Rate hike clears hurdle

A reluctant Bremerton City Council took the first step toward approving a proposed utility rate increase at its Wednesday night meeting at City Hall.

The Council voted 6-3 in favor of the resolution’s first reading.

“Rate increases are needed, and I believe the proposal on the table is best of all worlds,” said Councilman Mike Short. “The rate increases are as fair as can be.”

Councilwoman Carol Arends said the Council was told last year that utility rates were going to have to be raised and that something needed to be done to fix the problem.

“It’s not pleasant, but I don’t know what else we can do,” Arends said.

Over the years the city has been faced with increasing need and decreasing revenues, said Councilman Mike Shepherd, who voted against the proposal.

“I’m a big proponent of efficiency measures,” Shepherd said. “We’ve made a good start, but we haven’t spent enough effort on that.”

The increase, which was based on an average monthly water usage of 1,000 cubic feet of water, would add an additional $10.15 per month to the average consumer’s bill during the first year, said Phil Williams, Bremerton’s director of public works and utilities.

However, since the average consumer uses about 600 cubic feet of water monthly, the actual increase would be $7.68 per month with smaller increases over the next two years, Williams said.

After three years, any increases based on inflation would be reviewed by the Council, he said.

The proposal also would almost double the connection fee as a way of new customers buying into the system and pay for capital improvements, Williams said.

Several council members expressed concern over how the rate increases would affect lower income families such as senior citizens and those with disabilities.

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