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Sewer rates going up in county

Commissioners raised sewer rates recently — despite concerns about the impact on senior citizens.

The Kitsap County commissioners unanimously approved increasing fees for the Manchester, Central Kitsap, Kingston and Suquamish sewer service systems during a special public meeting Monday, June 2.

The increase, which calls for boosting a single-family home or mobile home’s monthly sewer rate to $44.22 from $43.35, takes effect July 1.

While charges accrue every month, customers receive bills every two months.

Additional increases to the county’s sewer rates are scheduled to continue through 2006 under the resolution, with a subsequent rate boost to occur every January.

“By state law, we have to collect enough revenue to maintain our operations,” said County Commissioner Chairwoman Jan Angel, just before voting in favor of the boost.

“And while costs have escalated, our growth hasn’t, and so we do have a gap there,” she said. “It leaves us with no choice.”

But Angel quickly added the county must strive for a more equitable fee-base in the future, especially on behalf of the retired community.

That’s exactly what the few county residents pressed for as they testified before commissioners at Givens Community Center in Port Orchard Monday afternoon.

Jean Wright of Silverdale said, “Probably, the rates you have here and the increase you are considering is not that much, but I’ve got a problem with the flat rate.”

Wright said it’s not fair for one person living in a home in a service area to pay the same amount for sewage as a large family that, by sheer numbers, produces more wastewater on a daily basis.

Rick Gagnon, the county’s senior wastewater program manager, said many residents have asked why the county’s sewer rates aren’t based on water consumption instead of a flat rate.

Gagnon said the county has more than 9,000 customers served by nine different water purveyors including the city of Bremerton, Poulsbo, Deseret Park, Eldorado Water District No. 1, Erlands Point Water Co., the Kitsap County PUD No. 1, Manchester Water District, North Perry Avenue Water District and the Silverdale Water District. There are also roughly 50 customers served by private wells.

Complicating matters, each water provider taps a different billing system, and the county’s own billing system needs improvement before a consumption-based fee system can be installed.

“Also, not all of their (water purveyor) customers are ours and vice-versa,” Gagnon said. “And we would have to set up interlocal agreements with all the water purveyors, as well.”

Gagnon said with the rate increases, he expects there to be enough money in 2005 to come up with a new billing system within the county.

Don Krizan of Manchester wanted to know why the county has some of the highest rates.

“We’re spread out in five locations,” Gagnon said. Plus, while customer growth is lagging, the cost of service is growing, he said.

County Commissioner Chris Endresen agreed, but added rates are going up because the county is expected to meet new and growing requirements for service and maintenance. Older systems are costly and the sewer system has to pay for itself, according to state law.

“Raising sewer rates is never a popular thing to do and it’s never a fun thing to do,” Endresen said.

It is expected to cost a little more than $10 million this year to operate the sewer systems in Manchester, Suquamish, Kingston and Central Kitsap.

In addition to single-family rates, rates are on the rise for multi-family homes, commercial entities and restaurants.

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