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Paying for well repair likely means raising city water rates sooner

The utilities committee will recommend the Port Orchard City Council approve using reserve funds to pay for an estimated $1.2 million fix to water quality problems associated with Well 9 in the municipal water district.

The full council will discuss and vote on the matter at Tuesday night’s meeting, the last regular council meeting this year.

Councilman John Clauson, a member of the utilities committee, said members felt paying for the well project out of the water/sewer reserve fund was preferable to funding the work through a revenue bond, which would incur significant interest costs for the city.

Using money from the reserve fund would draw its balance down to about $500,000, “which we think is an adequate operating reserve right now,” Clauson said Wednesday.

He also said the project might cost slightly less than the $1.2 million budgeted for it.

The repairs on Well 9 are needed to fix a water quality problem in an area of the city where residents have had brown, unpalatable water coming out of their faucets intermittently for about a year.

But the $1.2 million expenditure will necessitate changing the city’s plan to raise water rates, which were already going up to pay for other major maintenance and infrastructure upgrades needed in the municipal water system.

The so-called 4/4/4 plan anticipated a series of $4 increases in users’ monthly water bills every other year, and Clauson said the city should be able to limit the rate increase to no more than $4 in a given year.

But he said the added cost of the Well 9 project makes it necessary to change the timing of the increases, with water rates likely to go up $4 each of the next two years, followed by a $2 increase each of the two years after that.

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