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Monte Council will reconsider policy on water leaks

Montesano Mayor Ken Estes says he will delay implementation of a new city policy requiring that residents be responsible for paying their water bill, even if there’s a leak with a huge price tag.

A resolution establishing the new policy was approved by a 4 to 3 vote during the Nov. 12 council meeting, but has received quite a bit of negative backlash, Estes and several council members said.

Estes says he won’t put the policy in place until January, giving a month’s time for people to adjust or the council to change their minds.

Councilwoman Pam McElliott says she’s already changed her mind. She was a swing vote in favor of the policy, but says after talking to neighbors and constituents, she now opposes it and thinks a better, fairer option would be to forgive a leak once every three or five years. The details are still being worked out, she said.

“I know I voted for it but I’ve had a lot of thought and people confront me and I’ve asked people in the city of Aberdeen and they’re given an allowance of the city paying for it once every five years,” McElliott said. “I think we’ve jumped into that and I’d like council to consider bringing that back and talking about it a little bit more and get input from the citizens.”

That’s precisely the policy recommended by departing Councilman Doug Streeter during the Nov. 12 council meeting. He voted against the no forgiveness policy.

Councilmen Chris Hutchings and Rich Klinger, who both opposed the no forgiveness policy, praised the idea proposed by McElliott.

Other council members that voted for it were Councilmen Lyle Powell, Pat Herrington and Ken Walkington. They didn’t comment on the matter.

Scott Martin of Montesano told the council members during public comment he can’t see what justifies the no forgiveness policy “other than as a revenue source.” “The home owner doesn’t know they’re going to have a leak until the meter is read,” Martin added. “And if their leak happens at the end of the last reading, they could go a full month before they have another reading and then they are told by the city that they had a leak in their system and now they have to fix it.”

Mayor Estes had first proposed the no forgiveness policy as part of his budget message to the city.

“Leaks have become a problem in our city,” Estes wrote. “Some citizens believe that the city should pay for all leaks and give reduced rates on water bills. Although this was the practice for many years, it is simply not a sustainable business practice.”

Estes said he would put the issue on the agenda for the 7 p.m., Dec. 10 meeting at Montesano City Hall.

Meantime, if someone has a leak between now and January, the city will take the average of the last three water bills and forgive the rest, Estes said.

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