City may up water, sewer rates

The North Bend City Council is considering an increase in water and sewer utility rates.

The rates have not been increased since Jan. 1, 2000, and inflationary costs for labor, operations, maintenance and overhead have absorbed those additional revenues, said Elena Montgomery, the city's finance director. According to state law, the city cannot run these utilities at a deficit.

Ron Garrow, public works director, said some of the water lines, which are cement, have aged significantly and are becoming soft in places. The pressure tends to burst the pipes, he said, and some of them are breaking at the joints. Even though it has been at least four years since any of them were replaced, Garrow said there are no plans to work on the water lines until next year.

The city staff and administration are recommending a 12.5-percent rate increase for water for 2006 and a 13.5-percent increase for sewer.

The city hired the FCS Group out of Redmond to do a cost-of-service analysis and to look at the equity of the rate structure for the city's water and sewer rates. John Ghilarducci of FCS presented the study's findings at the City Council meeting on Feb. 7.

The recommendation for the rate increase includes a change in the way water rates are assessed for different classes of customers.

The new rate structure will "reward customers who are not wasteful water users," Ghilarducci said.

There will be a base charge according to the size of the water meter, in addition to a volume charge per cubic meter, with those who use more water paying a higher per cubic meter charge.

For a single family residential unit, the average monthly increase for both sewer and water rates would be between $6 and $10.

There will be a public hearing on the proposed rate increase at the regular City Council meeting in North Bend on Feb. 21 at the Mount Si Senior Center. The council will vote on the ordinance either at that meeting or at the following one.

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