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George Whitley: Services between Milwaukie, Gladstone could get needlessly expensive if a city is in charge

I support plans to move forward with the authority being considered by the Oak Lodge Water Services between Milwaukie and Gladstone.COURTESY PHOTO - Officials at the Oak Lodge Water Reclamation Facility remove a sewer blockage caused by paper towels, wipes and rags in January.

In a recent opinion article published by this newspaper, Kent Squires opposed the possibility of an authority, using many descriptive adjectives and the word "fiefdom." I am not sure how "fiefdoms" relate to the issue. He questioned the motives behind the consideration of an authority.

Once an incorporated entity gets their hands on the critical services, the water/sewer will come under the city's department of public works, and the OLWS board can be done away with. The motive behind an authority is very clear: First, any future government entity could not add fees or taxes to the ratepayer's bills; secondly, the elected OLWS board members remain accountable to the voters, and there would be no operational change. This provides the best transparency to ratepayers.

While their study is in its first phase, the Oak Lodge Governance Project has created uncertainty. They say there is no interest in changing anything at the OLWS, but their promise does not provide certainty that a future city in Oak Lodge would not make changes, if the sanitary and water services fall within their responsibility. When politics enter the equation, issues can change.

For example, an incorporated entity can change fees like city building occupancy, vehicles, maintenance and other services that are currently scrutinized by the OLWS budgeting process and the elected board. With the authority, water ratepayers would only continue to pay the documented costs for the operations of utilities.

George Whitley, a resident of Oak Grove, became a member of the budget committee after voter approval of the consolidation of the Oak Lodge water and sanitary districts.


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