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Grand Coulee sewer charges to go up a lot


Citizens of Grand Coulee may want to sit down before reading this, and specifically may want to sit down on the toilet.

The Grand Coulee City Council voted last week to raise residential sewage rates by about 63 percent. The $20-per-month hike will cover the expenses of running the system.

“As much as I hate the idea of rate increases and taxes, to keep providing services, we’re gonna have to make some changes,” said Mayor Paul Townsend. “Our increases right now, we’re just looking to get up to par with our expenses.”

Residential rates will be going up from $31.82 to $51.82, and commercial rates will rise from $44.55 to $72.55, keeping them 1.4 times as high as residential rates, as required by city ordinance. Discounted rates will go up from $23.86 to $38.86, keeping them 25 percent less than the residential rates.

The rate increases will take effect in January of 2019.

The increase is enough for Grand Coulee to put some money into their reserves for when infrastructure improvements are needed.

The council felt badly about the size of the increase.

“As painful as it is, I can’t see anyway around it,” said Councilmember Tammara Byers. “We can’t function the way we’re going. My deepest apologies to the community for not having made some of these changes sooner.”

City Clerk Lorna Pearce estimates that there hasn’t been a rate increase in 10 years, leading to this single, large increase, rather than smaller increases over the years.

Electric City, also on the same sewage system, pays an average of 36 percent of the operating cost, equal to about $182,000 of the $505,000 estimated cost.

The raise in rates is enough to bring in $331,000 annually, enough to cover Grand Coulee’s share of the costs, and to save about $7,700 for the reserves.

Pearce said that she and Electric City City Clerk Russ Powers both want to revisit the contract between the cities.

“This contract needs to be tightened up and more specific than it is,” Pearce said, adding that setting an amount for each town to put into reserves can be another benefit to revisiting the contract.

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