A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Sewer rates go — where else? — up

Written June 12th, 2014 by Hasso Hering
Rich Kellum, at left in this file photo, and  Bessie Johnson voted against 8 percent sewer rate hike.

Rich Kellum, at left in this file photo, and Bessie Johnson (not shown) voted against 8 percent sewer rate hike.

Albany residents will pay more for sewer service starting July 1. The city council Wednesday had a choice of increasing the rates 6 or 8 percent, and by a vote of 4-2 it chose the more expensive option. Ward III Councilors Bessie Johnson and Rich Kellum were against it but were outvoted.

As the discussion showed, the council majority was motivated by the need to generate more money for repairs and expansion of the sewer system, in addition to the continuing operating expenses and debt service on the city treatment plant and Talking Water Gardens. Similar increases are projected for the following couple of years.

Kellum argued for the smaller increase because sewer revenue during the fiscal year ending this month is running about 1 percent ahead of the budget. But Floyd Collins and others pushed for more revenue in order to build up reserves that will be needed for enlarging the Cox Creek interceptor, already too small for the area it serves on the east side of town, and the Water Avenue interceptor, which is said to be in need of an upgrade that’s been estimated to cost $10 million. The pipe drains wastewater from much of the older sections of town and is buried 35 feet deep along the Willamette River.

The 8 percent increase will raise the average city utility bill by about $3 a month. Combined water and sewer rates in the city  will run from about $92 a month for 600 cubic feet of water to $121 a month for 1,600 cubic feet of water.

Depending on the amount of water used, Albany has the 10th or 11th highest combined water and sewer bills among Oregon cities listed on a table Public Works Director Mark Shepard showed the council. Portland had the highest bills, and charges also were higher than Albany’s in Lebanon and Sweet Home. In Corvallis, though, the bills were about $30 a month lower than in Albany. (hh)

10 responses to “Sewer rates go — where else? — up”

  1. Hasso Hering says:

    Jim Engel sent this by email when the reply feature did not work for him: “In today’s paper members of the Albany City Council lament the lack of public input at budget meetings. Get real City Council….you’re collective minds are made up before hand on an increase. Do you really think that little ‘ole me could stand up & protest the increase that you would really lower or delay for a year an increase!? Thank you for at least your eyes may be open but frankly I think your minds are closed. You’ve told us voters before that you are all better experienced and are more knowledgeable about budget matters. What possibly could a member of the public enlighten you on?

    “I’m weary & highly suspect of the true aim when a Council member speaks of building up reserves. A slush fund for future borrowing for non-levy passed pet projects? A round about deal for a CARA project? We taxpayers are NOT a Daddy Morebucks you can keep taping for money! J.E.”

  2. Hasso Hering says:

    Jim: Council members always complain of lack of public interest or participation in their meetings. But most of the matters the council deals with are routine, mundane and stultifying in their boringness. As the city manager pointed out Wednesday, people don’t hesitate to speak up when there’s something to get exercised about. (hh)

  3. tom cordier says:

    I watched the presentation having recorded it. I heard that the ongoing cost of sludge disposal is a cost driver. I thought that issue had been resolved Apparently not.

  4. Bill Kapaun says:

    Maybe the voters need to get together and pass an ordinance that limits ANY increase for services to the inflation rate.
    When my Social Security only increases by 1.5%, TRUNCATED DOWN to the nearest dollar and the city thinks 8% is “just fine”, we need some new councilors with an understanding that not everybody is as affluent as them.
    No wonder there are getting to be so many derelict houses in Albany. It’s simply a losing battle for people to pay the mandatory expenses for owning a home. They DON’T HAVE the money it takes for maintenance.

  5. tom cordier says:

    The initiative petition process has been used in Oregon restricting a City government from raising any fees without prior voter approval. As we were getting signatures 2 years ago, a City official told me if we prevailed then the City would just raise fees to cover costs.
    Perhaps it is time to start that process all over again

    • Craig Ziegenhagel says:

      Well I guess our rates in Millersburg will go up also since we are tied into Albany’s system. Too often politicians just do not listen to it’s citizens. Unemploymnet around here is still over 8%, incomes are flat if not being reduced. Food costs up, gas up, medical costs up….everything is up. We cant even find a safe place to invest or make any money on savings. An 8 % increase ? We will be seeing our property taxes go up too. Where does it end, how much can the taxpayers be squeezed. Stop all the pet projects, the feel good projects, new buildings, donations, etc. Stop all of it, atleast until the economy turns around and we get unemployment back down to 5% (which may take years).

  6. Skeet Arasmith says:

    Wait for the “rest of the story.” If I have read the proposal correctly the Public Works Director is recommending a 50% or more increase in sewer rates over the next five years. Isn’t nice to have rate payers that do not have a choice – That’s right we call this centralized government –


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