Sequim council approves utility rate study after second review

City staff say it might be done in-house next time

SEQUIM — On the second go-round, Sequim City Council opted to go forward with a study of Sequim’s utilities after all.

Initially council members had voted down an $89,900 contract with FCS Group to review water and sewer rates 4-2. That was Sept. 23. A majority of the council felt the work could be done by staff.

They reversed their decision Nov. 12, voting 5-1 — with council member Brandon Janisse opposed and William Armacost excused — to fund the full study in 2020.

Council member Ted Miller said in September he saw “no reason to spend any money at all on a utility rate study; [it’s] not out of whack enough to justify doing one.”

On Nov. 12, however, Miller said he was impressed by the city’s breakdown of the study’s elements from the City Council’s work session Oct. 28.

“It especially looks like a one-time study, and subsequent reviews might be in 10-year intervals or even less,” he said. “I’m convinced to get one good base line study.”

Public Works Director David Garlington said Nov. 12 that the 2020 rate study sets up the next six to 10 years.

“We’re going to learn a lot from a rate study,” he said. “This might be the last one we go outside to do.”

Sequim’s last utility study was adopted by city council in 2014.

The rate study is routine every six or seven years, public works analyst Sarah VanAusdle previously said.

VanAusdle told council members in September that rate discrepancies were discovered between the last two studies, and city staff adjusted them to make a more fair system between how much residents were paying for use.

Council member Bob Lake said he has a strong preference for the city to analyze how much people pay based more on their use.

“I think that’s more fair,” he said.

“Right now we don’t do that … I think it’s making our widows and elderly pay for more than they need to and it’s a big part of their income. I think we need the rate study to change how we do it.”

Janisse questioned the study in September, saying the city staff should know more about utility rates when those could go toward other things.

Garlington said Nov. 12 that he felt least comfortable with a study of General Facility Charges (GFCs) included in the study because of the level knowledge that goes with it.

For more information about the city of Sequim’s utilities, call 360-683-4908 or visit www.sequimwa.gov.

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Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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