Elected officials and private citizens offered differing views on a Lewis County Public Works proposal to raise utility fees and rates for the Vader Water System at Monday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting in Chehalis.
Attendees at the county courthouse were informed of a residential base charge increase of $1.40 from $47.05 to $48.45 a month and a 0.20-percent commercial base increase from $7.05 to $7.25 a month at the public hearing, as Public Works Senior Engineer of Utility/Surface Water engineer Betsy Dillin further informed that the changes would go into effect on Nov. 1, but wouldn’t appear on people’s bills until January.
In response to a Vader resident who protested the proposed modifications to the Vader-Enhanced Valley Water System fee and rate schedule, Dillin argued that her agency is making its motion to boost utility dues based on its own struggles to keep up with internal expenses.
“We see our own costs, our own bills going up every year. We need to make sure we stay on top of our own rates as well,” reasoned Dillin.
Others who asked for asked for further clarification on the proposal was Lewis County Manager Erik Martin, who was advised by County Commissioner Gary Stamper that an immediate increase in the upcoming budget is preferable to kicking the can down the road.
“I will tell you from experience that the county has done all they can to minimize those (rates) … But if we don’t continue to raise these rates, then we’re going to get further behind and then there’s going to be a greater impact,” he said.
Dillin agreed with Stamper by indicating that a 2-percent annual increase is better than waiting a year or two, which could lead to a 10-percent surge in the future.
She also mentioned programs available for low-income residents struggling to pay their local taxes.
She added: “They just need to give us a call and we can issue a grace period or can suggest some non-profits that can help them.”
Former Lewis County Commissioner Ron Averill was among those who supported the resolution. He provided insight on the matter by telling the crowd that past attempts to keep rates and fees down “reached the point where the system wasn’t being maintained.”