The $21 million purchase will mean higher water bills

Tigard and Lake Oswego have struck a deal to sell Tigard a larger portion of the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership. The city will pay $21 million for an additional 4 million gallons a day more in capacity.The city of Tigard has agreed to purchase a larger share of the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership, which could have an effect on your monthly water bill.

Tigard has already raised rates in order to pay for the project, and water rates were already expected to rise 14 percent on Jan. 1, 2014.

The average residential customer will see their water bill rise $5 to $8 monthly, according to city officials.

That additional rate bump comes after the City Council last week approved a plan to purchase an additional 4 million gallons of water a day from Lake Oswego, starting in 2016.

The two cities formally adopted the plan on Tuesday, after months of negotiating for the city to take over more of the Lake Oswego-Tigard Water Partnership — a years-long plan to develop a joint water system between the two cities.

The city agreed to pay Lake Oswego $21.93 million in order to draw an additional 4 million gallons of water a day from the new water system.

To pay for the increased capacity, city officials said Tigard ratepayers will see an increase in their water bills, in addition to a double-digit increase set to take effect next month.

Exactly how high water bills could rise is still being determined, said John Goodrich, the city’s interim assistant public works director.

City officials are currently looking at how the increased capacity will impact rates, Goodrich added.

Water bills in Tigard have been on the rise for years. The city more than doubled the cost of water for its ratepayers between 2010 and 2015 in order to pay for the water partnership. It also tripled one-time fees imposed on new homes built into the city’s water system to pay for the system.

In 2010, the average ratepayer in Tigard paid about $29 a month for water. Before the council purchased the additional capacity, Tigard ratepayers were expected to pay about $57 a month by the time the water system is built in 2016.

Cheaper than other options

Despite the cost, city officials say the additional water capacity is far cheaper than what the city would pay elsewhere.

“That’s still the cheapest water the city is going to find,” said Goodrich. “We are getting this additional (capacity) at almost half of what the normal cost would be to go out and build the system on our own.”

The additional water is needed for Tigard’s future, Goodrich said. Even with the Lake Oswego partnership, Tigard’s expected growth in the next several decades means the city will need access to additional water.

Goodrich said future growth will help to make up for the additional cost, but there will be an impact on current ratepayers in the city.

“Lake Oswego has expectations that they will get their money for this (capacity) now,” Goodrich said.

Under the city’s agreement with Lake Oswego, Tigard pays the lion’s share for construction of the new water system and will take ownership of a portion of it, giving the city access to water for the first time in its history.

Lake Oswego city officials have said for months they want to reduce the cost Lake Oswego ratepayers were charged, after water bills in that city also rose to pay for the project.

Goodrich said the additional capacity would give Tigard adequate water through the year 2040.

“It gives us a chance to buy water for the future,” said Tigard Mayor John L. Cook. “We’ll have enough for today. But when we looked at cost of this versus other options, this buys us another few years before we have to do anything.”

Cook said purchasing a larger portion of the partnership today will help save the city money in the future.

“The purchase price now compared to buying it five to 10 years later is huge,” he said. “I think it’s a good deal for our kids and grandkids. It puts us a lot further down the road before anybody will have to look at that again.”

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