In Our Opinion: Options for controlling utility rates likely limited

  • Friday, February 21, 2020 1:42pm
  • Opinion

Oak Harbor council members didn’t adopt a plan to raise city utility rates precipitously over the next three years.

Instead, the members decided to explore what options they might have to control the rate increases that are predicted to be necessary to keep the sewage treatment, water, stormwater and solid waste funds solvent.

The estimated total utility rates for the average home was projected to increase from about $185 last year to $222 in 2022. Increases in the sewage rate would have the greatest impact on the rate hike.

It’s definitely a good idea for the elected officials to look closely at the costs and predictions, but options are limited. After all, if there were realistic options that would curb costs, wouldn’t it have been the staff’s and the council’s job to already know about it and have explored those options?

There are likely to be ways to “kick the can down the road” when it comes to capital improvements. That might help control rates in the short term, but it’s usually bad policy.

The new sewage treatment plant, for example, recently released thousands of dollars of untreated, icky water into Puget Sound when it became inundated with rainwater, which is largely due to leaky sewage pipes and cross connections with the stormwater system. Pushing back the city’s systematic plan for replacing the lines would increase the likelihood of spills in the future.

It’s ridiculous to have a state-of-the-art treatment plant with supporting infrastructure that failing.

The city could cut costs by doing away with recycling — which continues to grow in expense — but that’s obviously not environmentally responsible. And it would mean an increase in stuff going to the landfill.

The city’s best bet for controlling rates is that an agreement be reached with the Navy to hook the Seaplane Base’s sewage lines into the new treatment plant.

Hopefully a fair and equitable contract can be figured out that will result in lower rates for city residents and convenient sewage treatment for the Navy.

More in Opinion

Rockin’ A Hard Place | The Rock got great help to take care of itself when needed most

We Rock dwellers enjoy the distance we have from America. It takes… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Letters to schools misguided but should spur reflection

Both the Oak Harbor and the South Whidbey School districts were recently… Continue reading

Melanie Bacon is and Island County Commissioner.
Sound Off: Until all are vaccinated, remain vigilant, patient

Every day I receive heartbreaking emails and phone calls from citizens who… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Offer of towering artwork should not be squandered

Oak Harbor has a once-in-a-lifetime shot at getting a bold, superlative and… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Regional reopening plan doesn’t work for Island County

It’s ridiculous that people can’t eat inside restaurants in Island County, which… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Passage of school levy is imperative, even during a pandemic

Voters who live in North Whidbey will decide whether to return to… Continue reading

Sound Off: Much of school district’s excellence due to levy ‘yes’ vote

Four years ago, North Whidbey voters approved a maintenance and operations levy… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Oak Harbor pro-Trump rally during Capitol siege poorly timed

An angry and violent mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters were still… Continue reading

Sound Off: County needs to respond, in public, in detail

This newspaper published an editorial on Dec. 29, “Public Health nurse exodus… Continue reading

Arny, Matt
Sound Off: Navy committed to environmental stewardship

Numerous area media outlets, including The Seattle Times, have published stories citing… Continue reading

In Our Opinion: Public Health nurse exodus is cause for reckoning

It’s not unusual for the state Department of Health to assist a… Continue reading

My wish list to Santa Claus after a very hard Rock year

Dear Santa, This has been a Hard Rock year on Whidbey Island,… Continue reading