Yelm Community Blog

PUBLIC VENTS TO CITY COUNCIL ABOUT WATER BILL INCREASES


Mayor Ron Harding

The Yelm City Council received an earful for almost an hour from local citizens’ about the water rate increases on September 8th. Had he cut them off at 5 speakers at 3 minutes each as he forewarned, Mayor Harding would have had a major public faux-paux on his hands, what with the outcry, anguish and anger expressed. There hasn’t been such passion exhibited by local Yelm residents since the NASCAR track proposal. Mayor Harding fielded the responses to these comments:

1. Shad Taylor
“Maybe this is an indication of poor planning for the City of Yelm. Had I known about this, I probably wouldn’t have looked at this place to live… You have no contingency for low income folks. These rates (water) were not well thought-out and an incomplete solution…this is taking food off of my family’s table.”
Mayor Harding answered that the rates are based on the cost of providing infrastructure. The rates are based on a 6-year planning cycle and the water rates are based on the Water Plan, which is awaiting approval. The main increase is due to that infrastructure, not m & o [maintenance & operations].
[Ed. Note: The rates are based on a 20-year plan that includes capital improvements for a Master Planned Community after the 6th year.]
To quote Mayor Harding, “One of the objectives with the rates is a wake-up call…get people to watch their water usage.”
Mr. Taylor responded, “I vote with my wallet…You do not address the constituents very well in answering this problem.”

2. Mr Van Gorder (sp?)
This [water rate increase] is a poor tool to use as a wake-up call. I didn’t know about your Plan [Draft water System Plan]. Economically, THANK YOU for the wake-up call. Maybe we shouldn’t be living in Yelm…Mine [water bill] doubled…I”m speechless.”
Mayor Harding responded, “We’re mandated to put in the infrastructure and it has to be paid for.” He said the council anguished over this decision, yet they had to do it.

3. Tanya Hall
“Non-residential customers get a flat rate, where residents do not….They [commercial payers] don’t need a wake-up call, yet we do?! During a recession, you must not have a very good moral compass to put this on the backs of the people... I will come to every Town Hall meeting until this is fixed and post notices about this in my neighborhood.”
Mayor Harding responded he will look into her bill.
“I want more than that. I am not going away until this is equitable for commercial and residential alike.”

4. Jackie Keys-Jones
“Commercial buildings get a flat rate. I don’t care what the building plan is – this is unconscionable.

5. Brooke Austin
I am in a low income family who moved here because I could afford to rent for less than anywhere else. I would not have lived anywhere where I would have been on city water. I can’t pay the bill this month – or next.
Conservation? I’ve been doing that.
I bath my three children and then wash my own body in their dirty water to conserve.
I could understand if this was a 20% increase, but 60% and higher?
A 20% increase is about the high end of what would be reasonable. This is beyond absurd!

Mayor Harding closed the public comment session by saying this is unfortunate that water is coming back to being a contention in our State.

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.
Unfortunately, Mayor Harding left out a key fact in his answer that the rates had to be increased to support the infrastructure:
– the 69% water rate increase is mostly to fund infrastructure needed to support an MPC (Master Planned Community), 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 9/8/2009.

FOLKS – THIS IS A PRELUDE TO WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT FROM THE CITY FOR THE NEXT FOUR YEARS, AS THERE IS NO CHANGE TO THE MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL, EXCEPT ONE NEW COUNCILMEMBER TO REPLACE RETIRING COUNCIL WOMAN FETTERLY!

UPDATE:
My Letter to the Editor of the Nisqually Valley News [NVN] was published today about the city’s lack of of taxpayer protection by the city to get reimbursed for what the city said will be the developer’s requirement to pay for their pro-rata share of the Golder Water Study.

I asked,
“In managing a business, would you verbally agree (without contract) to be reimbursed at some future time for a job you would do for an undetermined, pro-rata amount? This begs the question: why did the city not require taxpayers get repaid, at the very least with a contract? Would you run your business that way? Of course not. Then why is the city running their citizens’ business this way?
Where was the citys responsibility to do the right thing on the taxpayers behalf? And, why is my questioning Yelms accountability any different from your outspokenness about the City of Roy & Rainier Schools acting in the publics interest?”

NVN Publisher/Editor Graves responded in the print edition,
“Since you ask, the biggest difference is that the Rainier School Board and superintendent thumbed their noses at public record and open meetings laws. There’s no indication that the City of Yelm violated any laws, a conclusion the State Auditor supported in its report. If you have solid, tangible proof of wrongdoing by the city, bring it on and we’ll investigate.”

No, no Mr. Graves, there has been no evidence of laws being broken. However, this whole thing with the water issue here just stinks and the public is finally starting to wake-up. Does a law have to be broken for your newspaper to do an investigative report into the City of Yelm not getting a contract to be repaid for what they said was the developer’s share of the Water Study, for a 69% increase in water rates to mostly support an MPC clearly stated in the Draft Water System Plan public record, and millions on infrastructure to support wells out on the MPC developers’ land a mile from the city core?

Mayor Harding’s tepid responses to the public last Tuesday, the city’s lack of candor on all of the water issues and the local newspaper’s not reporting the Water Plan infrastructure costs to mostly support an MPC as the basis of the water rate increases are all pathetic.

Mrs. Hall summed it all up nicely to Mayor Harding,
“…you must not have a very good moral compass to put this on the backs of the people.”

“Change is only going to come, when we stand together as one,” as the song says.
The citizens, taxpayers, water rate payers AND voters of Yelm must come together to affect change here.
These 5 courageous citizens have alot to offer to change this place they all chose to move recently and their energies & passions should be enlisted as a catalyst for change.

The silence from the two City Council candidates 57 days before election and just a month from the ballots being mailed speaks volumes that we can expect no change from them!
If they were passionate about changing things here, we would be hearing their drumbeat, their stands, their knowledge & their commitment every week. Instead – silence! HMMM!

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  1. Steve
    well said -- these city officials obviously have had little to no "hands-on" out-in-the-world business education and/or experience and know little to nothing about handling business affairs properly. This has been shown with the traffic issues, NASCAR, Wal-Mart and now the whole water charade. At least, several local residents are staring to speak up and get the big picture. Thank you for taking the time to write your views.

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