Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Council settles on new rates for sewer, water

Patrons of Cathlamet water and sewer utilities may be paying new rates starting July 1.

The town council on Monday voted to propose a new rate structure based on usage and designed to even out differences in rates between customers.

The council plans to hold a public hearing on the proposal on May 2 and vote to adopt them May 16 unless there is compelling comment for modifications.

The town will notify customers of the proposal and how it would affect their accounts in advance of the hearing, Mayor David Olson said.

In other business Monday, the council voted to apply for a grant to fund an estimated $100,000 in improvements to the skate park at Erickson Park. The town would be responsible for 10 percent of the cost, about $10,000, and past fund raising efforts have left $5,000 in an account with the Wahkiakum Community Network for skate park improvements.

Council members called the proposed utility rate schedules a "huge step forward."

Current rates have disparities. For example, small households using low volumes of water pay as much as customers using a lot. Customers living outside the city limits pay higher rates than customers living inside the limits.

Council members originally wanted sewer rates to be based solely on water consumption, but that proved to be impossible, Clerk/Treasurer Sarah Clark has said, because the customer base isn't big enough.

Instead, the new rates are based on the combination of a basic service charge and, for some customers, a charge on the amount of water consumed.

Clark and Council Member Laurel Waller developed the latest proposals, which included two sewer rate options.

Option A, the option the council finally approved, would apply to all customers and included an $82 base charge and a charge of 23.5 cents per cubic foot over 600 cubic feet.

Under Option B, there would be a base charge of $99 per month for residential customers, and for commercial customers, a $75 base charge and 18.3 cents per cubic foot for all water consumed.

Under Option A, 80 percent of customers (326) would pay only the minimum charge, and 20 percent (80) would pay for excess usage.

Also under the proposal, water rates would be adjusted so that all customers pay the same rate, based on meter size, whether or not they live inside or outside of the city limits.

Water rates are based on meter size and will continue to be based on meter size. The in-town rate would be increased gradually over five years and the out-of-town rate would be decreased gradually during the five years with all rates becoming equal.

For example, a customer with a 1.5 inch meter, in year one, would pay $85.76 per month and an out-of-town customer would pay $112.53. At the end of the five years, both would pay $100.28 per month.

Council members and staff were pleased with proposals.

"I want to thank Sarah Clark and Laurel Waller for the hundreds of hours . . . spent on these analyses," said Mayor Olson.

Council Member Robert Stowe echoed the comment.

"Thanks to Laurel and Sarah for the really good work," he said.

"This is a huge step forward," Waller said. "This is hard work. You will never get there if you don't start the dance."


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