Oak Harbor City Council to consider rates at meeting

The Oak Harbor City Council’s Feb. 18 meeting will help shape the future of the city.

The council will consider an ordinance that sets rates for wastewater, solid waste, water and stormwater over the next three years. In addition, the members will consider extending a moratorium on development permits for the downtown areas for another six months.

Residents will get a chance to voice their opinions on the issues at the meeting.

Last week, a consultant presented the council with a five-year plan for utility rate increases at a council workshop, but the proposed ordinance would only adopt three years of the increases.

The major proposed increases in rates are for sewage — also called wastewater — and solid waste. The proposal would increase sewage rates by 7.5 percent each year for three years, beginning this year. That would be a surge from $102.76 to $127.67 a month.

The increases are necessary because of the unanticipated cost of flood insurance for the new sewage treatment plant in addition to greater-than-expected electricity bills, officials said.

The rate escalation could be reversed, however, if the Navy contracts with the city to treat sewage from the Seaplane Base. The city and Navy are in the midst of negotiations.

The rates for solid waste disposal would also increase by 7.5 percent a year during the three-year period, but for different reasons.

The rates for garbage and recycling pickup haven’t changed since 2007, so the increases are catching up with inflation. In addition, recycling costs have spiked across the world after China stopped accepting most kinds of plastic recycling.

Garbage tipping fees the city pays increased by 24 percent for the city last year. The city’s costs for disposing of recycling grew by 300 percent.

In addition, the council will decide whether to extend a limited moratorium on development that was enacted in the downtown area following community concerns about a low-income housing project. Some downtown merchants and residents were concerned about the project’s limited amount of retail space.

Since the moratorium was adopted last August, city staff searched central business district regulations in other communities, briefed the planning commission on the options and spoke with members of Oak Harbor Main Street Association on concepts, Development Director Steve Powers told the council last week.

Staff will complete a work plan, as required by law. The council will hold a public hearing before possible adoption of a new ordinance with applicable findings of fact.

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