Sequim council approves utility rate study after revisiting it

City staff say study might be done in-house next time

On the second go-round, Sequim City Council opted to go forward with a study of Sequim’s utilities after all.

Initially, councilors voted down an $89,900 contract with FCS Group 4-2 on Sept. 23 to review water and sewer rates because a majority of councilors felt the work could be done by staff.

They reversed their decision on Nov. 12, voting 5-1 — with Brandon Janisse opposed and William Armacost excused — to fund the full study in 2020.

Councilor Ted Miller said in September he saw “no reason to spend any money at all on a utility rate study; (it’s) not out of whack enough to justify doing one.” On Nov. 12, however, Miller said he was impressed by the city’s breakdown of the study’s elements from the city council’s work session on Oct. 28.

“It especially looks like a one time study, and subsequent reviews might be in 10-year intervals or even less,” he said. “I’m convinced to get one good base line study.”

Public Works Director David Garlington said on Nov. 12 that the 2020 rate study sets up the next six to 10 years.

“We’re going to learn a lot from a rate study,” he said. “This might be the last one we go outside to do.”

Sequim’s last utility study was adopted by city council in 2014.

The rate study is routine every six or seven years, public works analyst Sarah VanAusdle previously said.

VanAusdle told city councilors in September that rate discrepancies were discovered between the last two studies, and city staff adjusted them to make a more fair system between how much residents were paying for use.

City councilor Bob Lake said he has a strong preference for the city to analyze how much people pay based more on their use.

“I think that’s more fair,” he said.

“Right now we don’t do that … I think it’s making our widows and elderly pay for more than they need to and it’s a big part of their income. I think we need the rate study to change how we do it.”

City councilor Brandon Janisse questioned the study in September saying the city staff should know more about utility rates when those could go toward other things.

Garlington said on Nov. 12 that he felt least comfortable with a study of General Facility Charges (GFCs) included in the study because of the level knowledge that goes with it.

Sequim’s proposed 2020 budget proposes a water utility rate increase of 4 percent but no changes to sewer or General Facility Charges in 2020.

Confirmation of the budget on Nov. 25 wasn’t available by press time.

The proposed budget included up to $100,000 for the utility rate study. Funding for the utility study comes half from the city’s Water and Sewer Reserved Utility Funds, and General Facility Charges from new development.

For more information about the City of Sequim’s utilities, call 360-683-4908 or visit www.sequimwa.gov.

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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