Oak Harbor City Council hikes utility rates 7 percent
By JESSIE STENSLAND
Whidbey News Times Assistant editor
July 3, 2008 · Updated 10:50 AM
Oak Harbor residents will soon be paying 7 percent more on their city utility bills.
City Council members unanimously approved the increase in water and storm drain rates during the Tuesday night meeting. Finance Director Doug Merriman explained that the hike was needed largely because of the cost of necessary construction projects, as well as growth in the cost of water purchased from the city of Anacortes.
Merriman originally figured that the city needed to increase overall utilities by 14 percent, which mirrored last years increase, but that was cut in half by putting off four projects until after this year.
The deferred construction projects are a 3 million gallon water reservoir on the west side of the city, water line extensions to Fakkema and Ault Field roads, a 42-inch outfall for stormwater at Windjammer Park and storm drain improvements on Pioneer Way.
Resident Mel Vance argued that putting off the projects doesnt solve anything. He said the city should plan ahead more wisely.
It gets a little bit irritating that last year we had utility rates raised and now were back, raising them again, he said. And its very easy to see that next year and the year after they are going to get raised again.
Councilman Eric Gerber also pointed out that construction costs continue to skyrocket. He asked if it was truly cost effective to delay some of the projects.
Merriman said the city tries to be rate conscious for the sake of citizens, but that projects shouldnt be delayed indefinitely.
In addition, City Administrator Paul Schmidt explained that the city is going to hire a consultant to perform a comprehensive rate study of all utilities. The study would look at, among other things, system development fees.
Gerber is pushing the need to increase system development fees, which are basically impact fees that developers pay to help defer the impact that new construction has on city utilities. As it now stands, these fees cover 60 percent of the cost of building utility projects needed because of new development, while ratepayers cover the rest.Contact Whidbey News Times Assistant editor Jessie Stensland at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360.675.6611 ext. 5056.