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Rate rose 9 percent in July to $49.05

Increased sewer rates were once again on the minds of Madras residents last week, when the Madras City Council met on Aug. 27.

City residents George Marsh and Bob Allen both expressed concern about the recent monthly increase from $45 per dwelling to $49.05.

"It seems like to me, rates are just going to get higher," said Marsh, noting that it adversely affects people on fixed incomes.

City officials explained that the increase is a result of expansion of the city's sewer system necessitated by rapid population growth.

The city grew from a population of 3,400 in 1990 to 6,070 in 2006, according to Madras Public Works Director Jeff Hurd, who noted, "We were running into plant capacity restrictions."

The city is still repaying loans from the 1991 south end sewer project ($33,610 annual payment until May 10, 2021); 1993 North Wastewater Treatment Project ($156,786 until Aug. 11, 2033); 1999 sewer upgrade and expansion ($54,079 until April 1, 2039); 2000 SWWTP project ($286,450 until July 20, 2040); 2004 North Y sewer project ($4,930 until Dec. 1, 2030); 2006-11 SWWTP segment 2 ($230,435 until June 1, 2031); 2011-12 North Madras Collector Project ($11,855 until May 1, 2032).

Hurd said that since 2006, the projects have enabled the city to approve the construction of Deer Ridge Correctional Institution — which helped fund the South Wastewater Treatment Plant projects, Yarrow, the Harriman Building, the Inn at Cross Keys Station, the Madras Cinema, Mid Oregon Credit Union, Central Oregon Community College's Madras campus, and the Madras Aquatic Center, among other projects.

Earlier this year, the city was able to refinance its debt to take advantage of low, long-term interest rates, which helped the city reduce the expected increase in sewer rates from 16 percent to 9 percent, said City Administrator Gus Burril, adding, "Technically, the town could double and we could handle it."

Officials told the visitors that if the city grows, the rates will likely decline. "We're not allowed to make a profit," said Councilor Tom Brown. "If we've got more people contributing, our portion will go down."

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