In the interest of attending to important maintenance and upgrades for our aging utility systems, Puyallup’s water, sewer and stormwater rates will increase by 3.5% in 2018. This means that the average residential utility customer will pay an additional $3.54 per month, starting February 1st.
These rate increases are tied to the Construction Cost Index (CCI) as reported by Engineering News Record. The CCI is determined by certain labor and materials costs.
According to current and future capital needs of the three utility systems, the revenues available are not sufficient to accomplish all or even most of the listed projects (see pages 96-99 of the adopted 2018 budget). As an example, in 2019 the city expects to have $1,250,000 in available capital funding for the water utility—yet we project $6,138,333 in capital needs. As projects go unfunded, they are moved out into future years, growing each subsequent year’s deficit.
Capital needs for the utilities come in the form of seismic retrofits, tank recoatings, water main replacements, lift stations and pump stations, sewer lines—even preventive efforts to protect the water pollution control plant and ensure its continued operation during a major flood event.
The amounts needed for capital improvements are large simply because the systems are large. Puyallup’s wastewater and stormwater collection systems are composed of approximately 190 miles of pipe, 6,500 manholes, 10,000 lateral connections, 15,000 acres of drainage and 32 detention ponds. On the water side, nearly all of the city’s drinking water comes from two natural springs and five deep wells. Ground-sourced and of high quality, it’s collected and conveyed to nine sealed reservoirs which together can hold 19.3 million gallons. From there, the water is distributed on demand to residents and businesses via more than 200 miles of pipeline.
Because the provision of utilities is, like public safety, an essential public service, it’s critical that we responsibly invest in the infrastructure which allows us to efficiently and reliably provide these.