The City of Sequim’s 2020 budget ($37.7 million) includes a slight increase in water rates but no increase in sewer rates. Notable street projects set for completion include the West Fir Street rehabilitation, installing and repairing sidewalks, and many more projects. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

The City of Sequim’s 2020 budget ($37.7 million) includes a slight increase in water rates but no increase in sewer rates. Notable street projects set for completion include the West Fir Street rehabilitation, installing and repairing sidewalks, and many more projects. Sequim Gazette photo by Matthew Nash

Sequim 2020 budget adds utility increase, Fir Street funds

Sidewalk repairs, road connections in next years plan

Next year, Sequim city residents can expect the completion of the West Fir Street Rehabilitation project, a slight water utility increase and plenty of planning for future projects.

City councilors unanimously approved Sequim’s $37.7 million 2020 budget on Nov. 25 with a 6-0 vote, with councilor Jennifer States excused.

The budget includes a 4-percent increase in water rate and no increase in sewer rates for an average increase of $1.21 per home each month.

City councilors also approved the allowed 1-percent property tax levy increase on households, bringing in about $13,000-$14,000 more each year for the city.

Sue Hagener, Sequim’s director of administrative services, said on Nov. 25 Sequim’s combined water/sewer rates per 1,000 cubic feet of usage from 2015-2019 rose $5.29, compared to significantly larger increases in Port Angeles ($21.89) and Port Townsend ($18.48).

“What we’ve done over time is we’ve recommended reasonable and gradual rate increases to accommodate increasing rates in service without these mega-rate increases that affect our customers,” she said.

For this year’s budget, city councilors approved a 6-percent water increase and a 2-percent sewer rate decrease following a plan to increase utility revenues by 4 percent over the next six years.

A low income discount continues for qualifying city residents who apply.

City councilors also approved up to $100,000 in the budget for a utility rate study after initially voting it down. City staff asked to revisit it due to the potential impact, and city councilors agreed Nov. 12 to approve an $89,900 contract with FCS Group to review municipal water and sewer rates.

Public Works Director David Garlington previously said the rate study sets up the next six to 10 years, and that future studies could be done in-house.

City councilor Bob Lake asked city staff to look more into analyzing the costs related to use more because he said he feels people on fixed incomes such widows and the elderly pay too much.

Hagener said city staff have a history of coming in under budget related to water and sewer projects.

She said about $232,000 in expenses, or 11 percent, were made in the last four years with water, and about $1 million, or 25 percent, with sewer projects.

“That’s because of the preventative measures and maintenance put into play over the last few years by (Garlington) and his staff,” Hagener said.

Completions and beginnings

Planned projects remained intact through discussions leading up to the 2020 budget approval.

About $3.4 million of the budget goes towards completing repairs of West Fir Street, which tentatively finishes next summer.

City staff budgeted $350,000 for the South Sequim Avenue Complete Streets project to improve a 1.5-mile stretch to connect two Economic Opportunity Areas south of Washington Street.

Some of the many other 2020 projects include:

• $350,000 for completing sidewalks from the Sequim Avenue roundabout between Old Olympic Highway and Hendrickson Road

• $230,000 for citywide pavement rehabilitation and $52,000 for sidewalk repair

• $335,000 for a mechanical odor control filter device at the Water Reclamation Facility

• $303,000 for stormwater treatment upgrade at the intersection of Seventh Avenue and Washington street, and to retrofit discharge into Bell Creek from North Brown Road

• $50,000 for a parks impact fee study and $200,000 for right-of-way purchase for future park development

• $816,000 for a new fuel station between the city shop and South Third Avenue

• $100,000 for the Guy Cole Event Center’s meeting room renovation

Staffing

Next year’s budget includes the equivalent of 85.3 full-time staffers, including: a full-time paralegal; a full-time development review engineer; a part-time (0.38) Police Department emergency management coordinator; a part-time, grant-funded intern (0.25), and a recently added temporary Water Reclamation Facility worker (0.5).

Employee totals are up from 82.25 this year and 78.18 in 2018, but Hagener said staffing levels have maintained at about 10.8 to 11 staff per 1,000 residents since 2012.

“We’re keeping our (full-time employees) at manageable levels,” she said.

City Manager Charlie Bush said in the city’s budget message that city staff will continue to cross-train and plan for succession because of retirements, too.

Next year’s health and human service contracts continue with $86,144 proposed going to the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Visitor Information Center, $75,000 to human service contracts, $20,000 to the Economic Development Corporation (EDC), $12,000 to Service Fest and $5,000 to the Small Business Development Corporation.

For more about the city’s budget, visit www.sequimwa.gov/886/2020-Proposed-Budget or call 360-683-4139.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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