<BR> Sewer rates rise to 1992 levels<BR>
- Bill Sheehy
- Central Oregonian - News
City sewer rates are going up; on May first the rate payers will increase to the level approved by the city in 1992.
>Although the sewer fee for a single dwelling unit was set at $20.05 ten years ago, the municipal golf course has subsidized rate payers, keeping the fee at $17 ... but no longer
Earlier this month, as a result of a two year study, the city's waste water treatment plant was found to have reached critical capacity. According to the engineer)s study, less than 10 percent of the plant capacity is available for additional growth. The answer is to put a moratorium on growth or increase the capacity.
According to the consultant's report, projected sewer needs will have to include a new treatment plant and miles of replacement delivery pipes. Much of the present system, it was found, is limited by either small diameter pipes and even woodstave pipes.
With that information in hand, during their March 1 meeting, the city council took the first step in addressing the problem, by voting for a proposed increase in sewer rates. Those funds, along with recently established Systems Development Charge fees, will pay for needed upgrading and improving of the community wastewater disposal plant.
Although grants and low interest loans may be available to help with some of the costs, which are expected to be about 9.6 million, the city still needs to raise considerable local funds. The financial analysis presented by the consulting firm recommended a schedule that would, over a 3-year period, increase sewer rates from $17 per month to $32.40.
In order to raise the funds needed to pay for the proposed expansion, an immediate increase to $22.85 will have to be put in place. A second increase to $30.67 would begin in 2003, jumping to $32.40 a year later. That proposal brought a hue and cry from some citizens, asking for a more equitable rate increase. Seniors and others on fixed incomes were among those opposed to the new suggested rate hike plan.
Responding to these demands, City Administrator Henry Hartley recommended that the city council delay the new rates for a while. While the long-term schedule is being drafted, Hartley suggested that as an interim measure, the city raise sewer rates to meet the 1992 base rate.
"Since 1992 rate payers have been subsidized by golf course operations," Hartley explained. Resolution No. 725, passed in March, 1992, authorized a base rate of $20.05 per month for a single dwelling unit. The actual monthly charge, however, has been kept at $17. As the first step toward setting a rate increase schedule, the city council voted to rescind the golf course subsidy effective May 1. That, Counselor Brenda Comini suggested, would "allow time for people to become aware of the change."
Meanwhile, city staff are working on developing a more equitable rate increase that will be reasonable while still raising necessary funds for needed expansion of the wastewater treatment system. That proposal is expected to come before the council early in July.