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Lakewood Councilman Fires Back at Sen. Mike Carrell's Sewer Franchise Fee Op-Ed

Don Anderson claims "Carrell's objections to the sewer franchise fee were made in a court challenge which was summarily rejected by the Superior Court and that the fee is legal and reasonable."

Editor's Note: Below is a response by Lakewood City Councilman Don Anderson contesting

Lakewood faced a grave need to extend sewers to unserved areas when it incorporated in 1996. Pierce County did not develop sewers in significant urban areas of Lakewood, notably Tillicum and Woodbrook.

Public health, sanitation, water quality, and development were affected. Without raising property taxes or imposing LID assessments on property owners, Lakewood recently completed an $18,000,000 sewer extension project.  This has already resulted in the construction of a new McDonald’s restaurant and the issuance of the first permits to Habitat for Humanity for a planned build of 33 new homes in Tillicum.

Neither would have been possible without the new sewers.

These sewer improvements are being transferred to the Pierce County Sewer Utility for operation in exchange for a 6 precent franchise fee. If the City were to operate its own sewer, it would set rates and charge sewer related taxes and fees, the revenue from which would go into its general fund.

Senator Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, has stated his belief that Lakewood has with the franchise fee.  He has also erroneously stated that in addition to an existing Lakewood surcharge of $3.25 per month, households will be charged an additional $4 per month.

In each case, he is incorrect.

The surcharge and franchise fee together total $4.07 per month, bringing the total monthly residential charge (ironically including a state tax) to $42.63. The franchise fee, which is set at 6 percent, is in line with other franchise fees and taxes charged to utilities within the City of Lakewood, such as the Lakewood Water District.

This total sewer charge is one of the lowest in the area.  It is the same as in Tacoma, $10 per month less than in Olympia, and $20 per month less than in Puyallup.

Lakewood is hardly “lining its pockets.” Though it was primarily funded by grants, the City expended thousands of hours of staff time and incurred substantial expense in connection with the recently completed extension project. Under its agreement with Pierce County, Lakewood is financially responsible for reimbursing the County for all costs and expenses incurred in any prospective relocation of sewer facilities as the result of freeway and street construction, an obligation which could be significant. When work on the sewer system is accomplished anywhere in Lakewood, cuts in streets, though patched, cause pavement degradation adding to the City’s financial burdens.

Lakewood is one of the most efficiently run and revenue challenged municipalities in the State of Washington. Its per capita property and sales tax revenue for 2010 was $231.01. This compares to per capita revenues of $424.25 in Tacoma and $586.28 in Puyallup. Out of 65 comparable cities, Lakewood is the seventh lowest in per capita taxation. 

Many of Senator Carrell’s objections to the sewer franchise fee were made in a court challenge which was summarily rejected by the Superior Court. The franchise fee is not only legal, it is inherently reasonable in light of Lakewood’s conservative fiscal practices.

Lakewood strives to efficiently provide essential public services.  Extending the ability to sanitarily flush toilets to additional urban residential areas and to maintain the roads under which those sewers flow are certainly essential functions.  Additional restrictions and unfunded mandates from the legislature only serve to interfere with sound local management of local issues.

Thomas Joseph January 31, 2012 at 03:37 PM
When will the city stop adding nickel and dime like this? Pretty soon you know a bunch of taxes.
sudee January 31, 2012 at 10:18 PM
I thank Mike for trying. When we in Lakewood had to get our sewers (thanks to Booth) we had no choice and no one subsidized us -- Now we are subsidizing rich landlords in Tillicum. Outrageous to say the least. Lakewood -- you dropped the ball again. The "fees" are a joke.
Marques Hunter February 01, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Tony Turkovich sent this to me in an e-mail: In a recent article in the Tacoma News Tribune (and Patch), Mr. Don Anderson, Deputy Mayor of Lakewood stated that the sewer extension project for Tillicum has been completed. But, there are still several streets without sewers or new water lines. Mr. Anderson, please comment and clarify why North Thorne Lane was not included in the sewer extension project, especially, since North Thorne Lane is an extension to Portland Avenue. And North Thorne Lane intersects I-5. Moreover, the WSNG is relocating the main entry gate to their compound to Portland Avenue and Boundary Street. And as, I think, I perceive it, Portland Avenue is being improved for the WSNG commuter traffic which is estimated to be about 900 vehicles daily. But, in my opinion, North Thorne Lane is still in a rather deplorable condition and without the new sewers or without new water lines. There may be a reason for not improving North Thorne Lane in the initial sewer project for Tillicum. However, the residents of Tillicum deserve to be clearly informed, in advance, about the City of Lakewood plans for our community. We, the residents, live here and are interested and have the exclusive right to know how the Lakewood authorities are managing our community.
David Anderson February 04, 2012 at 02:43 AM
http://www.thenewstribune.com/2012/02/03/2010584/lakewood-residents-not-getting.html "Lakewood residents not getting anything for the franchise fee they pay"

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