City gives first public meetings on water rate study

Outside firm will evaluate Juneau's infrastructure through May
CBJ Public Works Director Kirk Duncan speaks about the water and wastewater rate study to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce at their weekly luncheon at the Moose Lodge Thursday.

Financial consultant Karyn Johnson addressed the weekly Juneau Chamber of Commerce lunch crowd at the Moose Lodge during the first of three public meetings Thursday on Juneau’s upcoming water rate study.

Johnson, one of the Redmond, Wash.-based FCS GROUP consultants tasked with evaluating Juneau’s water and wastewater infrastructure, worked on the city’s last study 10 years ago. Cities generally reevaluate their water systems every 10 years, said Kirk Duncan, City and Borough of Juneau Public Works Director, who also addressed the group.

“The last time was 2003, so it’s time,” Duncan said.

The public works department is staying afloat financially, he said, but is spending money faster than it is bringing it in. With some big public works projects coming up in the next year, the consulting firm will figure out how much the city needs to charge its residents for water in order to continue operating in the black.

“Karyn is going to be helping us identify what is the most comfortable level,” he said.

FCS GROUP will conduct a series of studies and make recommendations for rate increases and other changes in April, Johnson said.

Last time around, the firm recommended a schedule of rate increases over 10 years and a shuffling of how to charge trailer parks and duplexes for water and wastewater services, among other things. The city assembly did not adopt all of the company’s rate increase recommendations, Johnson said.

This time, Duncan hopes the city will “lay out a consistent ‘X’ percentage every year and adopt it,” he said.

Now that the first public meetings have been held, FCS GROUP will weigh public comment and begin its first analyses. The next rate study-related public meeting will be 7 p.m. Dec. 11 in the Assembly Chambers.

“We’ll come back in December with, ‘Okay, this is how many millions of dollars we’ll need in the next 10 years,’” Duncan said.

More information on the study, as well as a schedule of related meetings, can be found online at juneauratestudy.com.

• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at katherine.moritz@juneauempire.com. Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.

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