City Council considers proposal to raise sewer rates 9.5 percent annually; public hearing next week
The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night listened to a proposal from City Public Works Director Phil Williams to raise sewer rates by 9.5 percent annually over the next three years, to pay for repairs to — and maintenance of — the city’s aging sewer mains and pipes, as well as updates and repairs to the wastewater treatment plant.
Three councilmembers were absent from Tuesday night’s meeting: Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, Strom Peterson and Frank Yamamoto.
The city commissioned a study to determine how Edmonds’ sewer rates compare to nearby municipalities, and the city’s rates — at $27.85 per month — came in second lowest on the list. (Seattle was highest at $116.50.) Williams pointed out that the city has in the past funded sewer maintenance and operations work by purchasing bonds, which involve ongoing debt service. Instead, Willilams said, the city should create a rate structure that fully supports the routine costs of operating the sewer system and consider “weaning ourselves off of borrowing money to pay for…work that you have to do all the time.”
Among the work that the rate increase would pay for:
- Ongoing replacement and repair of sewer mains that are either too old or too small to handle current flows.
- Repairing or replacing existing pipes to decrease the amount of root intrusion in existing pipes to prevent blockages.
- Updates and repairs to the wastewater treatment plant, which was built in 1962.
- Mitigating infiltration and Inflow of groundwater into pipes, which increases the flow of sewage.
Citizens will have an opportunity to express their opinion about the rate increase proposal at the Sept. 24 council meeting.
Other issues at Tuesday’s council meeting:
- During a presentation by Finance Director Roger Neumaier, several councilmembers shared their concerns about the format that he is using for budget reports. Neumaier — who was hired recently for the finance position — told the council that the old reporting system could be viewed as possibly misleading so he made changes. Councilmembers responded that they had received negative feedback from citizens who liked the old reporting system, which was in a graph rather than numeric format.
- The council continued its discussion on adoption of a code of conduct and code of ethics for the council to follow. Discussion focused on using codes from other municipalities, including Kirkland, Snohomish County and Bellevue, as guides for developing such a policy.
- The council also had a spirited discussion regarding its role in confirming appointments of department directors. Councilmembers Joan Bloom said the council plays an important role in providing a check and balance system to the city’s executive branch, and that she believes the current city code does not adequately ensure that councilmembers will have a voice in the appointment process.
You can watch the archives of the Tuesday’s meeting by visiting the meeting agenda and clicking on the camera icon.