Oak Lodge Water seeks public input on authority request
At the request of county officials, Oak Lodge Water Services is holding additional public meetings on its potential formation of a new "authority" to keep in perpetuity its boundaries for providing sewer and drinking-water services for the unincorporated area between Milwaukie and Gladstone.
In seeking a type of special district allowed under Oregon law, Oak Lodge's authority would freeze the OLWS boundaries so that customers may continue to receive water services at rates that are based solely on their cost, rather than being siphoned off into other functions of a city. In October, to grant an authority until Oak Lodge mailed its ratepayers more information about why the authority is needed and conducted informational meetings.
Upcoming virtual sessions aim to provide the public with information about what becoming an authority would mean for customers, who will be able to ask questions about steps the OLWS Board of Directors is taking. OLWS Vice President Ginny Van Loo has previously said the authority will be a needed step to protecting public assets from impending takeovers by a neighboring city or a new city.
Clackamas County Chair Tootie Smith says there's "no rush" to create an authority since she doesn't predict anyone will be able to form a city in Oak Lodge in the next couple of years. A Metro-funded study evaluating governance options for the Oak Lodge area recently concluded that it is "financially feasible" to pursue annexing into the city of Milwaukie or incorporating a new city.
Clackamas County recently approved new land-use regulations in Oak Lodge that will substantially increase the density of housing developments allowed along McLoughlin Boulevard's commercial corridor. At a recent authority hearing, county officials expressed concern about OLWS' ability to serve the area's potentially burgeoning population.
During an Oct. 12 discussion of the potential authority, Smith said that OLWS has failed to fix stormwater issues for houses and streets that regularly flood during rainstorms every year. She said she would like better "assurances" in writing from OLWS on stormwater problems before the county sets a date for a public hearing on granting an authority.
Clackamas County wouldn't necessarily be the final stop for Oak Lodge's attempt to become an authority, as state and regional governmental agencies can step into the issue.
Oregon's Land Use Board of Appeals denied Clackamas River Water's attempt to become an authority in 2005 after the county had approved the move.
Metro officials backed Oregon City in its dispute against Clackamas River Water, saying OC and West Linn's South Fork Water Board should have ultimate jurisdictional control over water service in the areas that are OC's potential urban-growth-boundary expansion areas.
In contrast to CRW's failed effort to become an authority in 2005, Oak Lodge recently obtained permission from its neighboring cities. Milwaukie and Gladstone city councils approved resolutions in favor of the authority, recognizing OLWS currently provides water services for a small proportion of citizens in both cities.
Oak Lodge Board President Paul Gornick said the district's elected officials believe changing to an authority would improve the district's ability to plan for future capital improvements, protect the integrity of the district's investments, and limit the risk of losing a portion of the customer base through annexation or incorporation.
OLWS Board members will host upcoming Community Conversation sessions at 6 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 24, and at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 29. Register at tinyurl.com/acc-jan24 and tinyurl.com/acc-jan29. Registration is required to receive a link and password to attend the session.
You may submit questions about the reorganization at tinyurl.com/authority-survey. If you have trouble accessing any of the links or do not have access to the internet, call OLWS Outreach & Communications Specialist Alexa Morris at 503-353-4219.
The next step in the process of becoming an authority would be presenting the proposal before Clackamas County commissioners. When the public hearings have been scheduled, OLWS will mail all customers a letter with the dates.
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