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CPRD, city reach water pact

Longstanding dissatisfaction leads a city committee to recommend lower contribution from the Chehalem Park and Recreation District

This year the Newberg Citizens Rate Review Committee looked into the city’s non-potable water rate framework, following concerns voiced by the system’s sole customer.

Non-potable water provided by effluent from the wastewater treatment plant is piped to the Chehalem Park and Recreation District for use at Chehalem Glenn Golf Course.

The existing non-potable framework dates back to 2008, when the system was installed and rates were established that aimed to fully recover the projected operation and maintenance costs for the system from the one user.GARY ALLEN - The Chehalem Glenn Golf Course, like many golf courses, uses a lot of water each year. But since it's been using non-potable reuse water it's been paying exponentially more than its fellow fairways.

There have not been any changes to those rates since 2010 – despite CPRD representatives through the years indicating dissatisfaction with the price the district pays.

When the golf course opened the city did not have enough potable water to supply its watering needs, so CPRD agreed to use Otis Springs as a source. But when the course opened its second nine holes, and as it may open a third down the line, it was clear something had to change.

The non-potable reuse water from the wastewater treatment plant was revealed as a solution, and the city constructed infrastructure to support that process at the wastewater plant, ran a water line to the golf course and crafted a rate system for the new water supply based on projections for construction and maintenance cost.

CPRD doesn’t use the full capacity of the system, so the rate was set to only recover part of the capital cost of the system based on the portion CPRD uses.

But with just one customer and a high cost to build the system – not to mention the operation and maintenance costs which CPRD was billed to fully cover – some saw the system being unfairly subsidized by the golf course.

“We felt it was wrong when it started, we still feel it was wrong,” CPRD Superintendent Don Clements said. “We were willing to do it because we felt we wanted to be a good partner and we understand the difficulties within the community, but when do you say enough is enough?”

For an average golf course, Clements said, utilities cost about 6 percent of the total budget. At Chehalem Glenn, that figure was up to 18 percent because of the non-potable water rate.

CPRD has been paying about $200,000 per year to irrigate the golf course, while other courses pay an average of about $30,000 annually for water.

“We can’t compete. We’re passing it onto the golfers and that’s not right either,” Clements said.

CPRD wanted to address the problems for years, Clements said, but with the turnover in city managers it didn’t happen, to the point where CPRD declined to sign an intergovernmental agreement with the city solidifying terms of the non-potable water service provision, until its concerns were addressed.

During the 2016 CRRC process the committee and consultant tackled the issue, and in the end the committee recommended a 28 percent reduction in the non-potable water rate, from the current $3.52/ccf down to $2.51/ccf. The City Council voted unanimously to approve the water rates, which take effect in January.

CRRC chairman Rick Rogers said at the March 7 council meeting that the non-potable reuse water rates had been a main focus for the rate committee. In conjunction with lowering the rate for CPRD, the committee urged the city to grow its user base for the non-potable system, something that was originally planned when the system was installed but has not happened over the years. That could spread the burden of paying off the capital costs.

“For us on the committee, we felt that efforts should be made to increase (the user base) whenever we can,” Rogers said.

With the new, reduced rate, Clements said things are headed in the right direction and that CPRD appreciates the action taken by the rate committee. Now the two parties will work toward an IGA.

“We’re not totally satisfied,” Clements said. “That’s OK, we just don’t want to be totally dissatisfied.”