City looks to raise water, sewer rates

The Ashland City Council will consider whether to raise water rates by 8 percent and sewage rates by 9 percent, as well as whether to charge people higher rates when they use a lot of water in the summer.

The council will hold a public hearing before making a decision during a meeting that begins at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the Ashland Civic Center, 1175 E. Main St.

The 8 percent water rate increase would cost the average household another $2.90 per month, while the sewer bill increase would be $2.02 a month, for a total of $4.92, city staff told City Council members in a memo.

People who used more than 3,600 cubic feet of water per month could be charged extra, the memo said.

Extra charges for high water use in the summer would cost an average of $16.75 per month and would affect about 500 residential customers, the memo said.

The city would institute the extra charges for high summer use not only to bring in more revenues, but to encourage conservation.

After the water supply ran low and the city had to mandate water curtailment last summer, the City Council set a goal to encourage more water conservation and to consider extra summer charges on high water users.

Without extra charges on high water users and other cost-cutting measures, city staff would have proposed a 14 percent across-the-board water rate increase, rather than the proposed 8 percent, the memo said.

Instead of the proposed 9 percent sewer rate increase, sewer rates could have gone up by 40 percent if voters had not renewed the city's 5 percent sales tax on prepared food and beverages in November 2009, the memo said.

Four out of every five cents of meals tax revenue goes to fund the sewage system, with the remaining penny going to the Ashland Parks and Recreation Department.

The costs of running the water and sewer systems are going up because of state and federal requirements, increasing costs for chemicals and filters and the need to replace aging infrastructure, the memo said.

In other business Tuesday night, the council will consider whether to grant an Oregon Department of Transportation request for an exception to a city ordinance that limits night noise.

ODOT wants to do night work at Interstate 5 Exit 14. Tentatively, that night work could take place during parts of June, July and November.

The council will also consider a request from the U.S. Forest Service that the city of Ashland join the federal agency in a court case.

Citing environmental concerns, Ashland City Councilor Eric Navickas and Arizona ecologist Jay Lininger sued the Forest Service over planned thinning to reduce wildfire risks in the Ashland Watershed. The city of Ashland helped develop the thinning plan, along with the Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy and the Lomakatsi Restoration Project.

If time allows at the end of the meeting, councilors could also discuss a proposal by City Administrator Martha Bennett to give raises to about 70 city government employees while freezing the pay of about 30 workers.

A consultant's study found some workers are underpaid and some are overpaid based on median pay for different jobs in the public sector.

For a complete list of agenda items and for details on each item, visit

Staff writer Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or

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