MLT City Council approves utility rate increases, honors Eagle Scout

Eagle Scout Michael Frary, center, was honored by the Mountlake Terrace City Council Monday for his project to label the city’s storm drains. Frary is shown with City Stormwater Program Manager Laura Reed, left, and Park Services and Property Management Superintendent Ken Courtmanch. (Photo courtesy City of Mountlake Terrace)

Acknowledging the need to invest in the city’s aging infrastructure, the Mountlake Terrace City Council at its Monday, Nov. 4 meeting unanimously approved a staff proposal to raise the city’s sewer rates by 42.5% and its stormwater rates by 95% in 2020.

After that initial jump, which becomes effective January 2020, ratepayers will see subsequent lower annual percentage increases through 2024. Those two rate increases will join the average $22-per-month water rate hike residents experienced in January 2019.

The average single-family homeowner’s combined utility bill (water, sewer and stormwater) will jump 31.1% in 2020 — from $93.89 to $123.07.

No one testified during a public hearing that occurred before the 6-0 vote. (Councilmember Steve Woodard was absent.)

“As difficult as it to accept rate increases, for us to be able to maintain and continue to have the ability to flush the toilets, have clean water, drinkable water come from our faucets, we wouldn’t have that if we didn’t make these investments,” Councilmember Bryan Wahl said before voting to approve the measure.

The rate increases will pay for both operations costs and capital investments necessary as the city’s sewer and stormwater systems near the end of their useful lives. Many of the city’s pipes — installed in the 1950s — are undersized for the city’s current needs. In addition, cracked water pipes and faulty joints allow groundwater to seep into the city’s sewage system, causing an increase in overall flows — which increases the city’s wastewater treatment costs.

The City of Mountlake Terrace sends its sewage to the City of Edmonds wastewater treatment plant, and the city pays Edmonds for sewage treatment under a long-term interlocal agreement. There are also increased capital costs. Mountlake Terrace is helping to fund planned upgrades to the Edmonds treatment plant, where planning is underway to replace its aging sludge incinerator.

The city also will be able to hire two additional staff members to assist with operations and maintenance work on its system, which includes 74 miles of sewer pipes in its 2,400-acre service area, plus 1,500 manholes and four lift stations.

The council Monday also unanimously approved a proposed ordinance to rezone and approve subdivision of a 4.6-acre parcel at 214th Street Southwest and 38th Place West, near Mountlake Terrace High School. Approval came after councilmembers heard from three nearby Brier residents who expressed concerns about speeding traffic and lack of sidewalks near the development, which could pose a danger to MTHS students who walk through the area to get to school.

In other action, the council:

– Approving the transfer of Frontier Cable’s franchise in Mountlake Terrace to Northwest Fiber.

– Recognized Eagle Scout candidate Michael Frary for his scout project, which involved coordinating with other scout troops to apply markers to 364 storm drains citywide in four hours. The effort included 18 participants working across the city on Sept. 14, 2019. Stormwater Program Manager Laura Reed. noted that the goal of labeling the storm drains is to educate citizens that they shouldn’t be dumping waste products down the drains.

— By Teresa Wippel

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