Unhappy with EWUA upgrade | Guest column

by LESLEY LIDDLE

Orcas Island

I have been carefully considering the letter of initiative that everyone recently received after Sept. 18, 2014 from the EWUA Manager Paul Kamin.

Members with a “guest” house, whether large or small, built after 1970, are to be charged $3,000 for a second “half meter” for that guest house if signed up before Dec. 31. Thereafter  this new half meter will cost $6,000, plus an extra monthly fee of around $22/month or $66 added on top of the present lowest level three month billing of $135.

Those in the lowest usage category with a guest house can expect a $200 bill every three months for water regardless of how large or small that guest house or the primary home is, or how much water has ever been used by that tax parcel. In addition to this, for the next three years another $250 is proposed to be added to these quarterly bills as payment for this new half meter.

Some of us who are small water users could be seeing an amazing water bill for $450 every three months for the next three years if this initiative is enacted. A guest house includes vacation trailers, yurts, anything else with a toilet and cooking facility which has been sitting on one’s property which another person could potentially live inside whether or not anyone is actually doing this. Paying just for water and this new half meter amounts to a whooping $1,800 bill each of the next three years and to $800 per year thereafter. Anyone who hasn’t signed up on their own by Dec. 31 will be penalized when found.  Such a letter is disturbing coming from a co-operative association. Many  of us  have lived here for decades in very small cabins or houses with tiny guest houses on a single tax parcel, while large houses with huge water needs have been built and will still be allowed one meter. Levying extra membership fees on low water usage users is not only unfair but makes life difficult for many who were connected legally decades ago post 1970 and who have been conscientiously conservative.

This initiative is poorly thought out, arbitrary and punishing. Tiny guest houses make affordable housing and are conservative by nature. When they are not obviously out of line with land use they should be encouraged – especially at this time when there are so many without housing options. One meter adequately  monitors all water consumption per residential tax parcel. That is stated clearly in the original EWUA document.  Beyond the property line all plumbing is paid for by private property owners themselves. The EWUA is neither the planning department nor the assessor’s office. It would better serve its members by levying monthly fees based on actual water usage.