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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control

Spokane City Council candidates debate sewer fees

The following was asked on The S-R's candidate questionnaire. Candidate Chris Bowen declined to submit a questionnaire. Here are the answers, which were allowed to be up to 150 words, from the five other people hoping to replace Bob Apple and represent Northeast Spokane on the council.

City officials increased sewer charges by 17 percent last year and predict more increases the next few years in large part to pay for nearly $650 million for projects required by the state to improve sewage treatment and prevent untreated sewage from spilling into the river. Do you support sewage fee increases that could top 10 percent in each of the next couple of years? If not, what would be your preferred alternative?

Continue reading the post to find out their answers.

Gary Pollard:

Though I’m bothered by fee increases, I’m lost at finding an alternative at this time. I’m more concerned over the federal and state governments placing unfunded mandates on local communities.

Mike Fagan:

Let’s use the example of a story your paper ran a couple of weeks ago with regards to the disagreement between the county commissioners and the Spokane Tribe of Indians on the Spokane River. The tribe wanted discharges into the river to be undetectable by current lab standards. This is unreasonable with astronomic costs associated with attempting to achieve that goal. It is my understanding after a conversation with Commissioner Mielke that the tribe subsequently settled on the promise that the county would be implementing steps for “continuous improvement.” A lot of what is driving the costs associated to our sewer, water and utility rates in general is excessive state and federal regulation and unfunded mandates. Spokane’s motto is “Near nature, near perfect.” The motto in this case is reasonable and reflects the truth.

Luke Tolley:

It is unfortunate that previous city leadership has put the City of Spokane in this predicament by not maintaining those systems previously.  If elected I would have to weigh the penalties of not abiding by state law against providing basic services to the citizenry.  If it is possible to slow or put off the improvements I would be in favor of doing so to reduce the needed increases in fees.

John Waite:

No, I do not support any increased taxes in the next budget cycle because taxpayers simply cannot afford them. We need to work with the state to make sure these required projects are the most cost-effective solutions.

Donna McKereghan:

I don't know of a better way to meet the demands of state law, this far into the problem. For now, we should consider a scale of increases so that those with the most need of sewage treatment pay higher rates than homeowners, for instance. However, while there's nothing we can do about the past, it is crucial that we look farther into the future to prevent continued problems in this area. One future solution would be to build permeable roads and as they come up for replacement, replace existing non-permeable surfaces with permeable, whenever possible.

Jonathan Brunt
Jonathan Brunt joined The Spokesman-Review in 2004. He is the government editor. He previously was a reporter who covered Spokane City Hall, Spokane County government and public safety.

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