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  • 28 Nov 2014

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City water and sewer ratepayers get chance to talk about their rates with city commissioners

The Portland City Council will hold what it bills as its first-ever community meeting to review proposed new water and sewer rates.

The session takes place Wednesday, March 19, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Parkrose High School, 12003 NE Shaver St.

City Commissioner Nick Fish, who oversees the Water Bureau and Bureau of Environmental Services, has proposed budgets for the two agencies that would increase the combined utility rate 4.92 percent starting in July, the beginning of the 2014-15 fiscal year.

“When Mayor Hales assigned me the utility bureaus, I committed to bring sunshine to how the city’s utilities make decisions and arrive at rates,” Fish says. “This rate review is an important step in fulfilling that commitment.”

Not coincidentally, the first-ever citizen hearing on utility rates comes at a time when irate ratepayers face a May 20 ballot measure to strip control of the two bureaus from the City Council, which has been accused by critics of using water and sewer rates as a “slush fund” for unrelated projects.

Next week’s hearing will feature staff presentations on Portland’s sewer, stormwater and water systems, and include maps, photos and charts. City staff will take questions from the audience, and citizens will have a chance to address members of the City Council.

City water and sewer rates have been rising faster than inflation for many years, and Portland now charges among the highest rates in the nation. Some of that is due to the billion-dollar-plus Big Pipe project to alleviate the discharge of untreated sewage into the Willamette River and Columbia Slough. There’ve also been other expensive upgrades of century-old sewer and water pipes and related infrastructure.

Steve Law can reached at 503-546-5139 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Twitter: @SteveLawTrib