Washougal proposes utility rate reductions

Bi-monthly bill could decrease from $211 to $183 this year

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The Washougal City Council could soon consider an ordinance that will provide some economic relief for residential utility customers.

In information presented during a workshop last night, Finance Director Jennifer Forsberg talked about a proposed ordinance that would use $500,000 of unrestricted general fund reserves to provide a one-time, flat-rate reduction for 2013 for residential homes.

There are approximately 5,756 residential homes, including apartments, in Washougal. The proposed bi-monthly flat rate reduction would be $14.48 ($86.87 for the year).

There is also discussion regarding spreading water and sewer upgrades and expenditures over a longer period of time — pending Department of Ecology approval. The proposal would involve a 3 percent (instead of 13 percent) increase in the 2015 water rate. Sewer rate increases would be 13 percent (instead of 26.5 percent) this year, 10 percent (instead of 11 percent) in 2014, and 8 percent (instead of 11 percent) in 2015.

The current single family residential minimum bi-monthly water, sewer and stormwater bill is $211.13. With the proposed changes, the bi-monthly bill would be $183.12 this year, $220.25 in 2014, and $226.28 in 2015.

City Councilman Paul Greenlee called the use of reserves to reduce utility rates a “temporary Band-Aid.”

“It would be a mistake to spend reserves on operational expenses,” he added.

Joyce Lindsay said she and other council members have heard from residents about the utility rate increases.

“We have to address it,” she said.

Washougal residents are in their third year of a five-year overall increase of 122 percent for water, sewer and storm water rates. The increases were required to pay for water and sewer infrastructure improvements, in order to meet state and federal regulations. They include the $15 million upgrade of the city’s wastewater treatment facility.

During public comment last night, Bill Durgan said Washougal is becoming a less desirable area because of the cost of living.

“Utility rates are lower in other places,” he said.

Don Weidner called using the $500,000 of reserves to reduce utility rates “throwing the dog a bone, so it won’t bark.”

“This is not going away,” he added.

The next council meeting will be held Tuesday, Jan. 22, at 6 p.m., in the council chambers at City Hall, 1701 “C” St.