Water Rate Increases Proposed by TPU

Tacoma Public Utilities sent out an email regarding a year long process developing new water rates. Below is how the email read when it arrived to those lucky enough to be on the list.

Subject: Tacoma Public Utility Board Meeting Notifications
Date: February 3, 2017 5:27:14 PM PST

Note the time and the day – someone was working late.

The Public Meetings Act requires a minimum of five days notice for meetings. Tacoma Water ratepayers should be asking TPU why such late notice was sent out about something they have been working on for the past year?

Save Tacoma Water is urging ratepayers to show up and voice their opinion about the planned increases.

Additionally, STW has concerns about Tacoma Municipal Code 12.10.400 (H).

The 46 words in Section H need to be deleted.

Section H reads: “H. Special Contracts. The Superintendent, with the approval of the Board, shall have the right to enter into contracts for periods up to 20 years where service conditions are extraordinary; provided, that such contracts shall contain applicable rates as adopted by the Board and the City Council.”

It was under this provision that TPU negotiated a special contract with Niagara. Deleting this section in its entirety removes the authority of TPU/City to give special sweetheart deals to companies like Niagara, a for profit business utilizing our public resource.

TPU’s web site does not provide the actual language the TPU commissioners will be considering. All the public has just five days before the hearing regarding rates is this:

“Residential Rates Proposals

For us to support our long-term investments and capital-intensive operation and continue delivering quality water and power, we need to increase our rates as follows. This is a flat rate for all residential customers, and will apply to both 2017 and 2018.

Water:

  • $1.49 per month (inside the City of Tacoma)
  • $1.79 per month (outside the City of Tacoma)”
The above increase in unclear, but that is all that is currently available. Further down the page readers will find this:
  • Commercial: 4.3%
  • Irrigation: 4.9%
  • Large volume commercial: 6.9%
  • Private fire protection: 1.4%
  • Pulp mill: 4.0%
  • System average: 4.0% 

TPU clearly does not want an informed public to make comment, nor do they want to provide the public adequate notice. Providing just 5 days notice with only minutes to spare to be within the Public Meetings Act should give all ratepayers pause for concern.

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Updated Oct. 1, 2016

Save Tacoma Water has sent a letter to Attorney General Bob Ferguson asking the AG to include the City of Tacoma in the lawsuit filed against the Port of Tacoma et al for violating RCW 42.17A. A public records request submitted by STW revealed a six page document called Confidentiality and Common Interest Agreement between the City of Tacoma and the Port of Tacoma.

It was way last August 15, when the AGO filed the lawsuit against the Port of Tacoma, Pierce County Chamber of Commerce and the Pierce County Economic Development Board for using public funds and facilities against the Water Protection Petition – a citizen initiative sponsored by Save Tacoma Water. The News Release sent out by his office reads in part:

The complaint alleges that Port officials violated RCW 42.17A.555 by using public funds and facilities against two ballot propositions promoted by the group “Save Tacoma Water.” The AGO alleges that the EDB and the Chamber violated RCW 42.17A.255 by failing to disclose independent expenditures they made opposing the propositions in the same lawsuit.

Attorney General's Complaint

The AGO filed the lawsuit in response to a Citizen Action letter filed by Olympia resident and long time activist Arthur West. In 20 days the defendants must respond. Well, that hasn’t yet. Apparently the AG’s office has agreed to an extension for the response.

Save Tacoma Water (STW) has retained legal help to ensure Save Tacoma Water’s interests are represented in the AG’s lawsuit. Please support our legal defense fund by writing a check to STW or making a secure online donation.

From the AGO News Release: “Washington’s campaign disclosure laws demand transparency and accountability,” Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. “Washington elections, including the financial forces that drive them, will take place in the clear light of day.”

Arthur West files Citizen Action Letter with the PDC and the AG

Arthur West

Arthur West’s letter claimed public funds (Pierce County taxpayers), were being illegally used in the expenditures for the Port’s lawsuit against STW. On July 1, 2016, Judge Nevin tossed off the ballot the voters right to vote on whether a water permit should be issued to a water user needing more than a million gallons of fresh water a day. The AG complaint “piles on”, as it is known in the legal world (where charges are added to the original complaint) – adding the charge of use public facilities, which is a more serious offense. What is noteworthy is, the AG’s lawsuit names the Port of Tacoma Commissioners personally. Now the shoe is on the other foot as the Port’s lawsuit against STW personally named Donna Waters and Sherry Bockwinkel plus Jon and Jane Does 1-5 – in the power brokers attempt to intimidate all the leaders of the volunteer citizen group. A court date has not yet been set and no response as of this latest update.

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