Point Roberts Water District commissioners are getting close to finalizing a policy that would spell out the conditions under which a property owner could terminate water service. A policy is required in order to address outstanding accounts where the property isn’t being used, has been abandoned or repossessed or the owner simply fails to pay for water service.
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.
In order to get water service, a property owner must first pay a general facilities fee (GFF), which is essentially the property’s “buy-in” share of existing infrastructure. Payment of the GFF guarantees them water from the system and is required before the county will issue an occupancy permit. 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.
Under the draft proposal, the customer would not be entitled to a credit or a refund for water connection charges that had been paid previously and would be required to pay all outstanding bills. Should they want to hook up again in the future, the customer would need to pay all connection charges and fees in effect at the time of the re-connection.
“It seems to me that if a person decides to not be part of the system, that’s it,” said commissioner Scott Hackleman. “Right now, they can’t terminate because there’s no policy. They can only walk away and a lien will be put on the property.” District manager Dan Bourks replied, “People want the security of knowing [the water service] is there but they don’t want to pay for it. They can’t have it both ways.”
The ability to disconnect from the system will only apply to properties without structures on them. “If there’s a structure on the property other than a chicken coop with a dirt floor,” said Hackleman, “it doesn’t make sense to allow them to disconnect. If there’s a structure and they’re using it, they have to have water.”
Following text changes suggested by Hackleman and fellow commissioner Arthur Reber, the policy will undergo legal review before final approval by the board.