It was decided at Monday’s Ferndale City Council meeting to increase sewer connection fees and usage rates in order to pay for a needed expansion of the City’s sewage treatment plant.
Connection fees are charged for new connections (eg new buildings) and usage rates apply to existing users.
Different mixes of connection and rate increases across the next three years were considered but it was finally decided by a 4 to 3 vote to:
* increase connection fees by 25% per year over the next three years and
* increase sewer usage rates by 3% each year over the next three years.
Councilmembers Rebecca Xczar, Greg Hansen and Teresa Taylor were opposed to the mix of increases voted on.
Currently, sewer billing is directly tied to water usage. Realizing water use related to pools, gardening, etc. goes up during the summer months, the City implemented a summer months usage rate adjustment to account for these water uses that do not result in increased sewer use. This summer usage rate adjustment (discount) will be discontinued in 2018 as a result of Monday’s council vote.
The plan to expand the treatment plant is in response to a State requirement that kicks in when the level of use exceeds 85% of design capacity. The increases are reported to be used to meet the debt service requirements on bonds that will be used to expand the treatment plant’s capacity.
The council vote included a directive to enact these increases via the consent agenda at the next regular city council meeting on June 19th. According to City staff, it is possible the increases will go into effect as early as June 30th, in time for the next billing cycle.
The Ferndale City Council has the authority to set utility rates without requiring a vote of the people per Washington State law.