Increase in yearly water, sewer rates on tap

EVERETT — City leaders are preparing for a likely hike to water and sewer rates starting next year.

For the past few years, rates have increased at a yearly average of 5.5 percent.

The new rates would bump the yearly rise to an average of about 6.4 percent. If passed, somebody who pays $77.40 per year now would pay $99.17 per year in 2016. Those figures describe averages and may vary for customers with different types of service; for instance, those who are on meters and those who have yet to be switched over.

A public hearing is scheduled during next week’s regular City Council meeting, at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

“The utility rates are used to pay for the water and the sewer infrastructure, the capital projects, labor, (and) taxes,” city spokeswoman Kate Reardon said.

Four main factors encouraged the city to seek the higher rate, Reardon said.

The first is a state mandate to move utility customers to meters. Some Everett utility customers lack a meter and instead pay a flat fee. The state is requiring Everett to switch everyone over by 2017.

Out of 22,000 current city utility customers, 12,500 have flat-rate accounts without meters, public works director Dave Davis told the City Council last week. It costs up to $700 to install each meter. The city started adding new meters this summer.

The second reason for the utility rate increase is to pay for infrastructure projects to keep the system running. That includes upgrades to prevent stormwater flooding in older parts of the city and improvements to sewer lift stations.

Needed water infrastructure includes new storage tanks, water mains and transmission lines.

The third factor is a decrease in overall water use. From a conservation standpoint, that’s positive because the average customer no longer requires as much water.

A fourth reason is the loss of Kimberly-Clark Corp.’s Everett mill as a wholesale utility customer. Until shutting down in April, Everett’s last surviving mill been using about 10 billion gallons of water each year at an average cost of $2 million.

The last time the city changed its utility rate schedule was in 2009.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

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