WARRENTON — Sewer and water rates are going up in Warrenton again, a combination of escalating operational costs and the city playing catch-up after years of not increasing rates.

The water rate increase is less than it was this fiscal year, noted City Manager Linda Engbretson at a City Commission meeting Tuesday. After next year, the increases will be even less under the city’s current schedule.

But some on the City Commission are curious what it would look like to take care of the costs once and for all by raising rates more drastically to get the city up to the level they say it should have been at years ago.

The 5% proposed for next fiscal year “is just enough that most people don’t notice it,” Commissioner Mark Baldwin said. But the complaint he keeps hearing, he said, is, “Well, you’re going to raise rates again.”

It’s sort of a “death by a thousand cuts,” Mayor Henry Balensifer said.

“What I’m saying is this is a Band-Aid,” Baldwin said, asking, “Could we look further down the road?”

City staff plans to come back with a report on what an “all at once” type of increase might look like. Past commissions had opted to ease the increases in over time.

The City Commission held a first reading for a 5% increase to monthly water rates and a 4% increase to monthly sewer rates. Both increases would add only a few dollars to the average customer’s bill starting in July.

Costs are also going up for recycling by just over 2%, as are costs for the disposal of hazardous household waste. Clatsop County is nearing completion on a permanent facility for hazardous waste and applies a surcharge of $3.50 per ton to fund the hazardous waste program.

The county requested that Recology, which handles recycling services for Warrenton and garbage and recycling services for other cities, to increase the surcharge to $5 per ton to help cover the costs of building and operating the facility.

City commissioners noted that, for now, people must travel out of the area to deal with hazardous waste and agreed an increase to the surcharge made sense. But they demanded Recology provide wind latches for recycling bins ahead of any increase to rates for recycling services.

The latches keep the lids closed and prevent recycling from spilling down streets on windy days.

“There’s no sense in having recycling if your recycling’s on the road,” Balensifer said.

A Recology representative at the meeting agreed and said the company could provide wind latches for all the recycling bins in Warrenton ahead of a rate increase.

Katie Frankowicz is a reporter for The Astorian. Contact her at 971-704-1723 or kfrankowicz@dailyastorian.com.

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