Feeincrease shifts cost to new residents

Published on Thu, Dec 7, 2006 by ara Nelson

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Fee increase shifts cost to new residents

By Tara Nelson

Water and sewer connection fees for new homes in Birch Bay are scheduled to increase slightly beginning January 1 to compensate for the increase in demand from new development.

Roger Brown, general manager of the Birch Bay Water and Sewer District, said the change will help shift the cost burden of an increase in demand away from existing customers and onto new development.
“When we have new development, we charge a fee that is designed to collect an equitable share of the cost to the system for both the use of existing and planned facilities,” Brown said. “The objective is to cause new growth to pay for an equitable share of their cost to the system so that the existing ratepayers don’t have to absorb that cost. That is, to make growth pay for growth.”

New customers will be charged a general facilities fee of $2,935 for sewer connections to single family units in the Birch Bay area. The change marks a $155 increase from the previous $2,780, Brown said.
The general facilities fee for water has grown from $2,480 to $2,620 – an increase of $140, Brown said.

“In each case, the increases were 5.6 percent more than last year,” Brown said, adding that this is the first increase since December 23, 2004.

The increase was based on a study done in 2003 by an independent consultant that used figures set by the engineering news record of construction cost index, a standardized measurement of inflation used to calculate construction costs.

The study also calculated the cost of existing and planned facilities in the near future.

Brown said the change will not affect existing rate payers’ monthly bill.

How Birch Bay compares to other Whatcom communities
In Lynden, a single-family home water initial hook up includes a $3,278 facility charge, a $50 inspection fee and a $130 meter fee. The sewer connection fee for a single-family residence is $4,645 in addition to a $50 inspection fee, said Joy Fox, administrative assistant for the public works department there.

In Bellingham, a single-family home initial water hook-up will cost between $2,524 and $3,786 depending on the size. Sewer connection fees also vary from $3,436 to $5,154 depending on size for new customers. If you live outside Bellingham city limits, that number will likely be about 1.5 percent higher within a limited service range.

New connections also require a $255 fee for the smaller meter or a $285 for the larger meter, said Jennifer Sorensen, a utility technician for Bellingham Public Works. “And if you need the city to come out and put a new pipe in that’s another $635,” she said. “Then you’ll need a combined water and sewer permit for $50 and a $20 water turn-on charge. And if you need to have your sewer connected to the main from the property, the city needs a $50 permit to pay for a survey and to dig up the road.”

In Ferndale, basic water connection fee for a single-family home is $2,653, plus a meter fee and a $10 water turn-on fee. The connection fee for a single-family home in Ferndale is $3,930, said Laura Rehberger, of the city of Ferndale Public Works.
In Blaine, the general facilities fee for a new, single-family home within city limits is $2,242 in addition to a one-time meter installation fee of $802, said Steve Banham public works director for the city of Blaine.

In Semiahmoo, the fee is $1,433 because residents there have already paid into a local improvement district (LID) as part of an agreement for the development in that area, Banham said.
Sewer connection fees, meanwhile, are $5,316 for a single-family home within Blaine city limits. Banham said because of the construction of the city’s planned water reclamation facility on Marine Drive, Blaine residents have one of the highest connection fees in the county.

A complete fee schedule is available at www.cityofblaine.com.