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County Council approves Lakewood sewer fee

Post by Christian Hill / The News Tribune on July 26, 2011 at 4:33 pm with No Comments »
July 26, 2011 4:33 pm

Lakewood residents will pay more for sewer service starting Sept. 1 after the Pierce County Council on a close vote approved Tuesday a franchise that the city had been seeking for more than a decade.

The associated fee, equal to 6 percent of customer’s monthly charge, will add $2.05 to the monthly charge for a single-family home of $34.19.

The vote was 4-3 after a brief discussion. Council members Roger Bush, Joyce McDonald and Dan Roach voted no.
The Lakewood City Council in March granted a 20-year franchise for the county, contingent on its approval, to install, operate and maintain sewer lines inside city limits and impose a fee equal to 6 percent of the sewer rates and charges collected each month. With Tuesday’s action, the county passed that cost onto Lakewood sewer customers.

Lakewood resident Anton Miller had delayed the county council’s consideration when he challenged the proposed fee in Thurston County Superior Court. A judge dismissed his suit in May.

The ruling didn’t dissuade Miller. He told the county council at Tuesday’s meeting that the fee is illegal and unfair and that another individual would sue if they approved it.

“They (Lakewood residents) are getting nothing for this 6 percent,” he said. “Their service will not be changed.”

Lakewood City Manager Andrew Neiditz assured that city lawyers have reviewed the franchise and concluded it’s legal. The franchise holds the county harmless against any lawsuit challenging the fee. The franchise is expected to bring a
bump in revenue for the second-largest city in Pierce County, estimated at about $350,000 a year.

“This sewer ordinance is certainly a major step forward in the partnership that Lakewood has developed with Pierce County,” Neiditz said.

Cities typically grant franchises to utilities and other companies to operate in the public right of way. Lakewood already assesses franchise fees on power, water and telecommunications providers.

The city had attempted to impose a sewer franchise on the county starting in 1997, but Pierce County prevailed in a lawsuit challenging the effort. In 2005, the city and county agreed that Lakewood would grant a franchise as part of the project to extend sewer service into the Tillicum and Woodbrook neighborhoods.

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