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Thurston County, Washington

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Public Works

Creating Efficiency and Resiliency in the Way We Manage our Water and Sewer Utilities

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UPDATE: On August 15, 2023, the Board of County Commissioners adopted Resolution #16294, which consolidates Thurston County’s water and sewer utilities and Utility Advisory Committees beginning January 1, 2024.

Thurston County Public Works is proposing rate adjustments in water and sewer rates for customers of the Boston Harbor, Tamoshan, Grand Mound & Olympic View utilities to align with the approved utility consolidation and rate blending timeline. Proposed rate adjustments for 2024 and 2025 are:

Rate table
Rate table

Base rates for water and sewer are determined by the individual user’s Equivalent Residential Units (ERUs). Note that in the latest code update going into effect January 2024, the non-residential ERU calculation for water & sewer will be changed to be 1 ERU = 700 cubic feet of usage for all service areas to make them consistent with Grand Mound, whereas it was previously 1 ERU = 900 cubic feet of usage for the Boston Harbor commercial accounts. See County Code chapter 15.12.110 for more details on monthly base rate adjustments. 

You can read more about the proposed rate increases here

Scroll to the bottom of the page to see the next steps and copies of the final Ordinance and Resolution.

 

What is Utility Consolidation?

Thurston County owns and manages seven separate utilities: three water and four sewer. These utilities serve four communities – Grand Mound, Tamoshan, Boston Harbor, and Olympic View.

Thurston County Water and Sewer Utilities areas

Currently, each community’s utility system is managed separately, resulting in multiple budgets, operating accounts, capital facility plans, reserve accounts, etc. Because of each utility's relatively small size and different characteristics, water and sewer rates vary considerably between communities. Utility consolidation will address these issues by:

  • Merging ten separate water and sewer utility funds into four: one operating and one capital reserve fund for the water utility and one operating and one capital reserve fund for the sewer utility.
  • Under a consolidated utility, water and sewer rates for all communities will be adjusted incrementally over the next five years until all customers share the same base and usage rates.
Example utility rate consolidation chart

 

Why Consolidation?

Utility consolidation is necessary to improve rate stabilization and greater sustainability in water and sewer utility management.  Key advantages resulting from consolidation include:

  • Reduced rate volatility due to rate blending.
  • Reduced risk of utility failure due to improved financial stability.
  • Improved long-term infrastructure planning for the communities served.
  • Efficiencies in accounting, administration, and utility billing.

 

How are utility rates determined?

Utility rates are calculated by distributing the expected annual cost to maintain and operate the utility over the number of customers within the service area.  These costs include a wide range of services, including:

  • Trained staff
  • Repair and replacement of critical components
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Preventative maintenance
  • Construction of water and sewer facilities

 

How are utility rates changing?

As part of this consolidation, Thurston County will be moving towards a blended utility rate model, which is a 5-year plan to merge the rates by incrementally adjusting the separate service area rates to achieve one rate that applies to all service areas. In the long term, the consolidation will stabilize the rates and utility operations, improve financial strength, and provide administrative efficiencies. The following tables outline the increase in the monthly utility statement from 2019 through 2025.

Monthly Water Rate Adjustment ($)* 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023   2024*   2025* 7-year Increase Avg. Monthly Increase
Boston Harbor 5.69 6.83 0 1.23 2.11 3.47 3.75 23.08 $3.30/yr.
Tamoshan 3.63 3.81 0 2.40 4.12 -2.32 -3.21 8.43 $1.20/yr.
Grand Mound 2.03 2.13 0 1.34 0 3.23 3.46 12.19 $1.74/yr.

 

Monthly Sewer Rate Adjustment ($) 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023  2024*   2025* 7-year Increase Avg. Monthly Increase
Boston Harbor 4.97 5.22 0 3.29 4.80 1.43 1.44 21.15 $3.02/yr.
Olympic View 4.79 5.03 0 3.17 5.43 0 0 18.42 $2.63/yr.
Tamoshan 6.38 6.70 0 4.22 7.24 -4.74 -5.00 14.80 $2.11/yr.
Grand Mound 4.18 4.39 0 2.76 0 5.71 5.92 22.96 $3.28/yr.

*Proposed rate increase for 2024, 2025
** Values are for base rate only, does not include usage. 

-Boston Harbor water usage rate is proposed to increase by $0.13 & $0.15 per 100 cubic feet in 2024 and 2025, respectively.

--Tamoshan water usage rate is proposed to increase by $0.14 per 100 cubic feet in both 2024 and 2025.

--Grand Mound water usage rate is proposed to increase by $0.18 & $0.19 per 100 cubic feet in 2024 and 2025, respectively.

 

What is happening with our UAC?

Each service area currently has a non-voting, voluntary resident Utility Advisory Committee (UAC). These groups provide comments on funding priorities and improvement projects to Thurston County staff. 

The existing UACs will terminate on December 31, 2023. A new consolidated UAC will be formed in accordance with Resolution #16294:

“The UAC shall be comprised of (7) seven voting members, who are residents from within the utility service areas and are paying utility customers. Two members shall be elected from each of the three utility service areas that provide both water and sewer service (Grand Mound, Boston Harbor, and Tamoshan). One member shall be elected from the utility service area that provides only sewer service (Olympic View).”

“UAC members shall be property owners within the respective service area which they are representing…. Each property owner shall have one (1) vote per property address served by water and/or sewer.”

Property owners in all four service areas will receive information on the nomination and election procedures for the new consolidated UAC in the coming weeks.

 

Steps Taken

In preparation for utility consolidation implementation at the beginning of 2024, the following occurred throughout 2023:

  • A draft update to the Thurston County Code was written to consider the consolidation of the water and sewer utilities.
  • Local UACs were and will continue to be engaged through the transition to a consolidated utility and a consolidated Utility Advisory Committee.
  • The public was given the opportunity to ask questions and provide comments on utility consolidation during a public review period.
  • Revisions were made to the draft code update based on the public's input and UACs.
  • Briefings with the Board of County Commissioners and a public hearing concerning utility consolidation occurred.
  • An ordinance code update and resolution that consolidates the water and sewer utilities and the UACs was adopted on August 15, 2023, following approval by the Board of County Commissioners.

 

Next Steps

Before utility consolidation is implemented at the beginning of 2024, the following will occur in the last quarter of 2023:

  • Elections will be held in the utility service areas to elect members of the consolidated UAC.
  • A public hearing, tentatively scheduled for December 5, 2023, will be held on proposed utility rate adjustments for 2024-2025.<
  • The Board of County Commissioners will consider the proposed consolidated utility budget.

 

Documents

 

Need more information on Utility Consolidation?

For questions related to utility consolidation, call 360-786-5831.