Coupeville town council approves utility rate hike

Turning on sprinklers became a little more expensive for Coupeville residents as of Friday, Oct. 1.

Turning on sprinklers or flushing the toilet became a little more expensive for Coupeville residents as of Friday, Oct. 1.

On Tuesday, members of the Town Council held a public hearing about the utility rate increase, after which they voted unanimously to adopt the ordinance that made the increase a reality.

Of the three utilities for which Coupeville charges its residents, water will see the highest jump; the base rate for water rose by $9. The town also changed the way it determines the usage rate. Now, that part of the bill will be determined not by the season as it has been in the past, but by how much water is used.

There are three tiers in this new year-round system. The first 500 cubic feet of water a household uses will cost $0.0357 per cubic foot. The next 1,500 cubic feet will cost $0.0535 per cubic foot. Anything beyond 2,000 cubic feet will cost $0.0714 per cubic foot.

The tiered system is meant to encourage conservation and incentivize customers to perform regular maintenance to avoid expensive leaks. Coupeville Mayor Molly Hughes said it also gives residents a little more control over their bill, sparing them the inevitable rate hike they used to see every summer.

The sewage base rate also jumped from $8 to $10, and the sewage usage rate increased from $0.0856 to $0.0967 per cubic foot of water used.

The storm base rate did not rise this year, but beginning in 2023, it will increase by 7% each year through 2026. For most residential households in Coupeville, this increase will add between $1 and $1.40 to their bills.

The base and usage rates for water and sewage are also planned to keep increasing each year through 2026, though by less than Friday’s initial increase.

Even with the increase, Coupeville still has the lowest utility rates on the island. How much the rate hikes will affect individual household bills depends largely on how much water a household uses throughout the month.

According to a Powerpoint presentation about the utility rate study on the town’s website, a household using 500 cubic feet of water per month could expect their two month combined utility bill to increase by about $20.44, while a household using 3,000 cubic feet of water per month might see an increase of closer to $176.45 on their two-month bills.

The revenue from the rate increase will be used to fund capital projects such as building new wells, upgrading the water and sewer treatment plants, repairing storm sewers and replacing water and sewer lines.