The Sitka Assembly voted Wednesday night (5-27-15) to raise water and wastewater rates, on first reading. The increases were previously outlined in the city budget, but require a separate vote to go into effect.

Water rates will go up by 10-percent, while wastewater rates will go up by 4.9-percent. Altogether, that’s an increase from $86.01 to $92.03 dollars, or about six dollars a month.

But even that is too much, said Sitka resident Mary Jo McNally.

“Stop raising rates,” she told the assembly during public comment. “I don’t care if it’s water, electricity…we have to stop doing this. It’s ridiculous. You need to  learn to cut some things out of the budget. I haven’t seen anything cut out of the budget. Nothing. All you want to do is spend our money.”

McNally was met by applause from those in the audience.

But assembly member Michelle Putz said the city has no choice but to replace aging infrastructure.

“Boy, I very much wish that I could vote to not raise rates,” Putz said.  “I am so with all of you all on this. But I also know that the equipment, the facilities and everything that we have is costing more money than it used to. And I know that I want to be able to flush a toilet and have that water go away in a sewer that’s working and isn’t leaking water straight into the ocean.”

The assembly voted 5-2 in favor, with Aaron Swanson and Steven Eisenbeisz voting no.

Assembly members pointed out that Sitka went for years without raising rates for several utilities. According to city numbers, Sitka raised water rates just once between 1992 and 2009.

You can find more coverage of the Sitka Assembly here.