News staff writer
December 14, 2005
Hood River city residents will pay an average of $5 more on their monthly water bills next year.
The City Council has finally decided on a new rate adjustment to help repay a $4.5 million federal loan. That money from the Rural Development Agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be used to start the work of replacing a 76-year-old water main.
Earlier this fall, the elected body rejected a base rate tied to 3,000 gallons of use each month. That was a decrease of 2,000 gallons from the current 5,000 allowed during the winter and 7,000 less than the summer allotment of 10,000 gallons.
However, after debating the issue, city officials decided to set a slightly higher year-round base rate of 5,000 gallons. Beginning in January, the average monthly bill is expected to rise from $22.17 cents to $27.11 cents. If more than 5,000 gallons are used by a household, the overage charge will increase by 15 cents, from $1.27 per gallon to $1.42.
Ray Bartlett, city sewer and water systems consultant, said another increase of about 7.5 percent is expected next year. He said the 12-mile water line replacement will be divided into five phases for a total cost of about $20 million. And, each loan installment of about $4 million on a 40-year repayment plan, the city is expected to raise rates to cover costs.
“The federal government is no different than any other lender – they want to know that they are going to be paid back. And without the extra revenue, the city isn’t going to be able to repay these loans,” said Bartlett.
Dave Bick, city engineer, said time is running out to repair the aging line that carries water from the spring near Lost Lake to the reservoir on Riverdale Drive.
Since the early 1990s, the city has been forced to spend increasingly more money and staff time to repair breaks in the line. Bick said if the city does not take action now, residents could lose access to their only water source.
“The pipeline is on the verge of failure and we have to replace it and that’s what this is all about,” said Bick.
The initial project will involve changing out the segment of pipe between the fire station in Dee and Iowa Drive. A new chlorination station is also planned for construction next year.
Bick said the city is also hopeful that the new rates will encourage more water conservation, a mandate of the Oregon Water Resources Department.