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Bremerton approves utility rate increases

Utility rates are on the rise in Bremerton following a comprehensive rate study over the last year.

The Bremerton City Council voted 6-1 last week to raise rates on water, sewer and stormwater bills over the next six years. The new ordinance passed by a vote of 6-1, with Councilwoman Carol Arends casting the lone “no” vote. Council members Jim McDonald and Wendy Priest did not attend the meeting.

The average bill for most customers will go up by about $50 by 2018.

Financial Services Director Becky Hasart said the utility rate increases are necessary for several reasons.

“Our capital needs are going to ramp up in a couple of years and we all know that we have aging infrastructure,” Hasart said. “If you don’t start adjusting rates for that now to try and smooth out what the increases are going to be, you end up in a situation where they can spike quite significantly.”

Hasart said that by looking out over a six-year horizon customers will have a better idea of what to expect and make necessary adjustments, rather than trying to guess what rates will be on a year-to-year basis.

Under the ordinance approved last Wednesday, there will be a decrease in the base rate and increase in the usage rate. It is hoped that the scheme, with locked in usage rates for all customers, will encourage across-the-board conservation.

But former council member Roy Runyon and rate study committee members John Larson and Bob Dollar urged the council to take a different approach and charge a lower rate for customers who use less than 400 cubic feet.

Runyon told the council that widows, residents on fixed incomes and retirees or those “struggling to maintain their homes and stay in their homes” would benefit the most from such an approach.

City Councilman Adam Brockus introduced an amendment along that vein that would provide a cost savings incentive to use less water, but it failed in a 4-3 vote. Councilman Eric Younger was one of those that disagreed with Brockus’ approach.

“Don’t hit them just because they’re using water,” Younger said. “We have plenty of water. We’ve got the Cascad Dam and we’ve got wells.”

Council members Faye Flemister, Carol Arends, Eric Younger and Nick Wofford voted “no” on the amendment while Brockus, Leslie Daugs and Greg Wheeler voted “yes.”

 

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