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Water rates flowing upward until 2026

Hillsboro residents will pay more for water for the next 13 years, in part to help fund the city’s plan to tap the Willamette River for a secondary water supply. The good news is, the increases will be smaller than those imposed in three of the last four years.

That is the upshot of water rate adjustments approved by the Hillsboro Utilities Commission at its Tuesday meeting. The adjustments were approved by commissioners John Godsey and John Rosenberger after a public hearing that drew no opposition. Commissioner David Judah was absent.

“We’ve studied this for months,” Godsey said, expressing his belief that all issues had been seriously considered.

According to Hillsboro Water Director Kevin Hanaway, as for the rest of the adjustments, Hillsboro water rates will double over the next 13 years. But, according to Hanaway, they will still be in the middle of all water rates in the tri-county region.

Hillsboro water rates are currently the lowest in the region, and will stay that way for at least a few years, Hanaway said. Under the new rates, the monthly water cost for a typical residential customer will increase by $1.63 to a total of $26.44. This compares to a monthly cost of $28.06 for a residential customer in Forest Grove, the next lowest-cost community, ranging all the way up to a monthly cost of $53.03 in Sherwood.

Last year’s increase was 9.5 percent. The year before that, it was 6.5 percent. it was 9.5 percent in 2010 and 9 percent in 2009.

The commission is also expected to increase system development charges assessed against construction projects by 25 percent at a future hearing. That increase will take place in February 2014. It was supported by a letter from Justin Wood, associate director of government and builder relations for the Homebuilders Association of Metro Portland, who said it was balanced.

The commercial, public entity and private fire protection increases will be phased in over two years.

Wholesale customers, including the cities of Cornelius and Gaston, will see their rates drop 15.3 percent next year.

Rates are then scheduled to increase across the board 6.7 percent for everyone except wholesale customers through 2026. Wholesale customers will see their rates adjusted 2.5 percent for inflation, more if facilities are constructed to serve them.

Multi-family buildings will pay 1.4 percent more, while industrial customers will pay 6.2 percent more. Commercial and nonprofit customers will pay 9 percent more. Public entities will pay 10.75 more. Private fire protection customers will eventually pay 19.8 percent more. Irrigators will pay 20.5 percent more.

The rates changed so much this year because the commission based its decision on a comprehensive rate study conducted by HRD Engineering, Inc.

The new rates take into account the need to begin financing construction of the long-term water supply project, informally called the Willamette Project. The project, currently estimated at over $800 million, will build a water treatment plant along the Willamette River in Wilsonville and a pipeline to Hillsboro.

Tualatin Valley Water District is partnering with the city on the project. The cost split is not yet known because other partners may join the project, including Tigard, Tualatin and Clean Water Services.




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