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Water rates to see hikes through 2017

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Wilsonvilles Willamette River Water Treatment Plant, shown here, now treats and distributes enough water to provide the city of Sherwood with up to 5 million gallons per day once a key pipeline is finished. Starting in 2015 Wilsonville residents are going to be paying a little bit more for the Willamette River water they use to water their lawns.

At the same time, commercial customers are set to pay slightly less on average for the same privilege under a new water rate structure adopted Dec. 2 by the Wilsonville City Council.

The resolution revises the city’s water utility rate structure for various categories of customers and provides for future annual rate increases of 2.25 percent in 2015 through 2017. The new rates take effect Jan. 1 and will start to place more of the financial responsibility for the city’s water distribution system on residential users.

“Much of our system is designed to meet high demands of residential customers, primarily irrigation in the summer, where peak demands go way high,” Community Development Director Nancy Kraushaar told city councilors. “In the past, we had our industrial users paying slightly more, and I think the composition of the city, the land uses, have changed somewhat and we have more residential than we used to, so we needed to change the structure so the fixed costs of the system are distributed equitably among all user types.”

The new rate structure reduces the monthly minimum amount of water included in residential users’ base fee from roughly 100 to 50 cubic feet.

Commercial and industrial users also will see new rates. Those rates will also vary according to the size of the meter. Users with a 4-inch meter, for example, will pay $100.47 a month as a base charge, while large industrial users fed with a 10-inch meter will now pay a $242.03 monthly base charge.

In many cases, these figures represent a decrease in the monthly base charge.

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - The city of Wilsonville's Willamette River Water Treatment Plant. Currently, the city charges residential users $19.88 per month for up to 400 cubic feet of water — just shy of 3,000 gallons — a month. Usage over that amount is charged at a rate of $3.70 for each additional 100 cubic feet. Industrial and commercial users are charged a base rate of $75.90 for 17 cubic feet of water fed through a 10-inch main, with a similar rate for each additional 100 cubic feet.

In the future, all rates, regardless of customer type, will rise 2.25 percent in each of the next three years. City officials estimate the average residential customer will generally experience an increase of $3 to $4 a month.

The current water rates are based on a cost-of-service analysis completed 15 years ago and before the Willamette River Water Treatment Plant was built. A new cost-of-service study completed by the Galardi-Rothstein Group found water consumption over time, coupled with capital and operational needs for maintaining the water-distribution system, required both a rate restructuring and rate increases.

Other policy changes in the restructuring include a new water leakage policy that will provide a refund of up to 50 percent for water lost due to a pipe leak. This is a reduction from the current 100 percent, which Kraushaar said has led to more than $650,000 in water and sewer credits being given back to customers over the past six years.

At the same time, customers will now have 72 instead of just 48 hours to deal with leaks before incurring any charges from the city.

Not everyone is enthusiastic about the changes.

“This rate change is intended to be revenue neutral, but it’s also clear that some people’s rates are going up and others are going down,” Wilsonville resident Dennis Hubel told the council during the public hearing. “The very large summer irrigators’ rates are going to go down, and the residential user in the middle is going to come up.”

He questioned the rationale behind that move.

“It really starts to feel like, when you look at this,” he said, “it’s easier for the city to stay revenue neutral than it is for customers.”

A more streamlined billing system also is part of the overhaul, with payments now due on the last business day of the month and customer deposits now held for one year rather than three years. Connect and disconnect fees also are modified.

Finally, customers will continue to pay 100 percent of their monthly base charge unless they have their service turned-off for a period longer than 30 days. Customers who have their service turned off for a period longer than 30 days will pay 50 percent of their monthly base fee beginning July 1, 2014, and 100 percent of their monthly base fee beginning July 1, 2015, while their water is turned off.

Current and future city water rates and additional information can be found at ci.wilsonville.or.us/Index.aspx?page=994.




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