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Scappoose councilors consider 3-year water rate hikes

The phased-in plan would raise residential base rate from $15.70 to $30.70


by: FILE PHOTO - The funds generated by proposed water rate increases would into Scappooses water budget to make repairs and updates to the citys water infrastructure. The dam on the South Fork Scappoose (as well as the citys other surface-source dams) is full of abut three feet of silt that public works department officials say needs to be removed. the South Fork Scappoose dam also has a drainage pipe that is in need of repair. After reviewing three separate plans to raise the city’s water rates, Scappoose City Council is moving forward with proposed water rate hikes.

At a Scappoose City Council meeting Monday, Sept. 16, council voted to review a resolution to raise residential water rates by $5 per meter, per month, for three consecutive years.

Under the resolution, meters larger than the residential size would be subject to rate increases proportional to the residential rate hikes.

The $15 rate increase was initially proposed to occur Sept. 21, rather than be spread out over three years. Council will put the resolution to a final vote Monday, Oct. 21.

The three-year phased-in water rate would put residential water rates at $20.70 per month in year one, $25.70 per month in year two and $30.70 per month in year three.

The council also decided to consider a hardship program ordinance to help low-income households with the rate hikes. Councilors asked Scappoose City Manager Jon Hanken to draft an ordinance that would outline an assistance program for low-income customers through a coordinated effort with the Community Action Team.

One recommendation before council is to waive rate fees and reconnection charges for customers working with CAT for assistance, as well as potentially reducing those customers rates by a percentage or a fixed dollar amount. The council said it will also consider a hardship program geared specifically toward seniors.

The city is considering the rate increases due to a failed effort to sell timberland in the Gourlay Creek watershed in June, which would have generated an estimated $440,000 for the city’s water fund. For fiscal year 2013, the city’s water funds have a projected shortfall totaling $689,144. The proposed rate increase is projected to generate $425,000, Hanken said.

The city anticipates bidding the timber sale again in the fall, potentially generating $220,000 in revenue for the 2014 fiscal year, and another $220,000 the following fiscal year. Those funds, however, would not go into lowering water rates, but would be allocated to water infrastructure repair and maintenance.

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