City mulls fee spike for utility hookups

Developers within the City of Hood River could see a sharp spike in the cost of new and upgraded sewer and water hookups by the end of the year.

On Monday, the City Council took a first look at the updated fees recommended by consultant Ray Bartlett of Economic & Financial Analysis.

The Portland-based firm was hired several months ago to review the Systems Development Charges which have remained unchanged since 1993. In his preliminary report, Bartlett suggested that to meet projected growth needs, the city needed raise the cost of a three-fourths of an inch meter from $450 to $2,585. The largest six-inch meter price would jump from the existing $12,484 to $107,709 — but Bartlett recommends adding an eight-inch meter for $155,100.

Since he was still compiling figures for sewer charges, Bartlett said total increases were not yet available. However, he said early reports showed that the cost for a typical residential hookup would more than double.

Several council members questioned the dramatic rise in prices, but Bartlett said they were just slightly higher than other jurisdictions across the state, according to a report from the League of Oregon Cities. He pointed out that Ice Fountain Water District currently charges $2,400 for a standard water connection and Crystal Springs Water District a fee of $2,450.

Bartlett said to avoid large fee increases in the future the Council needed to adopt methodology to make annual adjustments to the charges that would keep up with inflation costs.

He also recommended that a “credit policy” be incorporated in the SDC code so that developers who paid to extend city water lines could recoup costs from an equivalent reduction in meter fees.

Bartlett will present more detailed data next month but the new fees will not be adopted until a public hearing takes place. He said, by law, the Council must advertise that hearing 90 days before it occurs and make the final SDC report available within 60 days of that notice.

In other action, the city gave the ago-ahead to use a $30,000 grant from the Department of Land Conservation and Development to inventory wetlands and other “significant” fish and wildlife habitats within the city and surrounding Urban Growth Areas.

The grant will enable the city to come into compliance with Goal 5 of the state land-use planning regulations.

The Council will hire a consultant to perform the work and is forming a five-member technical committee of experts and public officials to help prepare a protection overlay zone for identified natural resources.

Councilors Charles Haynie and Andrea Klaas expressed concerns that the Goal 5 inventory could place an undue regulatory burden on Hood River landowners.

They said the role of the technical advisory group would be important to ensure that recommendations made by the consultant factored in existing protection corridors, such as the Indian Creek riparian area.

When that work is finished the city will notify all property owners within the proposed zone and hold a series of public hearings in the spring of 2003.

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