<BR> Local sewer rates going up<BR>
- Bill Sheehy
- Central Oregonian - News
>Residents will be paying a lot more each month with the money to help pay for upgrades to the community's wastewater treatment plant Prineville residents can expect their sewer bill to be higher soon. The city council was presented with the news and schedule of increases this week.
For nearly two years, the city has been working with a consulting firm to complete Prineville's Wastewater Facility Plan. The wastewater study has indentified critical capacity issues at the Prineville wastewater treatment plant. According to the engineer's study, less than 10 percent of the plant capacity is available for additional growth. The answer is to put a moratorium on growth or increase the capacity.
According to the consultant's report, projected sewer needs will have to include a new treatment plant and miles of replacement delivery pipes. Much of the present system, it was found, is limited by small diameter pipes and even woodstave pipes. The wastewater treatment plant itself is very close to capacity.
When the last facility plan was completed, in 1990, projected growth for the community was flat. Now, ten years later, growth has put Prineville at about where the 1990 plan had predicted it would be in 2010. Even if that accelerated rate of growth slowed to a halt, the present system is handling all it can.
At the present time, the treatment plant is taking care of about a million gallons of wastewater per day. By 2006, Vivian projected that amount would be 1.6 million gallons per day, and reach 2.2 million gallons per day by 2020.
Now, with the facility plan having been submitted to the Department of Environmental Quality for review, the implementation phase of the project will begin. The first step is the proposed increase in sewer rates. Those funds, along with recently established System Development Charge fees, will pay for needed upgrading and improving of the community wastewater disposal plant.
Although grants and low interest loans may be available to help with some of the costs, which are expected to be about 9.6 million, the city still needs to raise considerable local funds. The financial analysis presented by the consulting firm recommended a schedule that would, over a 3-year period, increase sewer rates from $17 per month to $32.40.
That rate of increase bothered at least one member of the council. Brenda Comini asked it a tier system of increases had ever been discussed. "I have some concerns about our elderly and people on fixed incomes. Was any tier system, maybe based on income discussed?"
City Administrator Henry Hartley answered, saying that such a system had been talked about early on, but had not been included in the consultants recommendations.
In order to raise the funds needed to pay for the proposed expansion, an immediate increase to $22.85 will have to be put in place. A second increase to $30.67 would begin in 2003, jumping to $32.40 a year later. This recommendation covers only single family users. Other user rates are being developed and will be presented to the council at their next meeting when action the rate increase is dealt wit