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Commissioners approve budget for Clean Water Services, which serves virtually all residents of county's urban areas.

The average residential customer will pay a little more — 3.54 percent — for sewer and stormwater rates in urban Washington County starting July 1.

County commissioners, as the governing board of Clean Water Services, approved the agency budget and higher rates Tuesday (June 20). The agency is separate from county government, although the commissioners acted after they approved the annual budget for county government and four special districts.

Clean Water Services traces its founding back to 1970, when Washington County was home to 157,900. The agency provides wastewater treatment and surface water management for virtually all residents (570,000) of urban areas. The county population today is just under 600,000.

The agency operates four treatment plants.

The monthly sewer rate will go up 3 percent, about $1.26. The monthly surface water management rate will go up 6.5 percent, about 50 cents.

Together, the combined rate will go up fro $49.76 to $51.52 monthly.

Cities have the authority to add their own fees for local services.

The amounts for one-time systems development charges also will go up by 4 percent. For a connection to the sanitary sewer system, the fee will go from $5,300 to $5,500 per equivalent dwelling unit. For surface water management, the fee will go up from $510 to $530 per unit.

The overall budget is about $172 million, $70.5 million of it for operations, $79.4 million for capital improvements, and $22 million for debt repayments for past, current and future projects.

The agency projects $137.4 million in income from rates and $24.9 million from systems development charges, which apply to new construction.

The number of full-time employees will go up from 338 to 351.

Despite the increase, General Manager Bill Gaffi said the agency ratio of employees per 10,000 population has dropped from 9 in 1997-98 to just under 6 (5.91) in the new budget.

Tony Weller of Sherwood, a developer, spoke for the budget. He leads the budget committee — which consists of the commissioners and an equal number of public members — and also sits on the agency advisory commission. That panel consists of 15 members -- five public members, two each representing agriculture, business, environment and builders, plus Gaffi and a city representative as nonvoting members.

"As a professional who works on both sides … I appreciate the ability to solve problems together," Weller said.

Gaffi said the agency faces several challenges ahead: A growing urban population, aging infrastructure, increasing regulatory requirements, uncertain water supply and changing weather patterns.

Virtually all of the $79.4 million in improvements planned in the coming year touch on some aspect:

• $43.1 million of investments at Clean Water Services' four wastewater treatment facilities and 42 sewage pump stations.

• $16.2 million to expand, repair or replace the sanitary sewer collection system.

• $12.3 million to restore flow to the Tualatin River and its tributaries and plant large-scale stream and wetland restoration projects to shade the water, control erosion and filter pollutants.

• $4.7 million to build stormwater projects to control pollution and improve local drainage and replace equipment that helps protect water quality in local streams and the Tualatin River.

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