The council followed a suggestion from Mayor George Wehrfritz to slow down in adopting an ordinance that would end sales of water to the Puget Island Water System in 2037.
The town and Wahkiakum PUD, which owns the Island water system, have been negotiating an update to the long term water contract. Negotiations have take a turn for the better, Wehrfritz said, and he recommended the council not give the ordinance final approval for at least another month. Town ordinances must undergo three readings at different meetings before they can be adopted. Often, the second and third readings are combined, shortening the process by one meeting. The council has already approved the ordinance for the first reading.
The town has asked the PUD to increase its payment for water to help cover capital improvement costs and operational expenses not included in the contract but which, town officials believe, are legitimate costs of operation.
Capital improvement costs would include adding a second water source to the system and conducting a major improvement to the water plant's intake in the Elochoman River. Town officials say the second source will be needed to cover population growth in the area, including Puget Island.
PUD officials have been cool to the suggestion, and the council has been considering ending the water supply contract to ease the pressure to find a new source. This would mean the PUD would have to find its own source for the Island system.
However, Wehrfritz said, recent talks have been fruitful.
"We could reach an agreement," he said.
Thus, he recommended delaying final action on the notice to end the contract.
"The implications for us going our separate ways are pretty severe," he said. "Let's give this process a chance."
In other business, the council learned that the Council Utilities Committee--Dick Swart and Bob Rendler--will recommend adoption of three ordinances that would modify industrial sewage discharge permits, modify water and sewer connection fees, and increase costs for customers using large volumes of water.
The ordinance could come up for first readings in November.
The first ordinance would bring the town's rules for industrial discharge into line with state guidelines.
The second ordinance would set a December 31, 2014, ending date for the reduced connection fees for water and sewer service which were adopted last year in an attempt to attract more customers to the town's water and sewer service. Those connections haven't appeared, and officials said they would return to the regular fees in 2015. Connections now cost $100; they would return to pre-2012 levels of $3,000 inside the town limits and $5,000 outside.
The third ordinance would increase the cost of water for customers who exceed the basic amount included in the monthly bill. Wehrfritz said the current rates don't cover the cost of production of the water.
The large customers who would be affected include the Puget Island Water System, the Wahkiakum School District and some industrial customers.
The council has started work on the town's 2014 budgets. The council approved for the first reading an ordinance increasing the property tax collection by $4,000 to approximately $75,000 in 2014; exact numbers are yet to be determined.The council also passed the 2014 budget ordinance for first reading. The budget, however, isn't balanced, and the council will hold a workshop at 9 a.m. Monday in the Scarborough Building to try to bring the numbers into balance.