Tacoma Water cost uncertain until summer

By Dennis Box

The Courier-Herald

Get ready to turn on the faucet - maybe.

Tacoma Water has agreed to provide Bonney Lake up to 2 million gallons of water per day, but the price is still up in the air.

The Tacoma Water Board voted 4-0 Dec. 6 to withdraw its offer to sign a wholesale water agreement with Bonney Lake until a rate study for customers outside Tacoma is completed.

"They said they would send us a letter guaranteeing to sell us the water," Public Works Director Dan Grigsby said at the Dec. 7 City Council workshop. "But we won't know the price yet."

Grigsby pointed out the rate hike would likely be in the 5 to 10 percent range, and the city would not have to pay "system develop charges" until the study is completed in the summer of 2005.

A SDC is a fee paid by a customer to hook up to a water system. Bonney Lake would pay an SDC of $5.8 million to Tacoma Water, which would be financed by Tacoma Water as a 10-year loan. Bonney Lake would pay $1.1 million as a down payment. The SDC funds are used to pay for capital improvements to the utility.

Bonney Lake also charges customers an SDC to hook up to its water system.

"I don't see us changing course here," Grigsby said. "We just save a little interest for six months on our down payment."

Councilman Dave King requested a resolution be drafted noting the council has considered the proposal and authorizes the mayor to enter into the deal with Tacoma Water.

The resolution is set for a vote at Tuesday's City Council meeting, after the press deadline. The vote could be close, depending on the exact wording of the resolution.

"I'm against the Tacoma Water wholesale agreement," Deputy Mayor Dan Swatman said. "I don't want to agree to anything without knowing the price. Tacoma Water is in perpetuity. I want to know if Cascade (Water Alliance) is a viable alternative."

Cascade Water Alliance is hoping to purchase the drinking water rights for Lake Tapps from Puget Sound Energy.

Department of Ecology spokesman Curt Hart has stated a decision on whether to issue the water right to Puget Sound Energy should be ready by January or February.

Grigsby has recommend that after Tacoma Water sends the letter committing to the sale of wholesale water to Bonney Lake, the council approve funds to design a water pipeline tapping into Tacoma Water near White River Estates at 219th Avenue East and Connells Prairie Road East extending north to Tapps Island. Eventually the pipeline would be completed down to 198th Avenue East near the Bonney Lake High School site.

Grigsby also proposed the council defer approving the third intertie agreement until the final wholesale water contract is ready.

The third intertie is an emergency backup to the Falling Water development near Victor Falls Elementary School.

The intertie has been a controversial issue on the council partly because it connection would be automatically triggered rather than manually opened.

After Tuesday's wholesale agreement, the council will consider 10 water extension agreements which adds up to about 1000 homes.

The city has not be issuing water availability agreements for the past two months until an agreement with Tacoma water can be settled.

"If the council doesn't sign the (wholesale) water agreement, we will have to go back and take another look at the (extension) agreements," Mayor Bob Young said. "I'm looking at this a a good deal. They (Tacoma Water) could have signed and gotten our million and a half down payment."

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