Taxpayers sound off at water rate forum

People attended a public hearing on a water rate increase in Portland, March 19, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
People attended a public hearing on a water rate increase in Portland, March 19, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — At what he called the first of its kind, a public forum gave taxpayers a chance to sound off about their concerns about water rates and a 5% rate hike that may soon be on the bills of Portland residents.

North Portland resident Kent Craford, an outspoken opponent of the city’s water bureau and what he sees as wasteful spending, said he thinks “the city is really good at spin.”

Craford said the presentations did provide good information, but it left him disappointed.

“The proposed rates that they’re talking about here tonight are just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

If the rate hike is approved, it may show up on bills as early as this summer.

The Portland Bureau of Environmental Service's Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant, March 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
The Portland Bureau of Environmental Service’s Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant, March 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

Roughly one-third of the 4.92% hike is a water bill increase. The remaining two-thirds is an increase for sewer and storm water.

City leaders said it averages out to about 95 cents per month.

Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish told KOIN 6 News the increase is necessary to pay for aging infrastructure, unfunded federally mandated projects, operations and maintenance.

But Craford and others who voiced their concerns at the meeting said wasteful spending on projects like the Water Demonstration House in Northeast Portland or the over-budget Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant has cost taxpayers millions.

“There have been some projects in the past that the water bureau should not have done,” Fish said. “If you reversed all of them we’re talking pennies on the dollar.”

Craford didn’t buy that.

“Pennies becomesa dollar so the more and more, they spend the more it gets tacked onto our bills,” said Craford.

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