WARRENTON - City water customers will see their water rates go up by five percent starting April 1.
At Tuesday's meeting, the Warrenton City Commission unanimously approved a resolution to adopt the new rates, which the Commission is calling a cost-of-living increase.
The 5 percent rate hike will raise the monthly minimum bill, based on a household within the city of Warrenton that uses 2,000 gallons of water a month, to $15.88, an increase of 76 cents.
Mayor Gil Gramson said it's the first time rates have gone up since June 2004. He said the Commission has no plans for additional rate increases, but warned that it's important to keep an eye on revenues from the water department.
Commissioner Dick Hellberg said he voted yes rather than risk insolvency for the water fund, which is an enterprise fund that depends on revenue rather than tax dollars.
The one-time rate hike falls far short of the increases recommended by the city's consultant, Raymond J. Bartlett, of the Vancouver, Wash.-based firm Economic & Financial Analysis. At a work session last month, Bartlett said water rates might need to go up by 10 percent each fiscal year for the next four years, depending on terms of an eventual water supply agreement with the city of Gearhart, which is developing its own water supply, and the pace of Warrenton's growth and development, now about half a percent per year. As growth increases, the need for rate increases goes down.
In addition, the city is applying for $5 million in federal stimulus funds to build a water tank on Clatsop Plains. If the application is successful, the city won't need to spend as much on capital improvements, which will reduce the pressure on the water fund and the need to raise rates.
Federal stimulus funds might also help the city's police department. At Tuesday's meeting, the Commission gave Chief of Police Matt Workman the green light to apply for a federal COPS 2009 Hiring Recovery Program Grant, that would fund salary and benefits for an additional police officer for three years. Workman said it's a very competitive grant, open to all police departments in the United States, from Warrenton to New York City, so he's not counting on it. "I'm an optimist but also a realist and a pragmatist," Workman said.
In other business, the Commission:
? approved Harbormaster Keith Pinkstaff's request to apply for a $478,000 grant from the Oregon State Marine Board to gravel the parking area at the Hammond Marina and possibly make other improvements, including better lighting and upgrading the boat ramp.
? gave city staff permission to apply for a $42,255 grant from Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Local Government Grant Program to pave the trail from Carruthers Park to Enterprise Street on the levee along the river. The city will also request $25,542 from the Quincy Robinson Fund to pave the Carruthers Park parking lot, which will provide the required 20 percent match required for the OPRD grant.
? allowed city staff to solicit bids for the Southwest Ninth Avenue water line improvement project, estimated to cost $48,000.
? approved a professional services agreement, not to exceed $24,000, with Beaverton-based consulting firm GRI, to perform a geotechnical study of the sites proposed for the city's water tank reservoirs on Clatsop Plains. A scoring system was used to choose GRI from the 30 bids received, which ranged from $4,190 to $33,000. The firm appeared to be the best qualified to perform the study for what Gramson described as a "multi-million dollar project." The study will take three to four weeks to complete, and GRI can start work within a week after the contract is awarded. "Time is of the essence. This is an exciting project," Commissioner Mark Kujala said.
? approved revisions to the city's development code that will allow a Park Host RV Site at Warrenton City Park and Eben Carruthers Park. Such park hosts assist people using the parks and their presence also helps prevent vandalism. Gramson said $22,000 from the Quincy Robinson Trust Fund is available to set up the sites, which should be ready by this summer.
? appointed Commissioner Kujala to serve as the city's delegate to the Columbia River Estuary Study Taskforce (CREST) and Public Works Director Marc Howatt to serve as alternate.