Kent residents can expect to pay more for sewer, water and solid waste services in 2013 as part of the city's ongoing plan to pay for years of deferred maintenance to its utility infrastructure.
Kent City Council voted unanimously last week to increase its sewer and water charges by 9 percent, and its solid waste charges by 5 percent, starting with the first billing in January. Those utility charges for all three services will increase again by the same rate in 2014 and 2015, and increase by 3 percent each year after 2015.
The ordinances that set the new rates state that council will review the increases every year and determine if they are still necessary.
Kent City Council members had a choice when they discussed how to pay for needed infrastructure work on the city's utility systems in 2011 -- either drive utility costs up by 25 percent for five years, or implement smaller increases over a longer period of time. Council members decided large utility cost spikes could potentially scare off businesses seeking to locate in Kent and cause unnecessary hardship on Kent residents in a recovering economy, so they chose the long-term plan.
Kent Service Director Gene Roberts said the city's consideration of such a large utility price spike speaks to how much work the city has deferred over the years to keep utility prices stable for the last 30 years.
"We originally were looking for double digit (percentage) increases," Roberts said. "We got it to where Council felt comfortable with at a 9 percent increase. We did that by delaying some projects that were not absolutely necessary."
Roberts said other projects, such as repairing a Middlebury Road waterline that sprung repeated leaks, required immediate funding.
According to city records, these utility charge increases, which started at the beginning of 2012, are the first major increases since the early 1980s. The city used those increases to pay for sewer and water treatment facility upgrades.
Similarly, the city's administration estimates these rate increases will pay for needed maintenance and capital improvements projected over the next 20 years.
"Ultimately, the idea is we never end up borrowing money to pay for a project and paying interest," Roberts said.
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By January Kent won't need utilities. Everything they need will be at the bottom of the Fiscal Cliff.
I don't think council gets it. This is America; we expect someone else to pay for it, not us.