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Council delays water rate vote

Sewer rates increased 5.39 percent for average household

After a lengthy and sometimes contentious hearing, the City Council on Wednesday increased sewer rates but postponed voting on water rate increases until next week.

Sewer rates will increase 5.39 percent for the average single-family household during the fiscal year that begins on July 1. The water rate vote was delayed because the council agreed to reduce the proposed increase from 8.1 percent to 7.6 percent, a move that requires one more hearing before final approval.

Most of the public testimony concerned the controversial U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirement that the city cover or replace its existing open reservoirs with closed tanks. On Friday the Oregon Health Authority denied the city's request to delay compliance with the requirement, prompting dozens of citizens to testify that the council needs to continue pursuing a waiver. Some witnesses accused the council of not pursuing a waiver hard enough, an accusation that Mayor Sam Adams disputed.

Adams said the rate increase to be consider next week will not fund any specific construction project, including any of those proposed to comply with the EPA rule. Adams said the council must approve future projects on a case-by-case basis during the coming year.

Commissioner Amanda Fritz requested a council work session on the reservoir issue, which Adams said he would schedule.