Port Angeles council OKs utility rate increase

PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles City Council has approved a 1 percent rate increase on residential utility customers’ total bills that will take effect Jan. 1.

The council voted 6-1 Tuesday — with member Cherie Kidd opposed — to establish 2019 utility rates that include a 5.4 percent increase for residential water customers and a 0.5 percent increase for wastewater.

Electric, solid waste collections, solid waste transfer station and stormwater rates will not change.

Medic 1 rates were previously set to increase by 1.8 percent in 2019.

All told, the average Port Angeles residential customer using 1,300 kilowatt-hours of electricity and 450 cubic feet of water per month will see a 0.97 percent increase on monthly utility bills, Senior Accountant Glen Goodworth has said.

The same customer will pay an additional $2.75 per month, or $33 for the year.

Commercial customers using 5,000 kwh and 2,000 cubic feet of water will pay 98 cents — or 0.12 percent — more per month than they are paying now, Goodworth told the council Oct. 16.

That’s an annual difference of $11.76.

No speaker testified in a second public hearing on the ordinance amending utility rates Tuesday.

Council member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin said the 2019 rate increase is less than the rise in the Consumer Price Index.

“That’s fantastic, and I think it is the second year in a row that we’ve been able to do that with utility rates,” said Schromen-Wawrin, one of four first-year council members.

“So while people say ‘Hey, make the rates smaller,’ the way we do that is we just don’t increase them as much every year and then eventually it accommodates for that need.”

Kidd voted no because of the 5.4 percent water rate increase for households. She did so while expressing appreciation for staff that developed the rates based on council directives to recover costs and to avoid subsidizing one utility for another.

“I just personally feel that raising something over 5 percent — it’s just out of my comfort zone because water is essential,” Kidd said.

“A few years ago, we raised electric rates 5 percent one year and 5 percent the next. I really appreciate the good work that has been done, but I have difficulty supporting an increase over 5 percent.”

Council member Michael Merideth said the water rate increase “sucks.”

“But we have to keep up with the cost, and I do agree that the city should not be subsidizing any of our utilities,” Merideth said.

“That’s a road to nowhere at the end. So I will be supporting this, even though it does suck.”

Next spring, the council will review the cost of service analysis for utility rates and revisit council policies that drive the rates.

Mayor Sissi Bruch said the 2019 rates were structured to be as “palatable as possible.”

“We have too many water lines, electric lines, sewer lines that have just not been maintained because we have not had the funds for that,” Bruch said.

“It is our responsibility to make sure we maintain our facilities as best as as we possibly can. We’ve got to play catch up from a lot of years of not doing that.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].

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