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home : community : bulletin board April 29, 2016

4/3/2013 10:10:00 AM
PUD pressing ahead with plans to raise water-wastewater rates
Ian Dunn

Chelan County PUD Commissioners, on March 18, heard recommendations from staff to increase rates on water and wastewater systems in order to make the systems self sustaining. The PUD operates water systems in Wenatchee, Ollala Canyon, Dryden and Chelan Ridge. It operates wastewater systems at Dryden, Peshastin and Lake Wenatchee.

Staff recommended water rates increase at 5 percent per year for four years, from 2013 to 2016. This would close all gaps, meet the strategic plan and meet the financial policies for water, said Ron Slabaugh, PUD Water and Wastewater manager.

"It is a success story for water. It is an increase for four more years, but when you look at it historically, we've been increasing rates annually 5.3 percent since 1999," Slabaugh said. "It is slightly less than what the past has been and put us on track to being sustainable."

In 2012, water actually ended in the black, he said, but they still needed a few increases to meet all the financial policies. All systems will need repairs and upgrades, he said. The PUD also wants to be less reliant on external funding for future capital improvements. In other words, they want to save for a rainy day.

It is tougher on the sewer side because there are far fewer customers to spread out the cost. The sewer system has just under 500 customers while there are 5,600 water customers.

"That is the biggest struggle for wastewater. We have a lot of infrastructure to serve a limited number of customers," he said.

At the March 18 presentation, staff asked for a 15 percent increase for four years on wastewater. That would push rates from $61.80 per month to $107.70 and allow the PUD to meet their financial indicators by 2016.

At the meeting, commissioners asked staff to look at an increase over a longer timeframe, like 10 years. A 10 year plan would increase rates 7.4 percent per year, but would push out the financial indicators to 2022.

By comparison, the rates for the average water user is only going up by $10 over four years.

"In my opinion, that is reasonably modest. It puts the system on track, less reliant of external funding in the future and saves for a rainy day. That's pretty solid," he said of the water rate increase. "We're seeing more in this industry that are going to multi-year increases in order to cover costs. That's pretty common."

Two public meetings are planned. On Tuesday, April 16, there is a public meeting at Peshastin Dryden Elementary School at 5:30 p.m. The purpose is to talk to customers and gather comments. Another meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 24 at 5:30 p.m. at the Wenatchee PUD Auditorium.

The PUD Board will make a decision after a public hearing on May 6 in the PUD Board Room as part of the regular PUD Commission meeting. What is presented at the public hearing, Slabaugh said, will depend on the feedback from customers at the two informational meetings.

Ian Dunn can be reached at 548-5286 or editor@leavenworthecho.com

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