Sewer Information

Sewer District Consolidation Update – June 1, 2021

Sewer issues may be a little dry (hopefully 😉) for most people, but adequate, well-managed infrastructure, such as utilities, is critical to any community. That’s why the City of Lake Stevens is working to consolidate the operations of the separate Lake Stevens Sewer District into its Public Works Department. The City believes that consolidating operations is more efficient and cost-effective for taxpayers and will aid in economic development for our community. 

The Sewer District does not want the consolidation to occur, and has filed a lawsuit to prevent it from happening. It’s also considering year-long severance packages for its top-level employees, which would cost ratepayers nearly $275,000. 

While the court is in the process of deciding, the Herald interviewed both parties and wrote an impartial story about the issue. Please take a moment to read the article and understand the motivation is behind the City’s ordinance to consolidate operations: saving ratepayers and taxpayers money.  It is also worth noting that sewer rates are set every year in a public hearing by City Councilmembers elected from the community. Any revenue the City receives from sewer utility ratepayers can only be used for the sewer system. 

If you think this is a good idea, we would love to hear from you. Reach out to Mayor Brett Gailey at (425) 407-3497 or bgailey@lakestevenswa.gov and lend your name to the cause.  Thank you!

Sewer District Consolidation Update – May 17, 2021

The City of Lake Stevens continues to work toward consolidating sewer service into its Public Works Department. The purpose is to save money for taxpayers, better manage growth, enhance economic development, and reduce government.

The Sewer District had filed a lawsuit to prevent the City from being able to assume sewer utility operations as planned. Here is a quick look at the legal actions that have happened to date:

The City requested a motion of summary judgement to resolve the issue as soon as possible. (Lawsuits are expensive.) The Sewer District requested and received a delay in hearing the motion to allow for pretrial discovery to be completed and to accommodate an attorney on maternity leave. The court granted this request, and the hearing date was moved from April to August. 

As part of the pretrial discovery process, the Sewer District filed a motion to prevent having to answer questions posed by the City to narrow the scope of the lawsuit to save time and money. The Sewer District did not want to answer these questions because it identifies the weakness of their arguments. The judge denied the Sewer District’s motion and required the Sewer District to reimburse the City for attorney fees associated with this action.

Part of the Sewer District’s lawsuit says that the City of Lake Stevens cannot assume sewer operations because some customers are part of the City of Marysville. Marysville has issued a letter giving permission for Lake Stevens to assume sewer operations for the handful of residents in that area.

We will continue to report back when we have more information to share. Please direct any questions to Mayor Brett Gailey at (425) 407-3497.

Sewer District Consolidation Update – April 21, 2021

The City of Lake Stevens continues to work toward consolidating sewer service into its Public Works Department. The purpose is to save money for taxpayers, better manage growth, enhance economic development, and reduce government.

In the last update, we reported that the Sewer District had filed a lawsuit to prevent the City from being able to assume sewer utility operations as planned. Snohomish County Superior Court granted a preliminary injunction to maintain the status quo until the case can be heard.

Lawsuits are expensive for taxpayers, and the City requested a motion of summary judgement to resolve this issue as soon as possible.  The court date had been set for April. The Sewer District requested and received a delay in hearing the motion to allow for pretrial discovery to be completed and to accommodate one of its attorneys taking maternity leave. The date for the court to consider the motion is now expected to be reset for late August.

We will continue to report back when we have more information to share. Please direct any questions to Mayor Brett Gailey at (425) 407-3497.

Sewer District Consolidation Update – March 25, 2021

We want to continue to update you on the City’s effort to consolidate sewer operations into its Public Works Department and the Sewer District’s lawsuit to prevent that from happening. The purpose for the consolidation is to save money for taxpayers, better manage growth, enhance economic development, and reduce an unnecessary layer of government.

The Sewer District sued the City to prevent Ordinance 1108 from taking effect. The ordinance allows the City to consolidate Sewer District operations subject to completion of review by the Snohomish County Boundary Review Board. The Snohomish County Superior Court granted a preliminary injunction to maintain the status quo while the merits of claims made by the City and Sewer District are considered.

Lawsuits are expensive for taxpayers, and the City wants this issue resolved as quickly as possible. As such, the City has filed a motion for summary judgement, which provides an expedited opportunity to resolve the lawsuit without the expense of a trial and pretrial discovery costs. We will report back when we have more information to share.

Sewer District Consolidation Update - March 9, 2021

The Snohomish County Superior Court granted the Lake Stevens Sewer District’s motion to prevent Ordinance 1108 from taking effect until court review is completed. By way of review, Ordinance 1108 allows the City to consolidate Sewer District operations into the City Public Works Department as early as March 16, 2021 subject to completion of review by the Snohomish County Boundary Review Board.

This action was expected while both parties respond to the Sewer District’s lawsuit filed last month. The preliminary injunction maintains the status quo until the court makes a final decision on the merits of the claims made by both the District and the City in the lawsuit. The City’s position is it has authority to assume Sewer District operations independent of the Unification Agreement under Washington state statutes. The Sewer District is saying the Unification Agreement prohibits the City from assuming its operations until 2033.

The purpose for the consolidation is to save money for taxpayers, better manage growth, enhance economic developments, and reduce a layer of government. Litigation by the Sewer District is costly and will reduce the savings taxpayers could realize from the consolidation. Nonetheless, this issue is in front of the court and still to be decided based on its merits. We will report back when we have an update to share.

Sewer District Consolidation Update - February 22, 2021

Lake Stevens continues to move forward to integrate the Lake Stevens Sewer District into the City. The purpose of consolidating is to save money for taxpayers, better manage growth, enhance economic development, and reduce government bureaucracy.

By way of review, the Lake Stevens City Council unanimously passed the required ordinance in its public meeting on December 8. The ordinance was discussed prior to passage in executive session due to the potential threat of litigation by the Sewer District.

The Sewer District informed the City the last week of January of its intent to sue. Litigation is costly and would reduce the savings taxpayers could realize from the consolidation. The City offered to extend the effective date of the consolidation from March 16, 2021 to the end of the year to continue negotiations. This offer was declined, and the Sewer District filed a lawsuit as expected. 

The City continues to move forward with the consolidation process and has filed the required Notice of Intent (Part 1 and Part 2) with the Boundary Review Board. The BRB reviews boundaries of jurisdictions to ensure the consolidation complies with the Growth Management Act. 

The consolidation process will be complete as of March 16, 2021. We will continue to report back as we make progress. Thank you for taking time to learn more about this issue.

Sewer District Consolidation Update - December 8, 2020

Many governments are looking for ways to be more efficient for taxpayers. In 2005, the City of Lake Stevens and the Lake Stevens Sewer District entered into an agreement that created a unified sewer system. Lake Stevens recently passed an ordinance to have the Sewer District integrate its operations into the City Public Works Department. Consolidation saves money for taxpayers, better manages growth, enhances economic development, and means one less government agency.

The cost-savings for taxpayers are significant. An independent analysis shows that a consolidation is projected to save as much as $595,000 in the first three years. These savings are a result of combining accounting, human resources, facilities and IT departments to eliminate duplication of services. A merger also will provide better prices for goods and professional services due to economies of scale. 

A City sewer utility will better manage growth and enhance economic development. The City is responsible for planning and development within the city limits and urban growth area. However, the Sewer District makes decisions on whether or not to extend service, and the two governments can have different priorities. For example, the Sewer District makes more revenue from housing developments while the City wants service extended to industrial and commercial areas to bring jobs to the community. Consolidation will allow the City to determine when and where growth happens to reduce impacts to area residents.

Consolidating services means less government, as well. Lake Stevens has elected City Councilmembers. The Sewer District has an elected Board of Sewer Commissioners. The consolidation will eliminate salaries for Sewer Commissioners and save on future election costs. Ratepayers will still have representation through the Lake Stevens City Council, which will set sewer rates annually in a public hearing. 

Here’s a list of frequently asked questions you may have as the City completes the process of consolidation:

What’s the process to integrate the Sewer District into the City Public Works Department?

The Lake Stevens City Council passed an ordinance to complete the process at its December 8 meeting. The ordinance takes effect no sooner than 90 days after adoption. 

Why is the City doing this now?

Integrating the Sewer District now means cost savings and efficiencies for taxpayers. It also will help the City better manage growth and enhance economic development, which is called for in the Lake Stevens Comprehensive Plan.

Will sewer rates increase as a result of consolidation? 

No, the existing sewer rates have already been established for 2021. 

How will I be billed for sewer service?

Billing services will remain the same.

Will people lose their jobs at the Sewer District?

By law, the City is required to offer employment to all operations staff at the Sewer District. There will be some consolidation of administrative staff as people retire or seek other employment. There also will no longer be a government board of sewer commissioners.

Who can I contact with more questions?

Updates can be found here on the City’s website. Mayor Brett Gailey also is available to answer questions at (425) 407-3497 or bgailey@lakestevenswa.gov.

Video of Utility Committee Meeting April 27, 2021

Video of Utility Committee Meeting December 17, 2020

Press Release Dec 8, 2020

Archived Communication with the Sewer District