Last night at the Yelm City Council Meeting, there was a Public Hearing on Yelm’s Ordinance 905, a Water Rate Increase. I and one other person were the only two giving comments. Here is what I wrote:
June 9, 2009
You on the City Council will be asked to implement a water rate increase based on what the Staff Report describes as the Citys work on an updated Water System Plan, a draft of which the public has never seen (the old one expired in September, 2008).
Why are you adopting rate increases to pay for water system improvements that have not been reviewed by the public nor approved by the Department of Health and the Department of Ecology as part of the required update to the Water System Plan? The Water System Plan update should be done first then the Council can consider and implement appropriate rate changes that are consistent with an approved update to the Water System Plan. Why are there Water System Plan decisions without public review? If there is NO approved Water System Plan to implement, then for what do you want the money from a rate increase you are to vote in tonight? The Water System Plan is the guide to any rate increases and the city has none! How does the public know what the Plan is for the next 6 years, 10 years, etc. This is just another example of the City making decisions on information that the public and perhaps you have not seen.
Additionally, DOE Mike Gallaghers wrote a response to my comments on Yelms MDNS and stated,
“Ecologys Water Resources Program has not yet approved the City of Yelms mitigation plans. Therefore, the final mitigation requirements in the water right permit decisions might be different from what is described in this Mitigated Determination of Non Significance document.”
Though I reside outside of city limits, I own a home within the City of Yelm and am a city water rate payer.
Therefore, I am lodging an objection to the water rate increase and specifically request that you postpone your decision on Ordinance 905 until the public has seen the draft of the Water System Plan and the Update is completed and approved by DOE.
Response from City:
Mayor Harding directed the response from Staff and Stephanie Ray answered as follows:
What Mr. Klein raised has already been addressed in Open Houses and the public has had ample opportunity to comment on the Water Rate Increase.
The purpose of the Water Rate increase is to meet debt service obligations and will be solely used to keep Fund 401 in-status.
Council Member John Thompson asked what Fund 401 was.
Mrs. Ray said this is an operational and maintenance fund.
She said the City Council can raise rates for operations as they see fit and the last time there was a water rate increase was in 2003. She added that there is a need to raise rates to keep up with operational costs.
Mrs. Ray added that residents are still paying less than a penny a gallon.
There was a question about the MDNS from Council and City Staff said that is comparing apples to oranges and the MDNS is not the issue tonight.
Council member Don Miller asked how Yelm’s water rates compare to other communities.
Mrs. Ray answered that Yelm is not in the lower tier nor the higher tier.
The rate depends on a city’s capital project needs. She added this is a reasonable cost for Yelm.
I asked to rebut and Mayor Harding said NO!
The Council adjourned to Executive Session away from the public and they announced the issue was to discuss the city’s Real Estate acquisition.
[Ed. Note: I couldn’t help but think with Thurston Highlands’ default being postponed from last Friday to this Friday, that the city is involved in somehow saving Bloom/Chamberlain’s Highlands.
Forgive me for these thoughts. However, the city’s past actions just lead to that as a potential.
Ordinance 905 Water Rate Increase passed unanimously!
The one bit of fresh air at the Council meeting was the introduction of Tracy Wood, who announced he is running for City Council, Position 5 (Council Member Pat Fetterly’s seat). Mr. Wood was interviewed by the NVN and I will be following up with an interview here, as well.