It has been a privilege to serve as your commissioner the
last two years. As I have had the opportunity to interact with
the public as a commissioner, I have had many of the same
questions asked of me. Many of you may also have these
same questions, so I’d like to address some of them here.
When I introduce myself as a Lakehaven Commissioner,
many people assume that I am employed full time by the
utility (with a nice salary). Well no, Lakehaven commissioners
are elected officials of a special purpose district that provides
water and sewer service. Lakehaven is like the school district and the fire district
in that they are governed by a board of elected officials. Commissioners are paid a
per diem of $128, for days we have meetings (pay limited to average of 9 meetings/
month). I put in time daily being a commissioner, so the compensation is merely a
stipend for someone like me that has several Master’s degrees.
The next question is often; “What does a commissioner do”? We are, in essence,
the equivalent of the city council for the utility. We make the ‘laws’ (set policy) for the
utility. We approve the budget, set rates, approve capital projects, and oversee the
General Manager and General Counsel. That also means that there are things we
don’t do. We don’t work for the City of Federal Way, and have no jurisdiction over
city policy. We have no control over the city taxation of our utility, nor can we do
anything we want on city property (like place facilities for the homeless in parks).
Another misconception about the utility is that the water and sewer service is
provided by the City of Federal Way. Tacoma is a city that provides water service to
some Lakehaven sewer customers, but the City of Federal Way is not in the utility
business. Lakehaven is its own governmental jurisdiction providing water and sewer
service. We have our own permitting, billing, and engineering departments.
People also assume that because we are a water utility that we take care of surface
drainage and stream quality. Surface water management is taken care of by the
public works departments of your city or the county. Rainwater needs to go into
the storm drainage system, not into the sewer system through the side sewer; it is
expensive and unnecessary to treat as wastewater.
Hopefully you now have a clearer
picture of what a commissioner
is, and how the utility is
separate from the city. Informed
customers appreciate the utility
more and can help make it better.
Since you have read this far in
the newsletter, thank you for
wanting to be informed.
Commissioner Corner Issue 196 - Nov/Dec 2021