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City may lessen wastewater utility rates in 2018

SNOHOMISH — It’s still a ‘maybe’ until city staff can put together the final analysis for City Council approval, but in-city residents could see their wastewater bill rates reduced in 2018.
It would be the second consecutive year of dropping the rates.
The City Council will have further discussion beginning next month, and the public process on the wastewater bill reductions starting in November concurrent with the city’s budget approval process.
Public works director Steve Schuller is recommending a 2 percent reduction in base wastewater rate and a 10 percent rate reduction
in the overage wastewater rate for residential and business meters.
The proposal was discussed at a City Council budget workshop Aug. 22.
The city has been gaining ground in recent years on repairs and improvements to the wastewater treatment plant, which now hosts a large amount of “bacteria hotels” that better filtrate the water. After the city was sued in 2002 by the Puget Soundkeeper Alliance for the condition of the treatment plant and permit violations, and the state Department of Ecology said the plant needed to meet heightened compliance levels.
Snohomish reached that goal a few years ago, and now the sewage plant retains its NPDES permit.
Increased utility rates were a direct result of the city’s attempts to get back into compliance and improve the wastewater treatment plant between 2010 and recent years, but now the city can look to decrease the rates again. “The continued success of the ‘bacteria hotels’
which were installed in 2013 has allowed us to look at reducing wastewater rates again,” Schuller said last Friday. “Also, the improvement of the housing market and new housing development has provided us increased revenue, but, when we go to replace old sewer lines, the bids are getting higher so there are some negatives to this, but overall, it’s positive.”
One negative is reducing utility rates could also mean less revenue for future capital city projects, reads a memo Schuller wrote.
Last fall, the city looked to reduce its wastewater rates for 2017, 2018 and 2019 with 0 percent increases for those years based on meter sizes. Because the city is updating its six-year-old general sewer plan, the results of the plan update will better spell what the new rates may be in the new year for residents for all meter sizes.
It remains to be seen if the recommended rates will be adopted by the City Council, which won’t see the issue again until later this year when it goes through the process of approving the 2018 budget.
If the City Council approves this proposal of this second round of wastewater rates reductions, it would start Jan. 1, 2018.


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