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Council deals with angst over water rates

A proposal to raise water rates to almost double their current levels drew a large — and animated — crowd to Tuesday night’s Port Orchard City Council meeting.

Most of those in attendance were visibly upset, although their anger was directed toward different elements of the city’s water program.

Several Port Orchard residents, whose houses utilize Well 9, complained that their water is visibly dirty, since the well isn’t connected to a treatment system.

“I do believe that we need decent and clean water in the city,” said Nicole Vaught. “In the United States of America in the 21st century, I do believe it’s a little pathetic.

“You see the ads on TV of the little kids in Latin America playing in the sewer that don’t have water?” she asked “I’ll stop there, but follow my thinking.”

Vaught claims she’s seen “gooey black stuff” coming out of her faucet if she doesn’t run the water for several days in a row.

“What is that stuff?” she asked Mark Dorsey, the city’s Public Works director. “I have been asking you over and over. What is it?”

The city doesn’t know, Dorsey said, but it’s in the process of figuring it out.

“We’re trying to forensically understand exactly what’s happening, because otherwise, we’ll spend a lot of money on a design and implementation of a system that may not be correct,” he said. “That’s why we’re not immediately rushing to do something, because we want to do it right.”

Vaught wasn’t alone in her complaints about the water quality at Well 9.

Several others complained about the proposed rate increase.

With the increase, the city would take an additional $2.97 per month to cover its current operating shortfall and another $8.77 toward a capital improvement plan.

So the increase will add up to $11.74 per month, or $23.48 per bi-monthly bill.

That will more than double what Port Orchard residents currently pay for that portion of their bill, since single-family residences currently using:

• 0 to 3,000 gallons pay $18.50;

• 3,001 to 5000 gallons pay $22.50; and,

• 5,000 to 30,000 gallons pay $22.50 plus a consumption charge.

The city should charge water users for each gallon they use, said Gerry Harmon and several others at the meeting.

It would be more fair, she claimed, and encourage people to conserve water.

Or the city should think a bit more carefully about which projects are really essential, Jeff Braden said.

The huge percentage increase is unnecessary, some at the meeting believe, since the city ranked about $10 million of the projects they hope to use the money for as “low-priority.”

“To me, $10 million of low-priority (projects) seems unfundable,” said Braden, encouraging the city’s staff, “go back and sharpen (their) pencil.”

But Dorsey insisted the rate increases were necessary to meet minimum requirements by the state Department of Health.

 

 

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