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Posted on: July 1, 2019

Commissioners' Corner (Issue 182)

Ron Nowicki

Lakehaven in Transition: Lakehaven Water and Sewer District is currently at a major transition point. Much of the equipment that is critical to the operation of the two wastewater plants is approaching its anticipated service life. Both Redondo and Lakota were originally placed into service in the 1960’s. Major upgrades occurred at both plants almost thirty years later. Now those improvements are nearly 30 years old. In the harsh environment of wastewater treatment, effective maintenance and skilled operators have kept the plants performing well, but more renovations are necessary. On top of dealing with aging infrastructure, many environmental regulations have evolved into “constituent specific” rules, which require more skilled and technically competent individuals to understand and implement the process control changes to meet these requirements. 

Our administrative complex includes a triple-wide trailer and a 1970’s office building that cannot sustain space demands for our staff. Our utility is becoming increasingly more complex and expensive to operate and maintain. Despite this, our largest single rate increase for most of our customers over the past 10 years has been a franchise fee and utility tax to the City of Federal Way.

We currently have a capital improvement program budget over the next ten years which approaches $250 million. Included in this program is the construction of a new administration complex to house our expanding work force and targeted expansions at both wastewater treatment plants, including major electrical work, nutrient removal, odor control, and disinfection system improvements. We are also upgrading our sewer collection systems and pump stations – think of pipes and pumps in the ground. Some of our water mains have been in service for over 60 years. Water main replacements are becoming more common and necessary and we are in the process of changing all our water meters to automatic read meters over the next five years. This will provide more information on water consumption patterns for our customers and reduce the time it takes to read and process bills for the more than 30,000 customer/owner accounts we handle.

All of this work, along with the additional staff we need to hire in a difficult labor market, will require additional revenues. We are studying funding and timing options to respond to this, including securing bonds, other borrowing options, and implementing rate adjustments.

These are some important challenges facing our utility. Please attend our meetings and become knowledgeable. Your voice and opinion matters.

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