News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Mill City may raise sewer rates

Reporter for The Canyon Weekly

The Mill City Council may be raising sewer rates sometime in October after discussing the matter during their July 12 meeting.

Councilors said they are all in agreement about the need to raise rates and help pay for expansion of the wastewater treatment plant, but explored multiple options for how to do so.

City Recorder Stacie Cook suggested a 5 percent increase in October and again in January 2023, for a total increase of 10 percent, as suggested by the Budget Committee, bringing monthly rates to around $50.

Rates may need to increase again to as high as $60 per month, said Cook, based on the percentage of loans over grants the city is able to raise out of $3.5 million needed to finalize sewer expansion.

However, councilors said a one-time increase of 10 percent in October would help “rip the bandaid off,” in the words of Councilor Tony Trout, and create a situation that may be a bigger hit on pocket books but create less confusion.

“People will say, ‘We just raised.rates. Why are we raising them again?’” said Councilor Brett Katlong. “It would help city staff, at the very least, and free them up to not have to answer all these questions.”

In addition to monthly rates, the council discussed increasing system development charges, which are paid when a permit is issued to connect a to a sewer main. The last time these rates were evaluated was in 2010, and Cook said the current rate of $1,622 is far below what it should be. 

She said, if the city moves forward with a new evaluation of rates, the city will be able to make a decision in the coming months after initial sewer expansion is complete.

The council took no action that night and is expected to continue discussing the matter at future meetings. Mayor Tim Kirsch said sewer revenue “needs the most bolstering of any fund” in the city budget, and investing in infrastructure was vital for the city’s success.

“Infrastructure is the key to everything for a strong community,” he said.

The city learned of the imminent need to expand the sewer system in September 2021, after a study found the plant was operating at 94 percent capacity. 

Officials hope to expand the system in time for a residential development boom expected to begin at the end of this year and avoid the need for a moratorium on new construction requiring new sewer hookups.

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