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News / Business / Clark County Business

Consulting firm says city should raise Washougal utility rates

Bimonthly bills’ average increase would be $8

By Doug Flanagan, Post-Record staff writer
Published: November 25, 2023, 6:06am

WASHOUGAL — The city should increase the average utility customer’s bimonthly bill by $8 and maintain current rate structures for all classes of service from 2024 to 2028, according to a rate study compiled by a consulting firm with input from a group of Washougal residents.

The recommendations were presented to the city council Nov. 13 by members of a citizens action committee, appointed by the city earlier this year, and Sergey Tarasov, a principal with FCS Group, a Redmond-based consulting firm.

“I go into (the rate study) not wanting to like it or anything about it, (but) I really don’t have any complaints,” city Councilwoman Michelle Wagner said during the workshop. “It was a very thorough job by the administration, staff and our community advisers. I feel like we’re doing what we can for the community.

“Even though it might not be exactly what they want, which is no increase, we’ve done the best we can do under the circumstances. Certainly, the city staff has helped us out with the huge amounts of grant dollars and the low-interest rate loans that they have been pursuing. (They) are really making a difference for the public.”

The council will review a draft ordinance Dec. 4 and could vote on the new utility rate proposal Jan. 8.

If adopted, the new rates would go into effect in February.

“I was really pleased to see those results,” City Manager David Scott said. The proposal would increase rates at less than inflation and less than other communities around the state, but still keep the city’s utilities in good fiscal and physical condition.

“What we’re really trying to accomplish through this analysis is to make sure that (the city’s) current rate levels are what they need to be to support their obligations on a standalone basis,” Tarasov said. “We’re focusing on not only covering operating costs and debt service with capital but also making sure (that the city’s) policies are appropriate and will sustain (its) utilities, not just today but into the future.”

“This is the No. 1 concern,” Washougal Mayor David Stuebe said during the workshop session. “If you ask anybody (in Washougal), it’s always about water. It’s a really tough topic, so that’s why we wanted to have (community members be) a part of it and maybe come up with some solutions.”

The FCS Group and the citizens action committee made the following recommendations:

  • The city should implement 3.8 percent annual rate increases for the water and stormwater utilities and a 2 percent increase for the sewer utility.
  • The city should implement a phased-in cost-of-service water allocation that includes average annual increases of 3.8 percent for residential, 2.5 percent for multifamily, 4.8 percent for commercial and 5 percent for large commercial customers.
  • The city should maintain its current rate structures for all classes of service in each utility, adjust the water fixed charges by the overall average increase, and adjust the volume rates for each class of service to collect the cost-of-service phase-in specific revenue targets.

The city has posted frequently asked questions and answers to its website and scheduled an open house from 6-7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Washougal Community Center. It is also planning to send a mailer, all in an effort to provide residents with information about its utility rates.