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Local power bills to rise this month

Price spike - Cost of fuel and materials drive rates up 4 percent in Forest Grove. Other utilities also boosting rates.

Most western Washington County residents will be paying a bit more on their power bills starting this month.

In early December, the Forest Grove City Council approved a 4-percent rate hike for its customers, boosting the typical residential bill by $2.55 per month.

PGE customers will also see a bump in their bills effective Jan. 1.

Forest Grove Councilor Elena Uhing said she was reluctant to raise electric rates in a city where many elderly residents and others are on fixed incomes. But, she said, the public utility made a good case that it needs to keep up with rising maintenance and materials costs.

Janet Lonneker, director of Forest Grove Light and Power, said that a spike in the cost of copper and aluminum has pushed the utility's cost for materials up 20 percent. And, she noted, fuel costs have doubled since 2005, the last time customers were hit with a rate hike.

Councilor Pete Truax agreed that the increase was needed.

'As a council, we don't like doing this but it's something we do wisely,' he said. 'We have to take care of citizens of Forest Grove and part of that is making sure Light and Power has the resources needed.'

Lonneker noted that even with the increase, Forest Grove's rates are well below those of PGE, the largest private utility serving the rest of the county.

As of this month, a typical Forest Grove resident will be paying $65.25 a month, on average, for electricity.

That same bill would be more than $100 for customers of PGE, which is also raising its rates this month.

There may be some good news for residents later this year. The Bonneville Power Administration, which provides electricity to both both public and private utilities, is close to signing off on a $191 million refund to the public utilities .

Lonneker said that should the deal go through, that could lower the city's cost of BPA power by about 2 percent.

Private utilities are also negotiating a refund.