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Meeting to shine light on utility-bill hikes

Directors will answer questions on water and electricity in Forest Grove


It’s less than a latte costs: $2.46.

But the increase in an average Forest Grove resident’s monthly water bill was enough to draw Carrie Niemick to a June 9 city council meeting, where she reminded councilors that some residents can’t afford lattes.

“I don’t know how people who are poorer than me can make these payments,” said Niemick, referring to the 8 percent per-year increases that started in 2011 — and a study that projected such increases for five more years.

“Nobody’s salary has increased 40 percent,” she said. “Nothing increases at this rate. Nothing. I don’t see any end in sight.”

Is there an end in sight? Find out Saturday at Forest Grove’s Annual Town Meeting, where the directors of Forest Grove’s water and electric utilities will explain rate increases and discuss new developments.

A new study, for example, is about to begin reviewing the city’s utility rates in light of new circumstances to see if they can be scaled back, said Finance Director Paul Downey. Its findings could affect increases later this year.

The council approved increases for only one year in 2014, with future proposed increases to be reviewed separately.

In addition to the water-rate increase, councilors also approved a 7 percent electric-rate increase which went into effect two weeks ago.

Two residents showed up to express their concerns at that Dec. 8 council meeting. Jennifer Webber noted that garbage, water and sewer rates had all gone up in 2014. (Garbage and sewer services are not handled by the city.) And while she applauded the city for setting aside money to help the lowest-income people pay their electric bills, “there’s not just the low people and the high people,” she reminded them. “There’s us in the middle who are struggling.”

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