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Sunnyside to hold public hearing on water rates

The Sunnyside City Council at this past Monday night's meeting approved holding a public hearing on Monday, June 27, to consider input on new water utility rates.

Council has been looking at ways to address water utility rates for some time. There are several issues facing Council concerning water rates, including costs associated with improvements to the wastewater treatment plant. The city has also come under fire from government officials for its less than conservative method of managing water. Sunnyside currently has a water fee rate that allows people to pay less for the more water they use.

One of the proposed changes deals with the method the city has for shutting off water services for nonpayment. Under the current method, the city applies a $20 reconnecting fee for all terminated water services. In addition, the account must be brought current.

Due to some confusion in the way this fee has been applied, said Assistant City Manager/City Attorney Mark Kunkler, the city wants to eliminate the $20 turn-off/turn-on fee. Instead, city officials propose increasing the delinquent payment fee from its current amount of $10 to $25.

Under the proposed ordinance, city utility accounts are to be paid by 6 p.m. on the 20th of each month. The proposal calls for the $25 late fee to be assessed if the bill is not paid by 6 p.m. on the 25th of the month.

Council was also presented with a water rate billing comparison with other cities. The comparison highlights the proposed water rate increase for Sunnyside residents that will be discussed at the June 27 meeting. The water billing comparisons worried Mayor Pro-tem Mike Farmer, who highlighted that Sunnyside will have some of the highest rates out of the seven cities in the comparison.

Under the proposal, Sunnyside residents will pay anywhere from $40.51 to $179.32 based on the size of meter and the amount of water consumed. Of the seven cities, including Yakima, Sunnyside will have the highest rates. Sunnyside City Manager Bob Stockwell said that other cities in the comparison are looking at raising their water rates, as well.

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