CHINOOK - Chinook Water District Commissioners Tim Seeker, Shari Hughes and Ken Osborne have set Wednesday, Dec. 11, as a public hearing date for testimony on a proposed rate resolution. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at the District No. 740 on State Highway 101 in Chinook.

The present rate structure has been in effect since 1995. The proposed new monthly rate beginning the month of January 2003 will be $22 for residential customers, an increase of $4. Business customers will see an increase based on their service meter size as well. Regardless of their meter size, the base amount of 600 cubic feet in the present rate structure will be eliminated. The rate per cubic foot (approximately seven and one-half gallons) will not increase from the current $.01.

"This rate structure will reward conservation of water," said system manager Allen Wainamo. "High usage activities including excessive lawn watering, vehicle and boat washing, pools and spa use will see larger water bills while a single occupant or vacation homeowner down on weekends, may use only 200 cubic feet for a monthly bill of $24." (A $22 monthly charge plus $2 for 200 cubit feet equals $24)

The commissioners have been keeping watch on the increasing costs of operating the system including electric rates, insurance and operating costs associated electric rates, insurance, and operating costs associated with maintaining an aged treatment plant, originally built in 1969, stricter standards for drinking water and costly upgrades required by the Department of Health have further impacted the district's budget.

"While we currently have no loan debt, the board has agreed to build some reserves so we can continue to self-fund some of our smaller projects," said Seeker. "Many of our customers believe the district receives tax monies to supplement the budget and that is not the case. Our sole source of revenue is the customer rates and charges, including hook-ups."

New hook-ups are another important issue for the town of Chinook. As of Wednesday's meeting, there were 17 applications on the waiting list for new water service. A new hook-up moratorium has been in effect for just over two years now due to a water rights issue. The district's application for an increase permit from its own reservoir on Freshwater Creek was one of approximately 700 in Ecology's backlog.

Commissioners unanimously passed a motion to accept no more applications for service effective immediately. Those on the list now will be locked into the old hook-up rate. Any future hook-ups will come under the new resolution at $2,500. Commissioners would like to allow hook-ups within the district by early 2003. According to Mark Toy, regional engineer for the Department of Health, the Chinook District currently has a yellow operating status for lack of a current water system plan and a financial viability plan. The new rate structure is intended to fund these plans. The Department of Health has indicated that Chinook's commitment to moving forward with the planning including study of a new treatment plant option will be rewarded by the department intervening with Ecology for the additional water rights.

Interested persons may contact Pam Hickey at the district office at (360) 777-8770 to obtain a copy of the resolution. Copies are available for viewing at local Chinook business as well. Any written comments should be mailed or delivered to the district office or dropbox anytime prior to the Dec. 11 meeting, and will become part of the hearing's record.

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