough funds to support the system and be fairer to all of your customers,” she wrote.



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