Oregon Public Broadcasting

Portland City Commissioners passed a proposal to increase trash and recycling rates today. But they tabled a decision on whether water rates should go up.

Over the past few years, the city has undergone a series of rate increases for essential services like water, sewer, and trash collection. Some of those increases supported large infrastructure projects, like the Big Pipe overflow system. Others were for administration priorities like compost systems. But the combined weight of them has infuriated some city residents.

During the course of an acrimonious meeting today, city officials from three bureaus defended the reasons for the rate hikes. Susan Anderson runs the bureau that oversees solid waste disposal. She says the restructuring of the trash collection system, with composting and other changes, produced dramatic reductions in waste. She produced data based on the first three months of this year.

"Garbage is down 44%. People are composting a whole lot more, and they are recycling more," says Anderson.

The Bureau of Planning and Sustainability is proposing a series of rate increases, depending on how much trash residents haul to the curb. Residents who use smaller trash cans will be charged a smaller increase. Those with big cans will pay more.

Officials say the increase would help garbage haulers meet a mandate to replace older garbage trucks with cleaner-running vehicles.

Council approved that, and also a sewer rate increase raising rates 5.9%.

But Commissioners tabled a proposal to hike water rates 11%. Last week the state denied a city request for a waiver on covering water reservoirs. But Bureau Chief Schaff says this year's increases, aren't tied to any specific project. They have a lot to do with deferred rate increases from the past decade.

Mayor Sam Adams proposed an amendment to bring down the proposed hike by one-half of one percent. But it was Commissioner Amanda Fritz who got applause for suggesting a work session further exploring the water rate increases - and for her vote on Adams' rate amendment.

"I believe the rate should be even lower," says Fritz.

This story originally appeared on Oregon Public Broadcasting.

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