By Ann McCreary
Twisp residents will see an increase in their water and sewer rates in 2015, based on a budget to be considered by the Town Council in a budget hearing next Tuesday (Dec. 9).
It’s been two years since the town has increased rates for water and sewer services. In budget discussions, the council proposed raising rates by at least 12 percent for water and 14 percent for sewer services. That would mean at least $10 more per month on average.
Mayor Soo Ing-Moody said that would likely be the minimum amount of increase for water and sewer. Budget figures are still being finalized and the council may choose a higher rate based on those calculations.
Water and sewer services are provided through self-sustaining funds. The town is required by state law to set rates high enough to balance the water and sewer funds.
In recent years the council has discussed adopting a policy of increasing those rates on an annual basis, in part to keep increases smaller, Ing-Moody said. “Municipalities need to look at annual increases in water and sewer. That is more the norm,” she said.
The town has identified needed maintenance for its water and sewer systems. A priority will be maintenance of the town’s four wells, the mayor said.
“During the fire we had a pump failure at one point. That let us understand we have some vulnerabilities. The fires have highlighted some things we need to maintain,” Ing-Moody said.
The budget does not anticipate significant increases in sales tax revenues, in part because of local economic impacts resulting from last summer’s wildfire.
“With fire impacts on the local economy we’re budgeting conservatively. Some businesses took a big hit due to closures, loss of inventory and revenue. How quickly they bounce back will determine how sales taxes look,” Ing-Moody said.
‘We’re a service-oriented economy. Obviously restaurants and stores had outages and had to close doors. Were not thinking there’s going to be an increase in revenues; if things are good we’ll be able to maintain,” she said.
The mayor said she is concerned about trying to maintain an adequate street fund to support maintenance of Twisp’s aging streets.
“All municipalities rely on funding from the state [for street and road projects] but it’s increasingly competitive,” Ing-Moody said. “We’re looking at local improvement districts within the town to help manage roadways. Last year we had examples of how it can be done.”
Through an agreement with the town, Joseph Marver, owner of Twisp River Suites on Second Avenue, helped share the costs of repaving Johnson Street from Twisp Avenue to Second Avenue. Mel Engelke and Carl Timbers contributed toward repaving Magers Street from Twisp Avenue to the end of the street that serves the Horseshoe Mobile Home Park.
The budget hearing is at 7 p.m. in Town Hall.