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This is a question many people may ask themselves when planning alterations to their home. A decision not to get a permit could be very costly. Some homeowners are finding when they try to sell or refinance their home, prospective buyers or lending institutions want proof that alterations are in compliance with local codes.
Without a permit and inspection on record, there is no proof. The homeowner must then apply for a permit with no guarantee that the remodel will meet the codes, and they face the possibility that the remodel must be redone or removed. This is costly and frustrating and could cause delays in refinancing or a lost sale of their home. A permit normally would provide a reasonable amount of assurance that what was proposed and eventually constructed would meet structural, fire, life, and safety requirements found in the building code.
The City does not require a permit before commencing emergency repairs. However, a permit for the emergency work must be applied for on the first business day after the work has commenced. The City of Washougal defines an emergency as something that affects basic needs. A common emergency repair that does not require a permit includes:
Securing damaged structural members, roofs, decks, or stairs in a safe and weather tight manner. You must obtain a permit before repairing damaged structural members, roofs, decks, or stairs.
A building permit is not required for the following per Section 105.2:
A mechanical permit is required to install, alter, repair, replace or remodel per International Mechanical Code and (WMC) 15.04.020(7).
A mechanical permit is not required for the following per UMC Section 112.2:
A plumbing permit is required for any installation, alteration, repair, replacement or remodel of any plumbing system regulated by WMC 15.09.10 Section 105.2 (C) to See Plumbing Permit Application and Checklist.
A plumbing permit is not required for the following per UPC Section 103.1.2:
Not necessarily, a new home has far more fees associated with it than remodels because of development fees. These development fees are not charged each time that an alteration is made. Building permit fees are based on the value (construction costs including materials and typical labor costs) of the work to be done. As an example, an alteration with a value of $10,000 would have a building permit fee (including plan review) of around $225.
Each person will have a different view of what is and is not expensive; however, a few hundred dollars now may save thousands in the future. Other permits such as plumbing, electrical and mechanical (heating and cooling) have fees based on the number and type of installations.
Penalties can be levied for those who refuse to comply with the law. The Building Division would rather see a building conform to the code than punish a homeowner. If a homeowner discovers that they did not obtain a permit when required, they do not necessarily have to tear the project down and start over. If the alteration can meet the applicable codes, they will be approved.
Our inspectors won't necessarily approve something they cannot see and may require small sections of wall or roof covering be removed to verify the construction meets the code. There can be no guarantee that some changes may need to be made, and some may not be easy to accomplish.
The purpose behind building codes is to give reasonable assurance that a home is safe from structural failure, fire hazards from electrical and heating systems, electrical shock, and health risks. The permits provide a permanent record of the work performed and inspections conducted on the project.
No. The new work must be constructed under the codes in effect today.
No. Only the new portion must meet the current codes unless the remodel creates a hazard for the existing building, such as overloading an existing beam.
For one thing, any contracted person doing work who is not currently registered with the State Construction Contractors Board is doing so illegally. Would you want this type of person working on your home?
Another reason is the registration provides some protection to the homeowner from being charged for work and materials not provided or paying twice for them (material suppliers and subcontractors can place a lien on your home if they do not receive payment from your contractor). There are also trade licenses for those persons doing plumbing and electrical work to provide some assurance that they have adequate knowledge and training in those fields.
Often there is a misunderstanding between the contractor and owner as to who is responsible for obtaining the permits. Be sure it is clear who is responsible. If the contractor were to be responsible for obtaining the permits, it would be wise to have the contractor provide proof they did so. The owner will ultimately be responsible for the work on their property.
Keep in mind that while you may be exempt from a permit, you may still be required to obtain other types of permits and/or approvals. For example, you may not need a building permit to build a 100 square foot shed on your property, but you will still be required to meet structure setback requirements from property lines required by the zoning code and the structure must still comply with building code regulations. If your property is located in a flood hazard zone, a flood hazard permit may still be required.
Visit the State of Washington's Business Licensing Service page for Washougal, fill out the forms for state application if you don't have one, and the add addendum. If you already have your state license, just the add addendum.
Our partnership with the State Business Licensing Service will allow you “one-stop” shopping when maintaining or renewing many of your state and cities licenses. In addition to filing on paper, many of you will have the option to renew your city license online. New or expanding businesses will also be able to apply for their City license online along with other state and local licenses that are in the system. We are sure you will value the savings in travel time, wait time, and bookkeeping costs that this service represents.
Right now, you do not have to take any action. Six weeks before your current license expiration date, the Business Licensing Service (BLS) will send you a license renewal form to renew your City of Washougal business license. Follow the instructions on the renewal notice.
If you are eligible to file your renewal online, the form will provide you a web address and password. You will use a credit card to make payment for online transactions. If you prefer to mail the paper renewal form, please do so in plenty of time to reach BLS before the expiration date, and include a check for the appropriate amount. If the renewal is received after the expiration date, a late filing fee will be assessed.
Many other Washington towns and cities are joining the State Business Licensing Service (BLS), and we are pleased to be among those joining in 2011. This is a proven, cost-effective program that provides benefits to you, the City of Washougal, and all businesses in the state. As more cities partner with BLS, the benefits will expand. For the City of Washougal, it means fewer resources will have to be found to handle the paperwork part of our licensing process, even as the City grows.
You may contact the Finance Department at 360-835-8501, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For questions about the State Business Licensing website, contact:Business Licensing ServicePhone: 800-451-7985Fax: 360-705-6699Email Business Licensing Service
Revised Code of Washington (RCW) 9.41.050 requires you to have a concealed pistol license when:
If you live within the city limits of Washougal, you can apply online through Permitium or call 360-835-8701. If you live in the unincorporated area of the county, you must apply in person at the Sheriff’s Office. Non-Washington residents may apply at any local law enforcement agency in Washington State.
Fingerprinting for concealed pistol license (CPL) processing is by appointment only on Wednesdays at Washougal Police Department.
Schedule an appointment online through Permitium or call 360-835-8701. All non-vaccinated applicants must wear a face covering.
Yes. You will need to be fingerprinted and a criminal history background check will be conducted before your license is issued.
Yes. The following requirements must be met:
If you are applying for your first concealed pistol license, it may take up to 30 days to complete the background check before the license is issued. If you do not have a Washington driver's license or identification card it can take up to 60 days.
You will need to bring:
Your concealed pistol license is valid for five years from the date your license is issued. You will not receive a renewal notice and it is your responsibility to ensure your license has not expired.
If you live within the City of Washougal, you may renew your concealed pistol license in person at the Washougal Police Department by appointment only at this time. You may renew your license up to 90 days prior to the expiration date for a fee of $32, or up to 90 days after the expiration date for a late renewal fee of $42. You must provide picture identification and your current concealed pistol license. After 90 days you will be required to apply for an original license with a fee of $49.25. All applicants must wear a face covering.
Online or Mail-in. You may not apply until 90 days prior to the expiration date shown on your current CPL.
Online or Mail-in. Applications will be accepted up to 90 days after the expiration date shown on your current CPL.
Renewal applications submitted by mail must be accompanied with a check made out to the City of Washougal, along with a copy of the applicant's driver's license (or ID) and mailed to:Washougal Police Department1320 A StreetWashougal, WA 98671
If you live in the City of Washougal and your license has been lost, stolen or destroyed, you may obtain a replacement license. You will need to apply in person at the Washougal Police Department, during the regular business hours. The fee for a replacement license is $10.
If your address changes, you may apply for a replacement license, but this is not a requirement.
Washington has reciprocity or accepts concealed pistol licenses issued by a number of other states, so long as the handgun is carried in accordance with Washington law. The Washington State Attorney General's website provides a list of those states that have reciprocity with Washington for concealed pistol licenses.
You can type your address into this online tool to find out if you live in Washougal city limits or Clark County: https://clark.wa.gov/code-administration/fireworks
Legal fireworks can be purchased during the following time period:
There is a fireworks stand at 3003 Addy St. near Bi-Mart.
Yes, as long as they are legal AND meet the definition of Safe and Sane. See definitions below.
“Safe and sane” fireworks are those that are neither projectile nor explosive—basically anything that doesn’t leave the ground.
Fireworks that fly, explode or travel more than one foot into the air or more than six feet on the ground.
Please call 911 if you see the following:
Do Not Call 911 or 311 if:
COMPLAINTS - DO NOT CALL 911 OR 311 UNLESS THERE IS AN EMERGENCY
To record a complaint related to 4th of July activities in Clark County, please call (360) 597-7888.
SAVE 9-1-1 CALLS FOR TRUE EMERGENCIES
During the 4th of July holiday weekend, CRESA (Clark Regional Emergency Services Agency) asks that residents not call 911 or 311 to report fireworks. Instead they can call 360-597-7888 during the 4th of July weekend to record fireworks nuisance complaints. Only call 911 to report if you witness or see something on fire or if there is a medical or life-threatening emergency. Callers reporting nuisances or noise complaints around fireworks delay or block other callers with life-threatening emergencies from reaching 911.
LAW ENFORCEMENT RESPONSE DURING 4th OF JULY HOLIDAY
Law Enforcement from Battle Ground, Camas, La Center, Ridgefield, Vancouver, Washougal, Yacolt and the Clark County Sheriff’s Office must prioritize their response during periods of high demand. Illegal use of Fireworks and noise complaints are most often non-emergent in nature.
During the busy Fourth of July holiday, law enforcement often must delay or suspend their response to non-emergency requests for service in order to respond to emergency events (assault, robbery, etc.). Protecting lives and preserving property are the highest priorities.
What can you do?
If you witness or see something on fire, if there is a medical or life-threatening emergency, please call 9-1-1.
Do Not Call 911 if:
July 3rd and 4th are the busiest times for our 9-1-1 dispatch center and First Responders with call volume tripling. Injuries and fires will take priorities, and other regular calls for service are still happening and need to be addressed such as medical calls and car accidents. Please note there may be delays in response due to extreme call volume.
Violations will be punished with a civil infraction and by a fine of:
In addition to citations being issued, any illegal fireworks may be seized.
Yes! You may be subject to arrest for Reckless Burning in the First Degree 9A.48.040 or Second Degree 9A.48.050 depending on what type of structure or property is damaged, even if you did not intend on damaging it. Additionally, if you use fireworks in a reckless manner and someone is injured as a result, you may be subject to arrest for Unlawful discharge or use of fireworks 70.77.488.
Hartwood Park is located at 2211 49th St, Washougal, WA 98671.
This concept was developed in 2011 and was unanimously approved by the Park Board. During the park master planning process, the park master plan identified that the community wanted a disc golf course. After reviewing all the park locations Hartwood became the best option.
The City’s goals for the disc golf course project are:
The City will provide updates on this project via social media (Facebook, Twitter and Nextdoor), Zoom meetings (Parks Board and City Council), mailers, and neighborhood meetings. Neighbors and community members can submit feedback on most these platforms in addition to the form on this website or by clicking XXX.
This concept was developed in 2011 and was unanimously approved by the Park Board. During the park master planning process, the community was involved in developing this plan and the recommendations were noted in the plan. Since that vote, the disc golf has been talked about in Park Board meetings and shared at a Council Workshop (CIP prioritization meeting in February 2021).
The City has hired a professional disc golf course designer and safety of the course the number one priority.
The City has adjusted a larger disc buffer zone around the baskets, making it less likely the discs will go into these areas.
The course designer’s focus is to protect the walking paths. The paths will not change; the baskets will be moved to a location that makes walking safe.
All City parks in our area have seen an increase in cussing, drinking, and vandalism. The City realizes this is a problem for all parks and are working to manage this issue.
The focus for this course is to make it a family fun disc golf course. When the first design was created it was an 18-hole course, which brings in more of the disc golf community. Now that the course is 9 holes, it becomes a more family friendly recreation opportunity rather than a full course.
The City will release the disc golf map once it becomes final. The process involves completing permitting requirements and an environmental review before the map becomes final.
The goal is to remove nonnative species, such as Himalayan blackberry because that will increase the potential for improved habitat and eliminate some of the native planting from dying because they were choked out by the blackberries. The City is working hard on the riparian buffer area and existing wetland area to enhance this with additional plantings, which will help to increase native plant diversity and richness.
All cities utilize correction crews to help with routine maintenance in parks. The corrections crews are made up of minor offense criminals and always have a sheriff on site.
The City has been keeping an eye on this bridge for a couple of years. City staff recently evaluated the bridge and found that failures have gotten worst. The City has requested dollars in the 2022 budget to replace the bridge, which have been approved.
Once some of the invasive blackberry bushes are removed, the City will start planting native plantings in these areas. Everything being done in this area is to improve the buffer zone.
Contact City Hall at 360-835-8501 and inquire about the business or conduct a search by business name at the Washington State Department of Revenue website.
Contact the Community Development Department at 360-835-8501 with the exact location of the sign, or stop by City Hall at 1701 C Street and look at the official Washougal Zoning Map.
A "scatter garden" is a special area set aside in the cemetery in which uncontained cremated remains may be placed in the ground. The cemetery staff will make an opening in the ground into which the cremated remains will be placed, "scattered", and then buried. The cremated remains are not recoverable once placed and no map is kept of exactly where in the garden they were placed. Detailed records of the burial of all remains in this area will be kept by the City and a memorial name marker will be added to the Memorial Stone.
No, grave markers/headstones are not allowed in the scatter garden. Each person interred in the Cremain Memorial Garden will have a bronze name plaque placed on the memorial stone in the center of the area.
Plaques placed on the memorial stone are only for those buried within the scatter garden. The Washougal Memorial Cemetery does not have a memory wall at this time for tributes to persons buried elsewhere.
The package price allows for burial with or without service set up and placement of a bronze name plaque on the memorial stone. Cemetery staff will set up the appropriate equipment for families to hold their service in the Cremain Memorial Garden. However, cemetery staff is only responsible for burial place preparation/closing; cemetery equipment set up/take down and plaque placement.
If you would like more information on scatter garden placement, or any of our cemetery services or lots, please contact Kelly Brown 360.835.2662 x201, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for contacting Washougal Memorial Cemetery. Please fill out the inquiry form so that staff can better assist you.
Please feel free to contact us at our Operations number at 360-835-2662 and we will be glad to let you know what we are spraying for and what materials we are using at that time.
The Mosquito Control Board. They can be reached at:
Clark County Mosquito Control DistrictMario Boisvert, District ManagerPO Box 5032Vancouver, WA. 98668Phone : 360-574-7906
For all street light related problems please call Clark Public Utilities directly at 360-992-3000.
Please have the following information ready:
You may also visit Clark Public Utilities to fill out an online form.
Contact the Streets Department at 360-835-2662 to report this to the Operations Center office. After business hours please call Sonitrol at 360-735-9509.
City Hall will be able to help you with any utility bill questions. The number is 360-835-8501. Information about utility billing may also be found on the Utility Billing webpage.
The Streets Department can be called at 360-835-2662 to report this to the Operations Center office.
The street sweeper will be out during the first full week of the month on a reoccurring basis. Please remember that sweeping may be delayed due to equipment failure, weather, scheduling, and other related issues.
This year’s festival will once again be different due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The City of Washougal is holding the Pumpkin Harvest Festival as a Trick-or-Treat walk-thru event at Hathaway Park this year. Free pumpkins and goodie bags of Halloween toys and treats will be given away. Children (and adults!) are encouraged to wear their costumes. Physical distancing and low-contact guidelines will be observed at this event to keep you and your family safe. Please wear a face covering.
In years past, local families would dress in Halloween costumes and gather at Reflection Plaza in downtown Washougal for children’s games, free snacks, entertainment and of course, a free pumpkin! Unfortunately, the event will not proceed in this way.
The Pumpkin Harvest Festival Trick-or-Treat Walk-Thru will be held at Hathaway Park (732 25th St, Washougal, WA 98671) from 2-5pm.
No, there will not be games this year. The city will provide Halloween bags that children can take to different areas of the event to receive toys, treats and a pumpkin. While supplies last.
This event gives families an opportunity to wear their Halloween costumes and trick-or-treat through Hathaway Park. Physical distancing and low-contact guidelines will be observed at this event. Please wear a face covering.
For details contact Rose Jewell, City of Washougal at Rose.email@example.com.
This event is FREE for Washougal families. Pumpkins and prizes will be distributed while supplies last.
The Washougal Pumpkin Harvest Festival is presented by the City of Washougal, along with partnerships with Columbia River Realty who donated toward purchase of the pumpkins. Thank you to our partners: Washougal Police Department, Camas-Washougal Fire Department, Washougal Community Library, ReFuel Washougal
Absolutely! We are encouraging all to wear costumes at this event, but keep in mind that a plastic costume mask is not a substitute for a cloth face covering. Please wear a face covering.
This event will take place rain or shine!
While you can submit issues anonymously, for best results create an account by clicking Sign Up. Those who have an account can track the response to their issues and can also be contacted for more information when necessary to complete the request. If you have signed in, you can view your issues under the My Issues tab and you will receive an email notification when an issue has been addressed.
YourGOV currently supports the Apple iPhone and Android powered smart phones. As with the web application, you can report an issue, which in turn will be brought into the City’s Work Management solution. In addition, by using a smart phone to submit, a picture can be attached to the issue.Download the YourGOV phone application for iPhone/iPad or Android.
Maybe. In most cases, you do not need a permit to remove a tree on your property at this time. However, if the tree is located within a critical area, you may need a Critical Areas Permit in order to remove the tree. There are exemptions to this requirement for hazard trees and documentation must be submitted demonstrating that the exemption applies. The Community Development department will review your documentation and process the exemption.
If the tree is located in the right-of-way or is a street tree, you will need a right-of-way permit. One rule of thumb in determining where the right-of-way is located is to look for city owned items such as water meter boxes and utility poles. Anything between those objects and the curb is most often located within the right-of-way.
If you plan to plant within the right-of-way you will need a permit. If you're planting upon any other area of your property, you do not need a permit. No matter where you intend to plant, be sure to call ahead for utility locates before you begin digging. You can call 811 or 800-424-5555. Locates are typically performed within 48 hours, excluding weekends and holidays.
Yes you can. You are within your right as the property owner to remove any portion of the tree that grows over the property line. However, this is not always what is best for the tree. We encourage you to work with your neighbor to come to a solution that is acceptable to you and your neighbor while keeping in mind what is best for the health of the tree. Please weigh this option carefully; as you could be held liable if the work you do prompts the failure of the tree.
The property owner is responsible for the maintenance of street trees. All trees with adjacent pedestrian usage shall maintain 7 feet of clearance to the lowest branches. When adjacent to a roadway, no limbs or other vegetation shall extend beyond the curb line or edge of the asphalt for a distance of 7 ½ feet above the road surface.
Call us and we will help you determine ownership of the tree. If the tree is located on the property of another, we can help you resolve the issue with the other property owner. If the tree is hanging over your property line, please see question number 3.
No, at this time the City does not have an urban forest ordinance; however, a tree may still be protected.
Windowing is the act of removing a select branch or two higher up in a large tree to allow for a view of a scenic area. Skirting up a tree means removing some of the lower branches to allow for a view of a scenic area or to allow for passage under the tree. Both of these are presently accepted practices. We recommend you consult with your homeowners association (HOA) prior to performing this kind of work. More often the not, there are guidelines in place requiring that only non-mechanized machinery be used in conservation areas, steep slopes, wetlands, and buffers. We encourage you to use a certified arborist.
The International Society of Arboriculture maintains a list of certified arborists and tree care professionals. You can search their database by location, postal code, certification number or last name.
Tree topping is the process of removing large branches from the canopy of a tree. This is frequently done in an effort to make the tree smaller, safer, and more manageable. The opposite is often true, however.
Tree topping is not an accepted pruning practice. Topping is detrimental to the health of the tree. It drastically reduces or removes the tree's ability to feed itself through the process of photosynthesis due to the lack of or reduction of its leaves. The large wounds left on a tree after topping are more susceptible to disease, decay and eventual failure. A topped tree will put all of its energy into regaining its height by sending out numerous small and bushy branches that are weakly attached at the removal site. Topping may then need to be repeated regularly, costing the homeowner more money in the long run.
Yes! View the city's Recommended Street Tree Planting List (updated 2022).
The last day of the second month shall be known as the billing date. The bill shall be due and payable in full upon receipt.
Individuals who have questions regarding service provided by the City of Washougal Utilities are encouraged to contact the Utility Billing Department.
Utility Billing shall maintain account records for each customer that includes the customer's legal name, billing address, account number, service address, current charges and account history including consumption, past due charges, penalties and fees.
Bills for municipal utility services provided shall be issued bimonthly by Washougal Utilities, and are required to be paid bimonthly in full by the customer. Bimonthly billings shall be mailed on the last business day of the second month of service.
Typically, meters shall be read between the 12th and 17th day of every other month. Most utility meter readings are obtained every other month through a touch pad read.
Payments can be made:
All payments must be received by City of Washougal before close of business on the last day of the month following the bill date. The City of Washougal does not take any payments over the phone.
The City will provide a drop box for utility payments to be made on holidays, weekends and out of office hours.
Yes, you can make a payment on your utility account at any time. If the payment results in a credit on your account, the credit will be used on your next bimonthly bill.
Any customer who is disconnected for non-payment shall not be reconnected until payment of all charges and fees outlined in the Notice of Past Due Balance and Disconnection of Service (Delinquent Bill).
Reconnection will only occur between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4:30 p.m, Monday through Friday, excluding City observed holidays. Payment must be received in the Utility Billing office before 3 p.m. for a same-day reconnection. If payment for reconnection is made after 3 p.m, reconnection will occur on the next business day.
The residential application shall include:
The commercial application shall include the applicant's name, the number of employees, service address, mailing address, federal identification number, signature of the party responsible for payment.
Two forms of identification are required at the time of application for utility service. One form of identification must include a photo. The second form of identification must prove ownership of the service location. Acceptable forms of identification include, but are not limited to:
Any credit in excess of $10 remaining on a customer's utility account after the final bill has been created shall be refunded to the customer in the form of a check issued by the City of Washougal if a forwarding address has been provided.
Any credit amount if no forwarding address has been provided or if it is $10 or less remaining on a customer's utility account after the final bill has been created shall be retained by the city to cover administrative expenses.
Customers who are unable to pay their utility bill by the due date are encouraged to contact the Utility Billing office to arrange a mutually agreed-upon payment plan, with the goal of the payment plan being to bring the customer's account current. Utility Billing staff has the right to reject a proposed payment plan if it is determined not to achieve the goal of bringing a customer's account current.
Customers who are having difficulty paying their City of Washougal Utility bill may receive assistance from the City of Washougal. This assistance may include referrals to organizations, agencies, and programs which provide financial assistance, as well as other services offered by City of Washougal. Information may be disseminated regarding community service agencies, which may have programs designed to assist with payment of utility bills.
Washougal Utilities offers an automatic bank withdrawal payment option. After enrollment in this program, bimonthly utility payments will be deducted on the 20th of the month following the bill date.
If the 20th falls on a weekend or a holiday, then the deduction shall be taken on the first business day following the holiday or weekend.
More than 50 billion paper checks are processed each year. Each check progresses through a complex and time-consuming maze. Today, money can be safely and accurately transferred electronically through the Automated Clearing House (ACH) system with the Federal Reserve.
You complete and submit the enrollment form authorizing the bank to make utility payments for you by electronically debiting your bank account. On the selected date (20th of each month, or first available business day), the electronic payment is made from your accounts.
Nothing! The City of Washougal does not charge for this service.
Each payment will be clearly identified on your bank account statement from your bank, savings and loan, or credit union. Additionally, each month your City of Washougal utility statement will indicate your current balance and indicate that "your bill will be paid by bank draft."
If your completed authorization form is received prior to the 14th of the month, the application will be processed and your bank account information verified. Your first bill will indicate "paid by bank draft," but this is only a pre-note. You must pay this bill by check! Your next and all future bills will automatically be paid by Automated Clearing House (ACH).
Fill out and submit the Cancellation for Automatic Utility Billing Payment Form (PDF) to the City of Washougal either in person at City Hall or by email. Notification of your request to stop this automatic payment must be received no later than the 10th of the month.
The bank and City will charge you a fee. The City of Washougal's fee for insufficient funds is $40, and you will be removed from automatic withdrawal.
Like cities throughout Washington, Washougal sets rates in order to recover the actual cost of service and invest in system improvements and maintenance. A rate study is periodically conducted to determine the necessary rates to recover operating, capital, and debt service costs. The rates are presented to the City Council for approval. Washougal has been conducting rate study updates on a five-year cycle. By state law, utilities are independent enterprises and are required to pay for themselves. They cannot and do not subsidize other parts of city budgets.
The rate setting philosophy includes the following principles:
While we won’t know the exact rate increase until City Council takes action in early 2024, for the average residential customer the city is currently considering a 2.9% annual rate increase in the combined utility bill each year between 2024 and 2028. This equates to an increase of roughly $8.08 per each bi-monthly bill, or $4.04 per month for the average residential customer. The rate increase amount is consistent with what our consultant is seeing with other cities, and in some cases it is less.
Without a rate increase we would have to reconsider the pressing needs of our aging systems and prioritize those that are most critical to ensuring public and environmental health. We would be forced to defer major infrastructure projects, which would, in turn, leave our existing systems vulnerable. This short-term “gain” of no rate increases would only result in higher costs for needed upgrades, dramatic future rate increases, and possible increased regulatory oversight by permitting agencies in coming years – essentially kicking the can down the road.
There are also regulatory issues to consider. For example, the city’s wastewater treatment plant requires significant upgrades to meet mandated regulatory requirements. If we don’t make those upgrades, we will be out of compliance, which could result in fines and increased costs in the future.
In addition to these capital project issues, the City’s utility cash reserves would be depleted, leaving the utilities vulnerable. Cuts would be required to operations and maintenance, resulting in reduced staffing, compromising our ability to adequately maintain and operate our systems.
In a worst-case scenario, the state of Washington could take control of the utility and manage it without input from the City of Washougal.
The city understands that the format of the current bill can be confusing and is planning on rolling out an improved billing format in early 2024.
The most typical bi-monthly utility bill for Washougal ratepayers varies by billing cycle and season, depending upon water use. However, the average bi-monthly bill for residential customers is $286.14 (comprised of water - $94.28, sewer -$156.69, and stormwater - $35.17). This equates to $143.07 on a monthly basis; water rates include a base rate and a usage charge.
It is true that our utility rates are generally higher than other cities in Clark County. However, compared to other communities in the region and state, our utility rates are nowhere near the highest. There are a number of communities with higher utility rates than Washougal, some much higher. The chart below provides a comparison of utility rates in and outside of Clark County for a residential customer using 15 ccf of water (11,200 gallons of water per year).
Exhibit 1: Utility rates comparison
Rates vary between utility providers for a variety of reasons that can be summarized in four categories: the number and type of customers; the timing of past investments in infrastructure; the current and future need for infrastructure investments; and the specific utility rate policies adopted by the organization. Each city is different, which makes it difficult to do “apples to apples” comparisons, and even though some cities may be similar in one of these categories, differences in the others can have a dramatic effect on rates.
High bi-monthly bills are typically related to high water usage, and most often customers will see higher bills for billing cycles that include the summer months when many water their lawns. Everyone in our system generally pays the same base rate, but customers who use more water pay a higher volume rate. This structure was adopted by city council to encourage conservation.
Like police and fire, operating and maintaining the city’s water, wastewater, and stormwater systems are fundamental to the community’s health. The city strives to find the right balance between affordability, operating and maintaining our systems in compliance with the various requirements and mandates, and providing a high level of service to its customers. A rate study determines exactly how much revenue the city needs to provide these services and develops rates that pay for the operation and maintenance of the utilities – no more and no less.
The City is committed to finding a balance between affordability and the need to ensure that adequate revenues are generated to provide for reliable and safe drinking water, and effective and compliant wastewater treatment and storm water management, now and into the future.
We conduct rate study updates to ensure we are on track and are only charging what is necessary to accomplish this. Particular emphasis has been recently placed on pursuing grant funds and low interest financing, to take some pressure off of rates.
In 2021 we were awarded a $1M low interest loan toward funding design of required enhancements to our treatment plant. In 2022 we were awarded a $1M federal grant toward these upgrades. This year we were awarded a $10M low interest loan (the maximum allowed in the loan program) for construction of these enhancements, and we applied for additional low interest financing. We are waiting to hear if we will be awarded this additional low interest financing. Also, this year there is another $1M grant pending at the federal level. We hope to learn that this has been finalized soon, pending the federal government adopting their new budget.
The city is currently evaluating changing from a bi-monthly bill to a monthly billing cycle. The advantages of this change include giving customers more of a real-time view of their water usage and less of a lag between when their meter is read and when they receive a bill. For example, currently the July-August bill is received at the end of September and under a monthly cycle the July bill would be received at the end of August.
Monthly bills also mean that each bill will be smaller (by roughly half), which makes bill payment more manageable. However, there are some costs associated with monthly billing, including more frequent meter reading, increased administrative costs for printing and mailing bills, as well as software and outreach costs.
The Citizens Advisory Committee considered all of these issues and is suggesting that the Council conduct future outreach to the community to see if community members would support a minor increase in rates to fund the added costs of moving to monthly billing.