Water and sewer rates may go up

By By Bill Rautenstrauch The Observer July 09, 2012 06:11 pm

Water and sewer rates in the City of La Grande might be going up following Wednesday’s city council meeting.

During its regular meeting 6 p.m. in council chambers at City Hall, the council is set to consider two resolutions raising rates. Proposed resolutions would increase the basic residential sewer rate $1.61 a month, from $32.26 to $33.87, and the basic residential water rate 49 cents a month, from $14.09 to $14.58.

According to city staff reports, the sewer increase is needed to meet Oregon Department of Environmental Quality-mandated collection system improvements, operations costs,  maintenance costs, and debt service to the DEQ Clean Water state revolving loan fund.

The reports say sewer expenses have been exceeding annual revenue, resulting in a declining cash revenue. The proposed sewer rate increase would generate about $100,000 annually.

Staff is recommending the water rate increase to help pay for operations, maintenance, future water system improvements, and the increasing costs of producing potable water. The increase will generate about $50,000 for the water system.

The city said water expenses have also been exceeding annual revenue. Staff reports say a reduction in funding has reduced the city’s ability to cover smaller emergencies or to borrow for larger emergencies. An audit report says that available funding for the last fiscal year was reduced by $260,000.

In other business Wednesday, the council plans to open and then recess a public hearing on proposed land development code amendments.  The amendments include public facility plan elements for the Goal 9 Urban Growth Boundary Expansion Area, with re-zoning for the area.

In the past few weeks, issues have arisen that have elevated city and Union County concerns regarding development of the expansion area, specifically within areas subject to the 100-year floodplain. Staff is requesting the proposed amendments be put on hold while the issue is evaluated.

In still more business Wednesday, the council will:

• Consider accepting the Union County Economic Development Corporation’s 2-12-13 goals and objectives.

• Consider revising pricing guidelines for the La Grande Business and Technology Park.

• Consider a resolution providing worker’s compensation coverage to for municipal volunteers.

• Consider making an appointment to the
Urban Renewal Advisory Commission.

Following the city council meeting, the council will convene as the Urban Renewal Agency. The agency will consider a request for up to $37,900 in URA funds to help with costs of remodeling the Bob Mason building at 1209 Adams Avenue.