News

Snoqualmie set to increase Utility rates

On May 1, the city of Snoqualmie utility rates will increase.

Approved by the City Council on March 27, the charges will first appear on the June 2006 utility bills. There will be another increase beginning in January 2007, if there are no unforeseen changes to the rate plan, though the council has the authority to adjust or hold the fee rates as needed.

"It's a health and safety issue to keep our facilities in top shape," said Jodi Warren, city clerk.

Currently, a Snoqualmie household that uses an average of 800 cubic feet of water (an average usage amount for an average family of about two and a half members) pays about $59 a month in utility fees; about $27 for water, about $24 for sanitary sewer and about $8 for storm sewer usage.

Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson described utilities as a fee for a service rendered.

In May, that total will jump by about $10, making the rounded numbers per service about $30 for water, $30 for sanitary sewer and about $9 for storm sewer usage for a total monthly utility fee of about $69.

Jan. 1 of 2007 is set to add about $4 to water, $4 for sanitary sewer and an additional $1 to storm sewer rates to the utility fees. The total would be about $77 per month.

"For a lot of people, $10 a month is really a lot of money," said Ruth Tolmasoff, director of the Mount Si Senior Center in North Bend.

For a comparison to the 2006 fees, Snoqualmie's director of public works Kirk Holmes noted that city of Carnation residents currently pay about $188, and Redmond residents pay about $68 a month.

The added money will filter into operations and maintenance, paying existing debt service, providing financing for necessary capital improvements and setting aside a 5-percent reserve for emergency services (of which the city currently has none), as the city might be faced with unforeseen projects.

It will also ensure that utility revenues meet individual expenses and provide for revenue bond coverage that will filter into the city's capital improvement plan.

The fees will be re-evaluated in September of 2007 to make sure that the revenues and expenses match and to see if there is enough coverage, said Holmes.

Right now, the city's expenditures exceed revenues, Warren said.

The city had its last rate adjustment in 2001, which was followed by a legally required detailed rate study.

"The reason is to improve infrastructure," Larson said.

Downtown Snoqualmie did not have storm sewer fees at the time; those were added in 2004.

"We want to create uniform rates throughout the city," said Larson. "It's very important to understand that the increase is consistent."

The city intends to filter the additional fees into about 10 projects, including treatment plan improvements for taste and odor, upgrades for pump stations No. 3 and No. 4, which are prone to flooding, improvements for Beta Street, Railroad Place and Newton Street.

"The [utility] system has just grown," Holmes said. "We have operations and maintenance issues that have gone unresolved for a number of years."

For more information, visit www.ci.snoqualmie.wa.us or call (425) 831-4919.

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