Juneau Utility Rate Increases Anticipated

(Juneau) Juneau Mayor Dan Wegener told the public at Tuesday night’s council meeting that they should anticipate increases in water, sewer and electric rates in coming months. The Utility Commission recently funded a study of all three of the city-owned utilities and it is recommending the hikes.

Wegener says the increases have been put off for too long and with the size of some recent utility projects, cash on-hand has been used-up. He says without the increases, the utilities would have to borrow money for future projects.

The last water increase was in 2003 while the most recent sewer rate increase went into effect in 2017. No word yet on the projected financial impact of those increases.

Wegener says the last electricity increase was six-to-seven years ago, and that targeted usage rates. The upcoming electricity increase would target the base rate, which is projected to increase from $6.50 per month for residential customers to around $10. Wegener says the utility has always fought to keep the fixed costs low but the study determined that the base electricity rate needs to be in double digits.

The water and electric rates are subject to approval by the Public Service Commission, which is expected to take a minimum of six months. The sewer rate requires only approval by the city and could be addressed at any time. Wegener says the city will do its best to keep the increases “modest.”

The Common Council Tuesday night also accepted the resignation of Clerk-Treasurer Valerie Knetzger, who had been with the city for around two years. The resignation was effective August 6. Cheryl Giese was named the interim clerk-treasurer as the city searches for a full-time replacement.

The council also approved the mayor’s committee appointments for new alderpersons John Schuster and Paul Shanks.  In Ward One, Shanks replaced former Common Council President Jason Buske, who moved out of the city. Shanks, who’s term runs through April of 2021, will sit on the Public Work and Personnel committees. In Ward Three, Schuster is succeeding Clarence “Butch” Chase, who passed away unexpectedly. Schuster, who’s term runs through the spring of next year, will serve on Public Works, Public Safety and the Board of Review committees.