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City water restrictions begin

Time to put away the industrial-strength sprinklers and put away the pressure washer for cleaning the car.

Water restrictions begin in Hood River Sept. 4 to enable public works crews to upgrade a water line from the city’s water source near Lost Lake to a reservoir.

Lawn watering will be limited to every other day within the city, while water intensive uses such as pressure washing of houses, washing cars and filling of pools, will be prohibited during the time the restrictions are in effect.

The restrictions will likely last until December.

The city sent out a letter to affected water users earlier this month, and City Manager Bob Francis said several questions had come up from the public since then.

He said among the most common was about addresses with a “1/2” in them. In those cases, Francis said residents should just use their address without the half for water usage purposes.

Francis added that the restrictions will only affect residential customers; not businesses.

“If you need to wash your car on a day you don’t water, you can go to the car wash,” Francis said.

The city will also not be actively enforcing for violations.

“I seriously doubt, unless we have a lot of violators, that we’ll be out at 3 in the morning driving up and down the streets,” Francis said.

The project was originally scheduled to begin in mid-August but was pushed back to early September. The delay did not have anything to do with the weather conditions, according to Public Works Director Mark Lago, but instead was due to making sure the project was ready to go.

The city also hopes that by moving the construction on the line back a few weeks into September, some rain will help to limit the effect of the restrictions.

With the increased chance of rain, comes the decreased risk to fire protection.

The city has had no measurable rainfall so far in August and does not want to put undue strain on its water resources, or water available for fire-fighting efforts.

“Hopefully Mother Nature will help us out with a little rain,” Francis said.

He also hopes the city will get help from its citizens in policing each other during the water restrictions.

He encouraged citizens who notice that their neighbors are in violation of the restrictions to talk to their neighbors

He said that if that fails, they should call public works.

The city is unlikely to enforce early on during the restriction period, as there may be some residents who simply forget or who fall back into familiar routines.

However, Francis said repeat violators will be warned, and then face the possibility of a citation should the restrictions continue to be disregarded.

“But I hope we don’t have that type of issue,” he said.

Lago said that public works will provide updates throughout the project on the city website, www.cityofhoodriver.com.

In other city news:

n The city council continued its discussion of its vehicle replacement plan, putting particular attention on the police and fire departments.

During the session the council deliberated whether or not to sell Truck 1, a 65-foot ladder truck, from the fire department fleet, and whether it should purchase a Chevy Silverado truck and Ford Interceptor vehicle for the police department

During its budgeting process the city decided to budget for all equipment, including fire, and to avoid bonding for new equipment whenever possible.

Hood River Fire Chief Devon Wells said that Tower 1 was replaced in active duty by the 95-foot Tower 3 in 2011.

Truck 1 now serves as backup for when any of the department’s other engines are out of service.

The council eventually decided to attempt to sell the truck.

“If we are not bonding I don’t see how we can keep this truck in the rotation,” said Mayor Arthur Babitz.

Council member Kate McBride said it was a difficult decision, but it was one the city should make now.

“We won’t have to save another $23,000 a year on it,” she said of the necessary funds to set aside to eventually replace the truck, and then held up a sheet of vehicle expenses. “It’s a hard decision to make. I don’t want to do it, but we don’t have enough money for this or any of the other pages on here”

With the truck not in continuous service, the council believed having a truck which could be sold for good value was a luxury in tough financial times.

“I don’t feel we have the financial headroom for ‘nice to have,’” said council member Jeff Nicol.

Council member Laurent Picard, a member of Portland Fire and Rescue, said he agreed with the decision to sell the truck.

“If it were mission-critical I would question it, but I agree with everyone else on council,” he said.

While deciding to look into selling the truck, the council did grant Police Chief Neal Holste’s request for a Ford Interceptor patrol vehicle and a Chevy Silverado pickup.

Holste said he intends to reduce the police fleet from 17 vehicle to 14 and look for more multi-purpose vehicles.

“Before, we were buying a vehicle because that is the vehicle we purchased before; not asking what was its function,” Holste said.

n The council had intended to take a look at codifying its public records policy, but wound up delaying the discussion until the next meeting.

The look at the policy came after the city received several large public records requests in the recent months.

The proposed revisions would have standardized requests across all departments and included changes such as requiring a deposit in the full projected cost amount before the city would process the request.

However after Hood River resident Heather Staten told the council they had already passed a resolution for a city wide public record policy in 2009 — which none of the council or city staff recalled doing — the council decided to table the discussion until it reviewed the 2009 resolution.

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