Bainbridge Island could cut water rates again

Efforts to cut water rates on Bainbridge Island have long been in the pipeline, but now results may soon trickle out of city hall.

After months of discussions over the future of the city's water utility, the council will consider two ordinances that will alter how it is run. Both ordinances will be reviewed at the council's meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 24.

The first ordinance slashes water rates by 30 percent.

The second ordinance sets a policy that all city utilities be managed for the benefit of customers.

Both ordinances have received mixed reviews across the dais, though a majority of the council — Councilwomen Sarah Blossom and Debbi Lester, and Councilmen Steve Bonkowski and David Ward — have appeared favorable to both ideas.

If the rate reduction is approved, consumption rates for the first 500 cubic feet would fall from $1.55 to $1.09 per 100 cubic feet. That reduction trickles up the rate scale, all the way to consumption for over 3,000 cubic feet, which would fall from $4.84 to $3.39 per 100 cubic feet.

Fixed residential rates would go from $7.67 to $5.37 for a multi-family dwelling, and from $15.39 to $10.77 for a single family with a 1-inch connection.

The city bills water customers on two alternating bimonthly schedules. If the ordinance is approved, rates would first show up on the October and November billing cycles.

The second ordinance to operate the utilities for the benefit of customers hasn't drawn as clear lines down the council. The sentiment is generally supported on the dais, yet is also divisive.

"The city's water utility, sewer utility, and storm and surface water utility are proprietary services, and the city shall operate each of them for the benefit of their respective customers," the ordinance reads.

Some council members, such as Councilman Bob Scales, have raised the issue that such a statement is vague, and "benefit" can mean many things.

Scales has pressed for more clarity at previous council meetings.

Both efforts were spearheaded by Mayor Bonkowski. They stem from a June 19 council meeting when Bonkowski presented six motions on water utility issues, including the rate cut and the policy to run the utilities for the benefit of customers.

The motions came in the wake of an effort to outsource management of the city's water system to the Kitsap Public Utility District.

When it appeared that the move to outsource would not garner council approval, Bonkowski switched tactics, and focused his efforts on internal changes in the water utility.

After discussing his aims for the utility on June 19, Bonkowski wanted to put his motions on the fast track to approval, but the council agreed to discuss the controversial issue when all members could be present. The first opportunity for such a meeting is July 24.

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