Water district question will go to voters

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— In a 5-1 vote, the City Council agreed to ask voters to support the consolidation of the city and Mount Werner Water District.

In the final vote that will put the question on the Nov. 5 ballot, the council had lingering questions over an equalization of rates, the power of the authority and expanding the urban growth boundary.

With major concerns over the equalization of rates, Councilman Steve Ivancie cast the only opposing vote.

He said the wording in the contract allows the Mount Werner District's rates to be lower than the city rates.

"Having different rates for different parts of the community will continue to divide the community," Ivancie said.

But Council President Kathy Connell, who was the city's lead negotiator, said without consolidation there would never be a chance for the two entities to have equalized rates.

And she said if the district's users believed their rates would increase when a merger took place, then they would never vote to support the authority.

City Attorney Tony Lettunich noted new infrastructure has made the district's water and sewer services less expensive, but rates could even out over time as the city replaces its older system and the district's system grows older.

Speaking out against the water authority, former Councilman Ken Brenner said the district should dissolve when its debt service has run out, like other water and sewer entities that have been incorporated into the city over the past 15 years.

"The water authority is an unnecessary layer of additional government," Brenner said. "We have a very early precedent that when the water district has best fulfilled its duty, laid infrastructure and paid off debt, that it is time for them to become part of the city."

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