Water district struggles for policy

Point Roberts water district commissioners are struggling to craft a new policy that would allow owners of inactive properties to have their water shut off that would be fair to those owners while still protecting the interests of all ratepayers.

“Part of the reason we’re talking about a termination policy is some people don’t pay their bills,” said Scott Hackleman.

District manager Dan Bourks said there were half a dozen accounts that hadn’t been paid “in a considerable time,” for a variety of reasons, from repossessions to “some people with empty lots who just stopped paying, because they weren’t using the water.”

Currently, owners wishing to have water service must first pay a general facilities fee (GFF), which represents the new connection’s share of the district’s investment in existing infrastructure. Payment of the GFF guarantees them water from the system and is required before the county will issue an occupancy permit.

Based on zoning and available water supply, the district has a finite number of possible connections. Once a user connects, they are required to pay a base water usage fee, even if they aren’t using it, so that the system as a whole continues to be funded.

“Perhaps in all fairness, we have to offer an alternative” to those who want out of the system, Hackleman said.

Under the district’s current policy, which was suspended in 2014, users wanting to disconnect from the system were required to pay for water until the end of the calendar year. The meter would remain in place for five years, allowing the possibility of reconnection in the interim.

After questions were raised about the status of the GFF for dormant connections and what it would cost to reconnect, the discussion went on the back burner.

“It wasn’t a burning issue,” Hackleman said. “Right now there is no policy.”

Commissioners said it was critical to determine what was the district’s responsibility to serve a property once it was disconnected, in the event the number of possible water connections became limited as had occurred in the past. Bourks agreed to have the district’s legal advisors review the commissioners’ concerns.

The board also directed Bourks to put liens on 12 properties with delinquent bills. “If we have a lien on the property, it can’t change hands unless we get paid.” Hackleman said.

The most significant outstanding bill is the 2015 irrigation bill for the Point Roberts Golf Course at $59,000. The other properties on the list total approximately $10,000.

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