CCUD water, sewer rates to increase in February

January 25, 2012

By Christina Lords

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NEW — 9:50 a.m. Jan. 25, 2012

Newcastle residents can anticipate increases as they open their water and sewer bills this month after the Coal Creek Utility District Board of Commissioners adopted new water and sewer rates for 2012 at its Jan. 11 meeting.

The new rates take effect this month.

The average single-family household will see their monthly water bill increase $4.48 and their monthly sewer bill increase approximately 80 cents in 2012, according to the district.

Water rates are scheduled to increase 12 percent in 2012 — with more than half of that increase due to the higher cost of water purchased from Seattle Public Utilities.

They’ll continue to increase by 6 percent in 2013 and 3.25 percent in 2014.

Sewer rates are scheduled to increase 4.5 percent in 2012 and 2013 and 3.5 percent in 2014.

Those percentages also apply to the district’s commercial, irrigation and multifamily rate classes.

“We take any discussion of water and sewer rates very seriously, especially in these tough economic times,” said CCUD Board President Pamela Martin. “We also conducted an extensive and open public comment process as we considered these new rates. I believe we’ve met our responsibilities to maintain and improve our systems and to protect our customers as well.”

The rate increase will help maintain the district’s water and sewer systems and fund infrastructure improvements necessary to ensure safe and reliable service for the district’s customers, said CCUD General Manager Robert Russell.

Like many other utility districts, CCUD purchases water from Seattle and wastewater treatment from King County Wastewater Treatment Division.

“Whenever Seattle increases our rates, we have to pass that through to the customers,” he said. “We have absolutely no control over that, that doesn’t go toward what we do as a district.”

In 2011, the district’s financial consultants performed a study of the district’s finances. The consultants advised  the district that higher water costs from Seattle Public Utilities, facility improvement requirements and an overall decline in water use resulting from cooler, wetter summers in 2010 and 2011 would require a rate increase to make system improvements and keep the district’s credit rating at a sufficiently high level.

The increase allows the district to finance water and sewer projects at the best possible interest rate, Russell said.

While the new rates are lower than those first proposed by the district’s financial consultants, Russell said CCUD will begin discussions within the next six months on the district’s cost of service to ensure those costs remain equitable for each of the rate classes — changes that could affect entities like The Golf Club of Newcastle and the city of Newcastle, the two largest consumers of irrigation water in the district.

The district conducted a public input process with two separate study sessions in December and a public hearing Jan. 5.

CCUD is one of the only water systems in the region that has been fully upgraded to ductile iron pipe, which prevents leaks, saves water and protects water quality. Reinvestment in its system helps the district operate safely and more efficiently, Russell said.

The increases will also help the district cover costs of repainting a five million gallon reservoir, provide funding for improvements to a sewer lift system in May Valley and provide for a new pump at a booster station located in northwest Newcastle.

The district operates a water and sewer service area covering the city of Newcastle and surrounding areas.

“We want our customers to understand that when you look at what we’re providing … we’re still able to provide water at less than at a penny a gallon,” Russell said. “I know what it feels like when you get a bill and your rates have increased. It bothers me a lot, but people need to understand that there’s a lot that goes into providing that service, and we’re still able to provide that at a reasonable cost.”

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