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UPDATE: Separate measure OKs borrowing funds, although majority of citizens come out against proposed potential 40% hikes

Victoria MeinigOregon City voters rejected increasing their baseline water rates by potentially more than 41% after six years, after the city requested up to 6% compounding annual increases.

A separate measure on the November ballot to authorize the city to borrow funds to replace pipes was too close to call on election night, Nov. 2, but later results pushed its approval to a comfortable 52%. Voter authorization to borrow money was needed to enable the city to apply for low-interest federal and state loans.COURTESY PHOTO: CITY OF OC - Oregon City replaced a corroded and undersized pipe this year on Latourette Street.

Unofficial election results showed that 69% of voters came out against Oregon City's plan to use water-rate hikes to speed the replacement of century-old water pipes and the construction of two more reservoirs. Oregon City's charter allows 3% water-rate increases annually, but officials sought voter approval for higher annual increases.

No one filed arguments in favor of either measure in the official Voters' Pamphlets provided to Oregon City citizens as they considered whether to raise water rates over the next several years. Two statements appeared in the Voters' Pamphlet against the water-rate measure, from former Mayor John Williams and from OC Chamber of Commerce CEO Victoria Meinig.

Oregon City's elected officials reluctantly referred the measure to voters, saying that recent ice storms and wildfires provided a wakeup call for residents to approve rate increases now or end up in much more expensive and dangerous situations. With the measure's outcome in doubt, some of the city commissioners later came out with written public statements in favor of raising rates.

Oregon City's efforts to advocate for the measure were hampered by a recent Clackamas County Circuit Court judge's ruling that the city had to change its original "insufficient," "misleading" and "unfair" ballot title that Williams had challenged. Circuit Judge Michael C. Wetzel agreed with the former mayor that the city's original ballot question would have misled voters into thinking the increase itself would be "temporary" when the only temporary aspect was the rate at which it would increase.

In a statement also endorsed by the Downtown Oregon City Association, Meinig wrote that the measure was misleading. She also said water-rate increases as high as 6% annually would put businesses at additional risk for closure, particularly those businesses that rely on water as a major input.

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