Kent Council to mull water-rate hikes for ‘09 budget

Kent utility customers could see monthly jumps next year in water rates and storm drainage rates under a proposal outlined Tuesday at a City Council workshop.

Kent utility customers could see monthly jumps next year in water rates and storm drainage rates under a proposal outlined Tuesday at a City Council workshop.

City staff recommended to the Council that the base water rate be raised 22 percent to $6.43 per month from $5.26 per month for each customer, starting in 2009. That would be an increase of about $14 per year.

The storm drainage rate could jump by as much as 46 percent to $8.75 per month from $6 per month for the average basic rate per customer. That would be an increase of $33 per year.

The Council will consider the rate proposal later this year, as part of the 2009 budget process. Residents can comment on the proposed utility-fee increases at a public hearing for the 2009 budget scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 21 at City Hall.

Staff recommended the water-rate increase to help the city pay for the operation, maintenance, replacement and expansion of its water system, as required by federal and state regulations for fire codes and health standards.

Because of the city’s large water supply, staffers recommended no increase in the monthly water volume rates.

That means, with the base-rate increase, a customer who has a single-family home with a 5/8-inch or 3/4-inch meter using 700 cubic feet per month would pay an average of $18.30 per month next year compared to the current rate of $17.13.

City officials plan to keep the monthly water-volume rates the same because the city expects to start selling excess water in the next couple of years to surrounding jurisdictions.

“We are getting into the water-sale business,” said John Hodgson, city chief administrative officer, at the workshop. “There are agencies that want to buy our water.”

Staff estimates the city could sell between $500,000 and $3 million worth of water over the next six years depending on how many contracts the city issues.

The cities or water districts interested in buying water from Kent include Auburn, Tukwila, the Cascade Water Alliance (an entity serving several Eastside cities), and Water District No. 111 (a public utility serving about 5,000 residential units in the Lake Meridian area).

“Our water consumption has gone down because of our conservation program,” said Larry Blanchard, city public works director, at the workshop. “That has freed up water to sell.”

Because of the anticipated water sales, city staff kept the proposed increase lower in the base water rate.

Water rates could be adjusted either higher or lower in 2014 depending on how much water the city sells over the next six years.

Meanwhile, Blanchard said, storm-drainage rates need to go up to help pay for capital improvement projects designed to meet the requirements of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit issued by the state Department of Ecology.

The drainage rate increase also will help pay for $25 million of repairs to Green River levees in the city to help control flooding.

“I think most people agree the levees are a threat to everyone if we don’t repair them,” Councilwoman Deborah Ranniger said at the workshop.

Drainage rates vary depending on the drainage basin where property is located. The average current rate for a customer is $6 per month.

City staff also proposed increases in the water and storm drainage system development charges. Those fees are charged to developers for new construction.

The water system development charge would jump to $5,949 from $2,600 for a development with a 5/8-inch meter. The storm drainage system development charge would rise to as much as $1,787 from $300. System-development charges are added to the cost of a new home.

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