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Monte changes water amnesty policy again

The Montesano City Council voted to change its water leak policy again — for the fourth time since November.

Now, if a homeowner in Montesano finds a leak on their side of the meter, they’ll be able to get a break on their water bill once every two years. Plus, city staff will have the discretion to shut off continued leaks or to leave the water running. The previous version of the ordinance mandated an automatic shut off of the water.

The new change was prompted by Councilman Chris Hutchings, who insisted on the ordinance being brought back up for discussion and potential action after not being happy with the way the discussion and vote happened two weeks ago.

Earlier this month, the mayor helped break a tie by joining three members of the seven-member council to approve an ordinance that allowed an amnesty to happen once every three years.

Originally, the city had no policy in writing and provided an amnesty to water leaks at city administration’s discretion. In November, the council approved an ordinance requiring no amnesty. Then, that ordinance was repealed in December after public outcry that the ordinance was too harsh, putting the unwritten discretion policy back into play. Without a policy, Mayor Ken Estes had told council members earlier this month he wasn’t granting amnesty, prompting council members to at least put the once every three years policy into place.

Now, it’s once every two years.

At this point, with the latest change in the ordinance, it’s going to take a bit of education to help residents figure it all out.

The latest change was approved on a 4-3 vote with Councilman Lyle Powell joining fellow council members Hutchings, Marisa Salzer and Tyler Trimble on the new two-year amnesty period. Dissenting were Council members Pat Herrington, Ken Walkington and Pam McElliott.

Powell, the swing vote, had been absent from the early February council meeting so this was the first time he had a chance to vote on the issue since December.

The newly adopted policy states that when a leak is discovered, the customer would be notified in writing within a week of the discovery. Within 30 days, the customer shall undertake repair of the leak and notify the director of public works and office of the clerk-controller in writing as to the date of the correction. Failure to repair the leak could mean the city will turn off the water until the repair is made, the policy says.

The adjusted bill paid will be the average of the last three billing periods for water, plus one half of the amount by which the bill exceeds the billing amount.

A “water leak adjustment form” will also need to be filled out.

Hutchings says it’s not fair to turn off the water on someone experiencing a leaky faucet or a toilet issue and the leak isn’t so bad. He says he hopes city administration will use the new discretion allowed to them to work with residents on their issues.

Trimble says he’s still worried the city will require the repair of entire pipes for residents that are on a fixed income.