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Water flushes down, prices go up
By JENNIFER MORRIS
POULSBO — Sanitary sewer system customers in the city of Poulsbo will see a "significant rate increase" on their utility bills beginning next year.
The increases, which will start with a 13 percent fee boost in 2009, will be in addition to Consumer Price Index adjustments, and are meant to ensure they system's long-term financial health. Rates will again increase in 2010 by 5 percent, then by 4 percent from 2011 to 2013. In 2014, sewer rates will increase in addition to CPI adjustments by 2 percent, with monthly bills by that time projected to reach $70.
The increases will bump Poulsbo's average bill per hundred cubic feet (ccf) from $42.41 per month in 2008 to $50.30 per month in 2009, but will keep the city in the middle of the pack compared to nearby jurisdictions. Average bills on Bainbridge Island run near $62 per month and Bremerton hits just above $57 while in Gig Harbor monthly averages land around $38. Port Orchard, which now charges an average $42 monthly bill, is expected to raise that number to $50 over the next two years, said Poulsbo Public Works Director Barry Loveless.
Kitsap County, too, will institute a raise in its fees, which now average monthly per ccf at $50.21.
Poulsbo City Council Member Linda Berry-Maraist said having sufficient revenue to address the backlog of sewer projects around the city is "nothing but a good thing, and it's the responsible thing to do."
Loveless said the sewer system's 20-year functional plan contains a list of needed work, and "the rates are intended to create enough capital reserves to do some of those projects." The Bond Road pump and force main, a new addition to the system this month, is also creating increased costs. The new pump and main have allowed the city to abandon the historically troublesome sewer line that runs along Liberty Bay. Another need for the increased revenue are planned improvements for the county's Central Kitsap treatment plant, Loveless said.
Poulsbo's rate increase from 2008 to 2009 will mean a bump in monthly spending of just under $8 for each household.
Loveless detailed the financial plan and accompanying ordinance for the council Wednesday night during a workshop intended to collect citizen comment. No citizens spoke during the comment portion of the presentation. The ordinance will be up for vote at the council's meeting this week.
It also institutes an annual CPI adjustment for water general facilities charge, storm drainage and solid waste service rates, as well as an increase in sewer general facilities charge, which Loveless said is basically a connection fee.
That increase will raise the current $2,479 charge to $3,601 — its first adjustment for inflation since 2002. This, Loveless explained, is designed so that growth pays for the growth of the system.
The Public Works department established a stakeholder feedback group to offer input on the rate changes, and recently completed replacing a section of sewer pipes in Poulsbo's old town portion. In his presentation, Loveless also listed high inflow and infiltration and downstream conveyance capacity as sewer system deficiencies that need to be addressed in the near future.