Sewerrate hikes expected in 2007

Published on Thu, Oct 5, 2006 by ara Nelson

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Sewer rate hikes expected in 2007

By Tara Nelson

Blaine residents can expect their monthly sewer charges to increase annually beginning in 2007.

In a Monday work session, Blaine public works director Steve Banham told Blaine City Council members that ratepayers can expect a 6.5 percent increase starting January 2007, bringing their monthly bill from $56.14 to $59.80.

The general facilities fee (GFF), which is charged to new users when they connect to city sewer lines, will also be increased to $7,100 in 2007.

Subsquent increases in 2008 through 2012 will depend on a number of factors including population growth, construction cost increases and the availability of grant funding for the city’s planned wastewater treatment facitlily on Marine Drive, according to a review by FCS Group, a utility rate and finance consulting firm in Redmond.

Of those factors, growth would have the most significant impact on rates.

Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic said a higher growth rate will allow public works to divide the cost among a larger population base, thereby reducing the cost to the average ratepayer.

With the city’s anticipated 3 percent growth rate, for example, monthly sewer rates would increase from $56.14 in 2006 to $83.64 in 2012.

A 4 percent growth rate, meanwhile, would raise monthly sewer rates to $75.56 in 2012, while a 2 percent growth rate would increase sewer rates to $94.44 in 2012.

“To a large extent, the costs are based on growth actually occuring,” Tomsic said. “If the growth doesn’t occur, then the numbers (projected rates) will be higher.”

The report also predicted the completion of the treatment plant – originally scheduled for 2009 – will be delayed at least two years due to increases in construction material costs, high bids and a net reduction in expected grants by approximately $1.4 million.

Edward Cebron, vice president of FCS, told council members they can expect a reduction in grants from the state’s Centennial Clean Water program by $2.5 million and the elimination of $2 million from the State Tribal Assistance Grant program of the state Department of Agriculture.

Banham added the city has replaced some of that with a $7 million loan/grant from the Washington State Rural Economic Development Program.

“Our plans are a lot more specific now,” Banham said, responding to a question asked by mayor Mike Myers about the difference in cost projections. “The closer we get to having the facilities designed, the more accurate the cost projections are.”

Banham said he expects to have a 60 percent completed design by late November.

Council member John Liebert asked how the changes might adversely affect the city’s lower-income residents.

Banham said the city still offers a low-income assistance program to help qualifying residents with their utility bills. For more information, call 332-8311.