Port Townsend council to consider utility rate hike

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — The City Council is considering a utility rate increase that would go into effect Sept. 1.

City Manager David Timmons said Wednesday the increase is necessary to cover maintenance and operation of the water system, which is aging, along with the mandated construction of an $11 million water-treatment facility, which is scheduled for completion in 2015.

The amount of the projected increase is yet to be determined.

The council will consider three options — which are still under development — for water and sewer rates Monday at its meeting beginning at 6:30 p.m. in council chambers at historic City Hall, 540 Water St.

Timmons said the final increase may be less than the highest amounts now under consideration.

The largest amount of increase under consideration would raise the current average residential bill of $29.84 per month for 5,000 gallons of water use and sewage service to $39.32, which includes a $5 surcharge to subsidize the capital projects.

The surcharge may rise as high as $14 in 2018, which would raise the average to about $60.

The amount of the surcharge also is undetermined and could be considerably less if the treatment facility can be built for less than the present projection of $7.1 million, Timmons said.

The ability to keep rates down would directly relate to the city’s ability to secure low-interest loans during the construction process, Timmons said.

The possibility of decreasing the cost also could lower the surcharge, Timmons said, while poor market conditions could increase the amount.

Both the new reservoir and the treatment plant would be constructed on city property at Howard and 20th streets, the location of the current city reservoir.

The amount of the surcharge also could change if the construction bid comes in lower than expected, Timmons said.

Another variable is the aging infrastructure and needed replacement of old pipes, as evidenced by a water main break at the corner of Sims Way and Water Street this past spring.

Timmons said the city is evaluating its water infrastructure and proactively replacing the pipes that are in the worst condition.

According to a chart presented to the council Monday by consultant Chris Gonzales of the FCS Group in Bellevue, Port Townsend is rated ninth least-expensive for water and sewer bills out of 11 area municipalities.

In the rating, the first was the most costly and the 11th the cheapest.

The Port Townsend average was $66.72 a month.

Port Angeles was third for water and sewer with $109.54 per month for an average bill, and Sequim was sixth with $82.72.

Poulsbo was the most expensive city with $124.50 a month, while the Jefferson County Public Utility District was the least expensive with $58.50.

Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: June 12. 2013 5:47PM
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