Pasco considers higher utility rates

By Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 13, 2014 

The city of Pasco revealed Monday how much more residents will pay in water bills and other utilities if city council approves rate increases.

Most residents will see their base water rate go to $16.25 a month, a 30 percent increase over the $12.50 they now pay.

They will also see a 5 percent increase in the water consumption rate, to 68 cents per 100 cubic feet used from the current 65 cents. A second increase of 3 percent will go into effect in 2015, raising the consumption rate to 70 cents per 100 cubic feet used.

The 221 Pasco residents with low-income senior discounts will see their base rates go to $5.40 from $4.17.

Pasco hasn't raised water rates since 2010. The city prefers not to raise water rates every year, City Manager Gary Crutchfield said at the council's Monday workshop meeting.

"Some communities have a small increase every year," he said. "Pasco has decided to have rate increases only when it's demonstrated it's needed."

The increase would send a city of Pasco water customer's monthly bill to $23.05 a month for 1,000 cubic feet used, according to the council's agenda packet. That's higher than the city of Kennewick ($21.62), but below the city of Richland ($34.50).

Kennewick likely can keep its rates lower because it hasn't made as many new additions to its water system recently, Crutchfield said.

The increased water rates will go toward the city's new fire hydrant flushing program, as well as adding new hydrants in areas west of 20th Avenue, where fire protection needs to be improved, the agenda packet said.

The city will also raise its monthly ambulance fees to $7.75 per residence from $6.25. Crutchfield said the increase is largely due to added costs of $86,000 from a new union contract.

The city would like to limit its subsidy of ambulance service from the general fund to $420,000, so rates have to increase, Crutchfield said.

Councilman Bob Hoffmann disagreed, saying the service should be paid from the general fund, just like fire and police services.

But Mayor Pro-Tem Rebecca Francik said the city serves residents better by breaking out the costs of ambulance services.

"When we put them in the general fund, they become hidden," she said. "This way we know what it costs us."

The city also plans its first increase in stormwater rates since 2012. Base residential rates are scheduled to go up 13 percent, or 50 cents a month, to $4.40 from $3.90.

Mayor Matt Watkins liked that some rate increases are being implemented over several years, he said.

"None of us are fans of raising rates," he said. "But what I am seeing here is a reasoned analysis."

The rate increases will go into effect Feb. 1 if the council approves them at its Jan. 21 meeting.

No sewer or irrigation rate increases are planned for 2014 or 2015, Crutchfield said.

-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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