Bainbridge council could pass water rate cut Wednesday

The Bainbridge Island City Council could slash the city's water utility rates this week as it discusses a proposed cut at its Wednesday meeting.

A water service rate cut of 30 percent, spearheaded by Mayor Steve Bonkowski, has been in the pipeline all summer. The council gave the rate cut a thumbs up — by a 4-3 vote — at its first reading on July 24.

The meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 14 will constitute the ordinance's second reading, leaving it wide open for approval.

Given the ordinance's track record so far, there are just enough votes across the dais to approve the rate cut.

If approved, new lower rates will be reflected in October and November bills to city water utility customers.

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

Residential 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 more than 3,000 cubic feet, which would fall from $4.84 to $3.39 per 100 cubic feet.

Supporters of the cut argue that the utility's reserves have grown too large, proving that rates are still too high for customers.

Others say that the reserves have grown because the city has pushed off capital projects that the money would normally be used for, given the uncertainty of the utility's future as city officials talked of transferring ownership or management of the water system to the Kitsap Public Utility District.

The city council will also consider a related issue Wednesday; a resolution that affirms that city utilities are run for the benefit of customers.

The notion is generally supported by all council members, however, some have criticized it for being too vague and general, and have asked what exactly "benefit" means.

The council meeting begins at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 14. Water utility discussions are the near the top of the agenda, after public comment.

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