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Utility rates to rise in July

The typical Lake Oswego resident will see utility fees increase by about $8 per month starting in July.

The Lake Oswego City Council on Tuesday approved rate increases for water, wastewater, stormwater and street maintenance services.

Because the city bills utility customers on a bimonthly basis, the typical residential user will actually see bills grow by about $16.

That figure stems from a 12.5 percent increase for water, a 3 percent increase for sewer, 7 percent rise for stormwater and 2.5 percent increase for streets.

Driving the biggest increase are efforts to upgrade and expand the city’s drinking water system. In terms of water, rate changes will vary depending on whether you’re a resident or business and, if you’re a resident, whether you live in a house or multifamily housing, and how much water you use.

Lake Oswego uses tiered water rates to encourage conservation. A report presented to the council noted that, last summer, the city government was flooded with complaints when the dry season pushed some customers into a different tier, leading to sticker shock.

Only one citizen testified about the rate increases at this week’s meeting, which continued a discussion that began at a March 19 study session.

Jim Bolland said he opposed moving ahead with water rate increases “at this time” because the city is still engaged in a legal fight to defend tapping its full water rights on the Clackamas River, a move necessary for Lake Oswego to share water with Tigard. That case could eventually climb from the Oregon Court of Appeals to the state Supreme Court, Bolland said.

“No one ... can predict for you the outcome of the WaterWatch suit,” he said, referring to the group challenging Lake Oswego’s water rights. Bolland said the city shouldn’t award $250 million in project contracts when the lawsuit is still making its way through the legal process.

The Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership will rebuild and expand the drinking water system to upgrade Lake Oswego’s infrastructure and to provide water to Tigard. The $250 million effort involves projects in multiple cities, including a bigger water plant and pipeline in West Linn, a new water intake facility on the Clackamas River in Gladstone, a new reservoir in Lake Oswego and a new pump station in Tigard. Construction is now moving forward.

The council voted 6-1 in favor of the utility rate increases.

Councilor Karen Bowerman, the sole opponent, said she’s concerned assumptions related to bonds will put the city in “a very fragile position,” possibly with insufficient revenues to cover project costs, and that both cost and savings estimates seem to be volatile.

“I just feel there is enough inaccuracy here (and) it should be made accurate before we vote on the rates,” she said.

The city council usually considers utility rate increases along with other fees near the end of the calendar year, but in December 2012 officials punted the issue ahead to 2013. That gave council members who took their seats in January a chance to weigh in.

Councilor Jeff Gudman said he’d like to ensure the council goes back to its usual schedule of considering rate increases in late fall or early winter.

He also said he’d like to consider providing some utility rate relief for citizens but could wait to have that discussion until budget committee meetings later this spring.

Among other business Tuesday, the council:

  • Proclaimed April 27 as WaterAfrica Day. The annual event raises awareness and helps to provide safe, clean water, sanitation and hygiene in Zambia.

  • Proclaimed Sunday through April 13 as Arbor Week. Arbor Day began in Nebraska in the 1870s and was first observed with the planting of a million trees in that state, according to the council’s proclamation. Among the many benefits of trees, they provide a renewable resource, reduce erosion, lower homes’ heating and cooling costs, clean the air and provide habitat for wildlife. They also increase property values and beautify the community, according to the city. Lake Oswego has been recognized with a Tree City USA designation for the past 24 years.

  • Approved an amendment to a contract for water treatment plant design services. The change, of $464,359, reflects additional design work needed to address concerns raised while the city was attempting to secure permits for a bigger water treatment plant in West Linn.

  • Voted 5-2 to suspend the process of mapping sensitive lands on properties outside of city limits when their owners request annexation. Councilors Donna Jordan and Jon Gustafson opposed the proposal, while Mayor Kent Studebaker, Council President Mike Kehoe and Councilors Skip O’Neill, Bowerman and Gudman supported it.




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