The Eastsound Water Users Association board decided to put a six-month hold on the rate increase at their regular meeting on Tuesday, May 17.
The hold will allow the board to begin working group discussions with the members most impacted by the change in the rate structure.
The meeting opened with EWUA General Manager Paul Kamin reading a letter submitted by Eastsound resident and business owner Joe Cohen, who was unable to attend. Cohen questioned what the EWUA was seeking to achieve with the new rate structure. He felt the board has not properly addressed the concerns of commercial water users, and suggested that they hold a working meeting between business owners and the board to compromise.
“I, for one, am always interested in a collaborative effort,” said Fred Klein, member of the EWUA board. “I’m personally totally willing to devote the time to a working group.”
A caveat of the working meeting, Klein added, would be that there would be a fixed period of time with set meetings and consistent attendance.
“I don’t want a series of meetings where people can just come and go,” said Klein, who wants the people contributing to the working group to be committed to attending all of the meetings.
Though the board already voted to rescind the rate increase, they listened to comments from audience members, many of whom encouraged a working group to resolve the division between business owners and the association.
Attorney Thomas Pors of Seattle read a letter signed by multiple Eastsound business owners requesting the board postpone the implementation of the tiered structure while a committee was established to study rates.
With the uproar caused by the increase, Kamin fears that EWUA has not been transparent enough. The rate structure was adopted during the Feb. 20 meeting and notice went out to members five days later. Kamin then sent personal letters to members who regularly utilize large amounts of water regarding the change.
“I think you’ve been exemplarily about communicating this,” said Klein.
The board hopes that the work group can begin with a presentation from Kamin about what the increase entails so that members can easily understand what it is and why it’s being done. The board will decide between now and next month’s meeting how they would like to move forward with the working group planning process.
“I think we’ve taken the pot off the burner at this point,” said Kamin.