City hikes sewer fee in January


News staff writer

November 22, 2006

The Hood River City Council is playing catch-up with sewer rates that have not increased for six years — but making the $10 adjustment to cover today’s costs in three phases.

In January, city residents will see a $4 addition to their monthly sewer bill, bringing the total from $36 to $40. The bill then rises to $44 in July of 2007 and $48 by July of 2008.

“There was supposed to be a $2 per month increase every year after the city adopted a capital facilities plan in 2000. However, I think the council was trying to be cautious in terms of the costs they were passing on to residents,” said Bob Francis, city manager, who came on board in 2004.

He said two major sewage backflows this year have highlighted the need for repairs to the system. However, the city can’t afford to replace the aging terra cotta lines without raising rates to cover expenses.

Francis said fees paid into a fund for sewer line expansions by developers cannot be used for routine upgrades. So, the city has no choice but to hike the cost of service provision.

“Right now we get enough revenue just to provide basic maintenance to the system,” said Francis. “So, these increases are going to help up replace our failing infrastructure.”

Two landowners with properties near 13th Street and Montello Avenue recently filed claims for backflows that total about $300,000. Columbia River Insurance, the city’s carrier, has already paid out just under $111,000 for several other backflows within the past five years.

Although state law limits liability of public agencies to $50,000 for each claim, the outcome of court cases can be uncertain.

Francis said the city is taking proactive steps to ward off future problems. In addition to the monthly rate increase, officials are providing residents who live along a steep slope with a free device to prevent raw sewage from backing up into a house. Property owners have to pay the cost of installation for the backwater prevention valve that is available by calling the public works department at 386-2383.

Francis said as terra cotta lines are changed out for plastic pipe, the passages will be enlarged to accommodate growth needs. He said the first project on the books for 2007 is an overhaul of the main transmission line that runs along a 10-block section of Columbia Street.

Other improvements are planned from First Street to the Wastewater Treatment Plant and a large section of 13th Street. The city also intends to upgrade two pump stations, one on the west side of town and the other along Indian Creek.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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