The Yelm City Council received an earful for over one half-hour on September 22nd from local citizens about the water rate increases. Since there was virtually no business on the Agenda (Special Presentation delayed & the Ordinance 910 vote continued until Sept. 25), Mayor Harding allowed the 15 minute Public Comment session to be extended. All of the speakers were City of Yelm residents. Mayor Harding fielded the responses to these comments:
1. Deanna Davis
Ms. Davis said she recognized the huge increase when she received her last water bill of $377 for one month, saying, “I consider that outrageous!”
She said she was a caregiver in Olympia and her water usage is quite minimal, outside of watering her plants. She has been in Yelm 11 years and added, “I really feel these rates are not just high, they’re outrageous. I really don’t know how the average family can feed themselves with these rates. I would really like to know more as to why we’re paying so much. My previous bill was $94.”
Ms. Davis stated she went to City Hall to seek some information and was told the rates were necessary to provide infrastructure, adding “You had to move the wells. When is the next water increase going to be?”
Mayor Harding asked her if she thinks that there is a discrepancy in what she has been using.
Ms. Davis said she is using more, but not THAT much more (a four-fold increase).
Council member Isom asked if she has a sprinkler. Ms. Davis said, no; she waters by hand. She continued saying City Hall told her this rate increase was all about moving the wells (out to the SW Annex – Thurston Highlands).
The Mayor said he could not answer the issue in just 2-3 minutes and invited her to stay after.
2. Frank Jones (husband of Sept. 8th public speaker Jackie Keys-Jones)
Mr. Jones came up with a stack of printed documents well over one foot thick — 1,500 pages of the Draft water System Plan.
He told the Mayor & Council that usage aside, he is no longer buying their answers vs. what the Plan identifies. He said he works for the U. S. Army and his job is to look at infrastructure, find flaws and fix them.
Quoting Mr. Jones, “Your usage problem is incorrect! There is no way all of these people are using this volume of water.”
Mayor Harding said they’re checking meters in Mr. Jones’s neighborhood. He made an offer for Mr Jones to come in for a personal, one hour presentation on the Draft Water System Plan. Mr. Jones said he is being shipped out for deployment for a year on Sept. 24th, however his wife will keep informed on this matter.
Mr. Jones asked, “If this IS only a Draft (Water System Plan), and not finalized yet, why is there a rate increase? I have already turned away people from moving to this city (because of the high water bills here).”
He also mentioned that he believed the city is paying for Thurston Highlands’ bankruptcy relating to water issues.
He continued, “I had the Army Corps of Engineers look into this Draft Plan and I want to share the flaws they found according to WA. State Code.”
The Mayor said the Yelm Water Committee will look into the rates and he’d like to see the information from the Army Corps of Engineers.
Mr. Jones mentioned one flaw they found MAY be with the computer program the city employs relating to rate software.
Mr, Jones closed by saying, “I have not been shown the benefit to me, of this Water Plan.”
3. The lady that is the neighbor and spoke with Mrs. Keys-Jones on Sept. 8th returned and said that when municipalities do not have a meter sealer & weight/balances person, then the jurisdiction on rates falls to the State of WA. and the city themselves cannot raise rates.
City Administrator Badger said the city’s employees are qualified and what was cited is not so in the State of WA.
The lady said, “I differ with you.” She said that when the City of Yelm starts to take away her income as a senior citizen, that’s when she takes notice, gets educated and stands up to this.
Council member Don Miller suggested the city should investigate the purchase of the water meters (quality).
In audience was City Council candidate Tracey Wood.
Ed. Note: These people who dared to speak up were not Steve Klein Blog Host, RSE students or county residents – these were ALL City of Yelm residents and taxpayers. This Blogger predicted that when the water rate payers got their stomach-punch with the new rates back in early June, they would hopefully speak-up. I believe this is the tip of the iceberg and the city has finally shot themselves in the foot with their own constituents.
The 69% water rate increase is mostly to fund infrastructure needed to support an MPC (Master Planned Community) as stated in the Draft Water System Plan, namely the now-defunct Thurston Highlands. If the developers are gone [defaulted], why is infrastructure proposed to support a choice of three wells on that property still in the Draft Water System Plan? HMMM!
HOPEFULLY, MORE CITIZENS WILL DARE TO SPEAK UP AND TELL THE CITY COUNCIL ON THE 2ND & 4TH TUESDAY OF EACH MONTH AT 7PM AT THE YELM PUBLIC SAFETY BUILDING!
SEE THE FULL COMMENTS ON THE CITY’S WEBSITE
click “Agenda/Notices”, then click “Meeting Video”, then 9/22/2009.