Bend residents react to water, sewer rate hikes

Rising costs frustrate, but city says it has to

Bend's water and sewer rates increase

BEND, Ore. - Utility bills in Bend are on the rise again, following a vote of the city council, and the string of increases has many residents frustrated.

"Not something that I'm happy about," resident Jennifer Cox said Thursday. "We pay quite a bit, in the way of utilities."

Councilors voted Wednesday night to hike water rates by 5 percent and 9 percent for sewer service. Council members say it's necessary.

"We're going to have to pay for the sewer project and the water project one way or another," said Councilor Victor Chudowsky. "If we postpone paying for it, we're going to pay a lot more in the long run."

All council members agree it has to be done, but they decided by a 4-3 margin to have the rate hike start on October 1st instead of July 1st. 

"This is the time of year when their combined water and sewer is the highest," due to summer lawn watering and the like, said Councilor Sally Russell. "So we wanted to ease into that raise."

The rate increase pays for things like a new water filtration system, and improving the sewer system. 

Some Bendites think it is reasonable.

"To keep things actually maintained, it is necessary to have some increases in our cost," said resident Helmut Eichener.

And the rates are not done growing just yet. The city plans on increasing the sewer rates another 5 percent for the next two years, for projects to ease capacity issues putting a strain on the system.

Many think the cost should be put on someone else -- the newcomers and new businesses.

"I think as new neighborhoods are being built and the city is expanding, some of it should be passed on to the builders," said Bend resident Matthew Finfer. (Bend does charge system development charges for roads, water and sewer.)

There's a related issue the city council is taking to heart. Their next goal is to overhaul the archaic rate structure, which is a flat rate. 

"That should be adjusted, so that people who use more water have a lightly higher water bill and people who use less water have a slightly lower water bill. That's what we're working on," said Chudowsky.

The overhaul in the rate structure is expected to be in place by December. It could mean that the increases for some heavier users could be more than 5 percent, and less than that for those with less impact on the system.

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