I am writing in response to the article published in The Daily Astorian regarding the impending water and sewer rate increases (“Astoria hikes water, sewer rates,” June 18). Council member Karen Mellin was quoted as indicating that there are programs offered by Clatsop Community Action, and also by the Women’s Resource Center, to assist low-income residents with paying water and sewer bills.

I spoke with George Sabol, the executive director of CCA, this morning. He informed me that CCA does not now, and has never offered an assistance program to help people with water and sewer bills.

I also spoke with a representative of the WRC. As most citizens in Clatsop county are aware, this agency functions with a mandate to offer services and assistance to victims of domestic violence. There are no funds or assistance available through the WRC for members of the general public who find themselves unable to afford this most basic of utilities.

Clatsop County has a high number of low-income residents. Recent figures published by SNAP (the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamps) indicated  31.5 percent of the population (and 26.5 percent of the children) of Clatsop County are living in poverty. 

In this time of dwindling public and private support for those in need, it is probably accurate to predict that an ever increasing number of the residents of our county are going to be very negatively impacted by the coming rate increases, and perhaps finding themselves having to chose between food and water.

It took me about 10 minutes on the phone to ascertain the unavailability of any of the nonexistent programs which Mellin stated would offer a safety net for low income Clatsop County residents. I would certainly hope that an elected official would be willing to invest at least that much time to check the veracity of her statements prior to making them, especially when the statements made could influence decisions impacting so many low-income residents. 

I also fear many people who would otherwise be concerned, or even infuriated by this situation, were pacified with the false assurance that their fellow citizens would not be endangered. Mellin owes the citizens of Clatsop County an apology for having so blithely made statements indicating that there are resources when in fact, no such resources exist, nor apparently have ever existed in our county. 

I also hope that the City Council will consider these rate increases as so many of the citizens of the county will be caused undue hardship, with no available recourse or assistance. 

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