The Sumner City Council tours the wastewater treatment plant in Sumner after its most recent expansion. Photo courtesy of the city of Sumner.

Sewer rates likely to increase for Bonney Lake and Sumner residents

Sumner and Bonney Lake residents should be prepared for sewer rate increases come the new year.

The rate increase, according to Sumner Communications Director and Bonney Lake City Administrator Don Morrison, is tied to three new full-time employees coming to work in the wastewater treatment plant in Sumner in the next two years.

Sumner handles all the wastewater for both cities.

Palmer said that the treatment plant currently employs 9 1/2 time employees, with the half-time employee being administration, rather than operations.

The Sumner City Council is proposing in its 2017-2018 biennium budget to hire two more operators in 2017 and a third in 2018 in order to keep up with state regulations.

“The rules keep getting stricter and stricter,” Palmer said.

Hiring the three new operators may also cut down on overtime, which Sumner spent close to $65,000 on in 2016.

The Sumner budget has not yet been adopted, but new utility rates were expected to be set Monday, Nov. 7 after press deadline.

Bringing on these three new employees will be the first staffing increase in 10 years, Palmer said.

According to city officials, the facility increased its capacity by 100 percent with its recent expansion and increased staffing by 33 percent.

“We are known as one of the most efficient stations in Washington, and we’re getting more efficient,” Palmer said, noting that the plant has received the Outstanding Wastewater Treatment Plant Award from the state Department of Ecology for five consecutive years in 2015.

But efficiency could be a small comfort to Sumner and Bonney Lake residents who will be paying higher sewer rates if these employees are hired.

Sumner residents paid $49.09 per month in 2016. This is expected to increase to $50.69 in 2017 and $52.33 in 2018.

Residents who use more than 500 cubic feet of water in a month are also charged a volumetric fee for every additional 100 cubic feet of water. This fee is expected to increase from $7.23 to $7.46 in 2017 and $7.71 in 2018.

Given that the size of the facility increased 100 percent and staffing only 33 percent, these rate increases are only 85 percent of the Consumer Price Index, Palmer said.

“That means we’re raising rates less than what we expect costs in general to go up, not to mention the increasing unfunded mandates we’re receiving from the State,” she continued. “The bottom line is that the facility is expected to get more and more efficient in its work for the next biennium.”

Bonney Lake residents will have to wait and see exactly what the exact new rates will be, Morrison said.

The city does know that these new hires means the city will be paying Sumner an extra $720,000 over the next biennium for Sumner to treat Bonney Lake’s wastewater, he said.

Additionally, Bonney Lake’s sewer fund doesn’t have any money in reserve to try and mitigate a rate increase.

Because of these two factors, Morrison expects the city would need to increase revenue by 13 percent in order to cover these new costs, which would mean increasing the $54.09 monthly sewer availability charge and the $3.36 monthly volumetric charge for every 100 cubic feet of water consumed in a household.

“It’s a big hit,” Morrison said, referring both to the city and residents. “It’s something we didn’t anticipate at all.”

Residents will know more about how much the rate will increase after a rate study is completed.

A resolution authorizing Financial Consulting Services Group to perform a rate study was on the docket for the Nov. 8 council meeting.

The study will not only look at sewer rates, but also water rates and system development charges, which may also see rate increases in the next two years.

Morrison said the study could be completed by the end of March 2017, but the City Council has talked about increasing rates before the study is complete, and then adjusting rates appropriately after it’s finished.

More in News

Bonney Lake’s Chief For A Day officially sworn in

Rory Thayse was diagnosed with leukemia during the last winter holiday season, but six months of intensive treatment look to have been successful so far.

‘I never worried about his heart’

A Bonney Lake family is raising awareness of the prevalent dangers of sudden cardiac arrest in the military.

Drivers take notice: busy bridge near Buckley will close for four weeks

The 82-year-old span on state Route 162 (also identified as Pioneer Way) will be shut down from 6 a.m. Monday, Aug. 20, to 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 20.

Sumner School District teachers, staff talk about strike

The beginning of the school year is right around the corner, but teachers, bus drivers and nutrition workers are discussing what pay raises they deserve, and whether or not to go on strike.

Are smokey summers the new normal? | Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department

Smoke from wildfires has made our summers more and more complicated.

King County bans solitary confinement of juveniles

Policy shift comes as part of a settlement in response to a 2017 lawsuit

Next State Parks ‘free day’ is Aug. 25 | Washington State Parks

“The National Park Service is celebrating its birthday this year as ‘something new for 102,” said Don Hoch, Director of Washington State Parks.

Levy money to aid senior programs in Enumclaw, Black Diamond | King County

By 2040, more than a quarter of King County’s population will be seniors. Healthy lifestyles and social engagement are keys to living long and living well.

Rabid bats found on Auburn sidewalk | Public Health Insider

Any person or animal that touched or had contact with the bats or its saliva could be at risk of getting rabies, which is almost always fatal once symptoms begin.

Most Read