Are some utility rate payers getting soaked?

As many of you are aware, the Vancouver City Council started its marathon afternoon of meetings at 4 p.m. with a discussion on utility rate hikes.

Toward the end of the hour-long workshop, the topic turned to those who are on the city’s water and sewer system but lie outside Vancouver city limits.

These folks — about 30 percent of the city’s 69,000 water connections serving more than 200,000 people and 24 percent of its 55,300 sewer connections — pay 1.5 times the rate of those connected to the same pipes within the city.

It’s a long-standing policy, probably enacted by city councilors of the past to “gently encourage” folks to annex.

“Outside customers subsidize our inside rates,” Public Works Director Brian Carlson confirmed Monday.

If things were to become equal – Vancouver residents would see about a 10 percent immediate jump in rates, while those in Hazel-topia (as we here like to call it) and other urban areas outside the city would see rates go down 26 to 28 percent. (Of course, check your bill. Lots of folks are served by Clark Public Utilities. Which is proposing a 10 percent increase next year itself.)

“That might partially explain why we have rates lower than other cities,” Mayor Tim Leavitt observed.

(Indeed, we do. Here’s a list of where we stack up in comparison to other cities in the PNW).

Carlson said other cities, including Battle Ground and Camas, have the same policy to charge more for those on their grids but outside city limits.

Councilor Jack Burkman also pointed out that the 10 percent increase equalizing rates still puts Vancouver well behind the curve anyway.

Still, the group said it’s interested in discussing rate equalization soon.

Then again, why raise the rates for those who can vote for the city council and lower it for those who can’t even cast a ballot to reelect them?

PS: Here’s some info on the proposed utility rate increases from the city.

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