What a waste — of 23 cents

I was irritated to find this in my mailbox recently:



















No offense to the girls playing in the Esther Short Park water feature. Specifically, I was bugged by seeing these names. While standing outside my house. Which is outside city limits. 

water flyer names 




I’m not in the city!” screamed the voice inside my head. “Leave me alone!

I turned over the folded flier. “Great news for you, your family and our community!” it read. “The quality of your City of Vancouver drinking water is excellent.”

We don’t get our water from the city!” continued the voice in my head. “And we’ve got the fluoride tablets for our daughters to prove it! Is this some pro-annexation propaganda? Forget about it! You’ll never get me!”

An overreaction, I admit. But I get paid to write about city councilors. I don’t want to think about them on my own time.

So why did I get the flier, when my family gets water from Clark PUD?

Loretta Callahan of the city’s public works department said 100,342 copies of  the 2012 Water Quality Report were mailed in compliance with the Clean Water Act. To do it as cheaply as possible, the flier goes to all residents in city zip codes, and that includes zip codes such as mine, 98665, that blanket city and non-city neighborhoods.

Callahan said the city strives to be “incredibly frugal” in sending out the water quality reports, which is harder than it sounds. They can’t just use a list of billpayers because, for example, the flier has to go to apartment residents even if utility costs are part of their rent and they don’t pay the city directly.

The printing cost for each flier is 7 cents, the mailing cost (having it folded) is 1 cent, and bulk mail costs 15 cents.  So 23 cents in all, less than the cost of a 33-cent stamp. Callahan couldn’t say how many fliers went to non-city water users, but I’m willing to bet no one was as irritated as me.

As for Clark PUD, spokeswoman Erica Erland said they complied with EPA regulations this year by including a message on customer bills, an insert in the bill envelope and message in the Currents newsletter. All three notices included the link to a PDF of the water quality report, and an offer was extended to mail a copy to any customer. That saved on mailing costs, Erland said. (Of course, my husband pays the bill and I never read the Currents newsletter, so all of the PUD’s attempts escaped me.)

Stephanie Rice

Stephanie Rice

I cover Vancouver city government. Reach me at stephanie.rice@columbian.com or 360-735-4508.

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