City OKs hike to water rates

The Port Orchard City Council on Monday passed an ordinance that revises the city’s water rates and connection charges in order to generate more revenue and keep up with expected growth.

“We haven’t changed our water rates in nine years,”?said Councilman Rob Putaansuu. “With this ordinance, the utility, which has been losing money, will be able to stand on its own. We’ve only changed the cut-off point for the higher rate and expect that the average user won’t see an increase.”

The users who will not see an increase are those who use less than 3,000 gallons over a two-month period.

The new basic rate for water service from the city is $15 for up to 3,000 gallons and $19 for between 3,000 and 5,000 gallons.

The old rate was $15 for up to 5,000 gallons.

Five additional billing levels will be in effect, based on differing use amounts.

Putaansuu said the greatest share of new revenue would come from increased hookup fees, allowing the city to generate funds from new construction. While these fees vary, the basic cost has more than doubled —?from approximately $1,700 per new residential unity to $4,500.

“With this in place, new growth will pay for itself,” Putaansuu said.

Sewer rates, which reflect water use, are not affected by this action but could be raised in the future, according to Putaansuu.

The rate change did not receive unanimous support.

Councilman Jim Colebank voted against the ordinance, citing a campaign promise that he would not support any tax or fee increase without taking it to the voters.

Colebank said he opposed the ordinance because it did not specifically consider the needs of senior citizens. Councilman Fred Chang, who voted for the ordinance, said he would like to see the city supply customers with the equipment needed to conserve water.

During the public comment period, Port Orchard resident Gerry Harmon said she was severely disappointed by the ordinance, that it did not take conservation procedures into consideration and it did not open up the process for public input.

“You didn’t take the time to develop something different,” she said. “You should have considered other alternatives.”

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