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La Grande Observer Daily paper 10/24/14

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Home arrow Opinion arrow Our View arrow WELCOME MAYORS; ENJOY YOUR STAY

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WELCOME MAYORS; ENJOY YOUR STAY

Roll out the red carpet. La Grande will have a chance to show its stuff to the top elected officials from cities throughout the state this weekend as the community hosts the Oregon Mayors Association summer conference.

The conference is good for the community and good for the mayors, many of whom may not be familiar with all that the La Grande area has to offer. Our city has languished in the shadows far too long as one of the region's best-kept secrets, and the time has come to show that our community is poised for growth but still protective of its livability.

The mayors will see that La Grande isn't just the sleepy backwater town located between Pendleton and Baker City. Home to one of Oregon's fastest growing universities, a still-viable and sustainable lumber industry, one of the state's lowest unemployment rates, active industrial parks and unlimited — not to mention beautiful — scenic and recreational opportunities, La Grande and Union County are anything but sleepy.

Welcome, mayors. Take time to enjoy what those of us who live here have come to take for granted.

Taking a bite

Three years ago the West's energy crisis helped send the country into a recession, one that's been difficult to get out of. Over the past year energy consumers have enjoyed somewhat of a respite from spiraling prices, but times are changing and utility costs are heading upward once again. Consumers need to brace themselves for another jump in prices.

Electricity rates are projected to hold relatively stable. BPA is projecting a fairly reasonable price hike of 5 percent this fall. The same can't be said for natural gas prices. Avista Utilities wasted no time in following industry projections that the cost of natural gas is likely to rise this winter. Avista, which followed 2001's 30 percent increases in rates with 2002's 23 percent reduction, last week filed for a 17.8 percent jump in residential rates due to an increase in the price it pays for gas.

But wait. The nearly 18 percent increase isn't all that Avista is seeking. In April the company filed a request for an 11.8 percent general rate increase to cover increases in the cost of doing business. The company notes that it had not sought a general rate increase for several years. The Oregon Public Utility Commission is recommending that the general rate increase be limited to 9.8 percent.

Combined, Avista is asking for a nearly 30 percent increase in rates effective about Oct. 1. Even if the company was given approval for, say, 15 percent for the cost of gas and 10 percent for the general rate increase, that's still a 25 percent boost for consumers. Such an increase amounts to far more than pocket change, and it will seriously impact the dollars people have available for other purposes. Brace yourselves, consumers. It could be a long, cold winter.

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