Local News

Spokane faces $30 million lawsuit over water bills

SPOKANE, Wash. - For decades, the City of Spokane has contracted with people living outside of the city limits to provide water.

However, according to lawyers, Spokane has been overcharging these residents for years.

"We filed a lawsuit on behalf of Fairways Golf Course arguing that the city was charging them a terribly unreasonable water rate," explained Attorney Bob Dunn. "As soon as we filed that lawsuit, I started getting inundated with calls from county residents who were getting water from the city."

One of those residents just happened to be Fairways' golf pro Kris Kallem, who admits - he never knew his personal water bill was so much higher than city residents - because he never really looked into it.

"Some people are more on top of their personal finances than others," said Kallem. "So I might be guilty as charged in that regard."

The city has claimed the larger bill is to accommodate the cost of getting water to homes outside of the city limits. However, according to the complaint- Spokane has been encouraging developers to build outside city limits since the early 80's, as long as the landowners agreed to pay the cost of connecting to the existing water infrastructure.

"So the city didn't pay one nickel for any of the piping or any of the facilities to put water into these home," said Dunn. "All they get to do is they get to provide the service to the county residents, right now at double the rate."

"It's unfair what we pay. And it's not just on the west plains - it's Five Mile Prairie, it's the Upper South Hill," claimed Kallem. "We have no representation, we have no recourse. They can charge what they whatever they want - and that's what they've done all along. They have to charge reasonable rates, that's what this is all about."

Dunn has asked for $30 million in his claim - seeking refunds for 6,000 customers who have allegedly been overcharged $500 a year for the last decade.

The City of Spokane released the following Thursday afternoon:

“City of Spokane residents, over the past 100 years, have paid to expand, update, and maintain their complex water system. Today that system is the second largest water system in the state with 1,000 miles of water main, wells, pumps, and reservoirs necessary to provide reliable drinking water. The City’s citizens rightfully benefit from their long-term investment with inside City rates. State law and court decisions support this approach, which has been in place in the City for more than 50 years and in cities around the state including Tacoma, Seattle, and Kennewick. It would be unfair to ask City residents to pay more now to accommodate lower rates for outside developments.”