Water rates may go up for Langley users

Current rate schedule doesn’t generate enough revenue, city officials say

LANGLEY — Water fees across the board will go up for Langley water users next year if the Langley City Council signs off on a proposed water rate increase Dec. 5.

Water customers inside and outside city boundaries will be affected, as will hook-up fees for new construction. The increases will be substantial.

The proposed base rate will go up 8 percent, or $4 per month. This year’s base rate is $18.25 per month.

The volume rate per 100 gallons will go up from 30 to 37 cents in 2008 and will then jump again from 37 to 39 cents in 2009.

The council considered the results of the recently completed water rates study last week when setting the new rates.

According to the study, the city’s current water rate schedule includes water rates through 2009 but does not provide sufficient revenue to meet planned expenditures.

“Most of these projects are upgrading of undersized, aged lines,” said Rick Hill, Langley’s director of public works.

Hill said the rate increases are a necessary evil, and that the city is required to maintain a positive fund balance in the water utility’s budget due to new state regulations.

“We have to have a cushion. We always have to have a positive balance,” he said.

The unpopular 22 percent surcharge over regular fees for users outside the city limits will remain in place. It was set by the council in 2004.

“The council chose not to address this as part of the rate study,” Hill explained.

The connection charge for new hook-ups will also go up significantly, from $4,700 to

$11,675, which is bad news for new development in Langley.

“That’s rather substantial. That’s more than double (the existing charge),” Hill said. “But it pays for improvements needed for growth.”

The increases will also pay for a number of capital improvement projects.

High on the priority list, among many other projects, is replacing an old water main pipe on Anthes Avenue and upgrades on First Street near De Bruyn Avenue.

Mayor Neil Colburn said the improvements are needed to handle growth and already existing city needs.

“It’s needed infrastructure for reliable future service for the city,” he said.

Colburn also added that while the increases are high at the first glance, they’ve been a long time coming.

“We are a couple of years late with this study, that’s why it’s so high,” he said.

“It’s not something we sat down and cooked up. It’s something that has to be done to get there,” Colburn said.

The city has also budgeted the purchase of an emergency generator for the well house, Hill said.

A new water main line is proposed to be installed on Sandy Point Road. Hill said it is needed to make sure that the neighborhood has an adequate water supply.

“Currently, the only water supply they have is near a couple of landslides. If something was to happen they would be without water for quite some time,” he added.

A surcharge of roughly $16 to $20 per month would be added to the water bill of residents living on Sandy Point Road if the new rate schedule is approved.

The water rate study can be reviewed at city hall.

At the next meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 5, the Langley City Council will vote on the water rate increases. The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. in city hall.

Don Jewett, a Langley water user who lives outside the city limits, has been critical of the city’s water rates for years.

He urged residents to attend next week’s meeting to voice their concerns.

“We never heard of this thing until Wednesday night,” he said of the Sandy Point Road surcharge.

Jewett said it’s the public’s last chance to make their opinions heard before a permanent change is made on water rates.

A first reading of the ordinance was passed 4-0 last week. Councilman Jim Recupero was absent.

Michaela Marx Wheatley can be reached at 221-5300 or mmarx

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