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Water rates rising for Lakehaven customers

The Mirror

The days of no rate increases for Lakehaven Utility District customers are over.

The district’s commissioners have approved a 3 percent increase in water rates for 2006. Sewer rates will remain the same.

Water bills of average residential customers will be about 40 cents a month higher, according to district officials.

The rising cost of doing business and the lack of any increase in water rates since 1999 are the reasons for raising the price of water, officials said.

The rates will still “be among the lowest in the state,” said Morgan Dennis, the district’s finance director.

“It would be much harder to pass (increased costs) on to our customers on top of rates that were already high,” said Commissioner Tom Jovanovich, adding the higher rate is a prudent step.

The move to raise water rates, approved at the commissioners’ Dec. 1 meeting, came after a rate analysis with the assistance of financial consultant Ed Cebron of FCSG Group. According to Commissioner Ed Stewart, the “small” increase will help maintain the water system “in top operational and financial condition for years to come.”

Stewart took exception to comments in last month’s election by a candidate for commissioner who claimed the system was in disrepair.

“We have invested a significant amount of labor and capital resources to make certain that the water system is safe and the supply is plentiful,” Stewart said. “The criticisms made of the quality of our drinking water supply and maintenance were inaccurate and misleading.”

The comments were made by Carole Rusimovic, whose husband is a district employee. Rusimovic lost to Commissioner Bev Tweddle in the general election Nov. 8.

Lakehaven provides water and sewer service to about 112,000 customers in a 35 square-mile area, including Federal Way. The district operates more than 400 miles of water mainline, 22 wells and 12 storage tanks with a storage capacity of 31 million gallons. The average daily pumping rate is 10.6 million gallons.

The commissioners also considered revisions to the district’s biennial budget and the cost of other fees the district collects for services. Dennis said the budget “will remain largely the same,” although planned capital expenditures will be funded through an annual transfer of unreserved cash into a restricted account.

Some fees assessed by the district will go down next year. While meter installation charges will rise slightly, the connection charge for a single residential equivalent of service from the water system will be reduced next year from the current $3,212 to $3,196, officials said.

The sewer connection charge will increase from $2,702 to $2768. Those charges, which reflect pro rata shares of existing and future facilities of general benefit to customers of the water and sewer system, are reviewed annually by the district.

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