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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 7, 2012 11:42 AM. The previous post in this blog was Press release meter reset. The next post in this blog is Stay the course. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Joy to you and me

We're still basking in the glow of some good news that we got on Friday: Our Portland water bill is going up only 11% this coming year! All right!

And what are we getting for our money? Cleaner water? Better water? It seems as though we're getting a lot of mega-pork projects that aren't needed. Burying reservoirs that don't need to be buried. Planning treatment systems that don't need to be built.

Why are we doing these things? Besides the fact that you-know-who says so?

For the money they're blowing, you could probably replace the lead pipes in tens of thousands of houses within the city limits. Keep a lot of plumbers and sheet rock people employed, too. But no. The money all goes to some sweetheart engineers and contractors in big corporations with big talk and big blueprints. They want to own the water systems eventually, and wait 'til you see the bill you pay then.

Already the city bureaucrats are urging us to compare our water bills with our cable TV and phone bills -- two of the ultimate ripoffs. Eventually you'll pay Pepsi to take a shower. For now, just pungle up your 11% extra and try not to think too much about it. Have you toured the Water House yet?

Comments (28)

I just got a bill for a vacant house with no (zero, nada, nothing, meter turned off) and it was $60.

SIXTY dollars!!!

But the increase is smaller than they threatened it would be and they're going to start a monthly billing cycle so bills will appear smaller.

These clowns are probably expecting thank you cards.

Our household does not have a cable bill, and our phone bill is never more than $60.00 a month. So there is really no comparison.

Two common features to cable and phones: they are optional, and have competition. To date I have yet to meet a human that is able to live without water.

Also, the cost of production for the Portland water system is next to nothing since it's rain water collected in the mountains, marginally treated and pretty much transported by gravity.

John,
I wrote about this awhile back where I wondered whether they do street averaging in sending out bills. Years ago, we as a smaller household had essentially the same bill as a split-level home across the street that had a large family and a swimming pool.

Do they even have meter readers anymore, how equitable is that?
This for a city that wants an Office of Equity?
Maybe they should begin with proper meter readings based on individual use.

As I understand it, the meters start to wear down, and I think the readings are lower as the meters age. A few years ago there were conversations about how old the City's water meters were, and that it would take a lot of money to replace all of the old ones. Would be interesting to see where that thinking is today. Maybe double-digit percentage increases mean not worrying too much about the meters.

I hope no one suggests water "smart meters" that can be remotely turned off by some "controlling authority" when you've used your allowed water allotment...which will be set based on number in household, age, pre-authorized allotment, etc.

Here in the Reno area our monthly water bill in January - a low useage month, since we have a pool in use during May through September - was $24.21.

And our sewer bill was $88.73 for 90 days or $29.58 per month. And we entertain 2-3X per month...

We should be so lucky to be served by a private, state regulated water company. Instead, here in stump town you have the worst of public/private partnership where public government officials get indirect kick backs by letting overpriced construction contracts; kickbacks coming through the form of campaign contributions (including union bosses directing construction union dues back to city politicians) and future job opportunities in the well rewarded private partner firm.

As for cable and phones, who cares as its an apples and oranages comparison. I don't even have cable. The real comparison should be with water and sewer rates in other Metropolitan cities; and with our local area imcomes (the ability to pay a water and sewer bill). I can tell our incomes generally aren't increasing at much more than 3% per year (last ten years), and not the 6% routine (and now 11%) annual water and sewer bill increase. Commissar Leonard who should be held accountable is leaving the plantation with his PERS loot in hand (He's not as good as Clint Eastwood's Blonde in the "Good, Bad, and Ugly" though).

"compare our water bills with our cable TV and phone bills"

OK, Randy, fine.

Phone landline - I had Qwest at $30+/month. Bought a OOMA box and now paying $4.25/month

Cable TV - Unplugged my $60/month Comcast and got Netflix for $8/month. Very happy.

Meanwhile, PWB gets the water for free from the skies last time I checked and they really haven't done any capital projects I am aware of. All this for $40M a year more than 4 years ago. So here comes another $10M/year bump.

LTJD,
Right you are to be concerned about this.
Is this why they might be "phasing" out of using our meters,
people will be upset about the charges and voila new "smart meters?"
Hope not, but I wouldn't put it past the PWB to be heading there.

A big chunk of your water bill in Portland is based on the square footage of your lot for "storm water run off". Hence the $60 per month even though you aren't using a drop of H2O. Now that's weird...and wrong.

That's our famous "rain tax", another sketchy creation of the Portland Robber Bureau.

$300/yr. to our HOA includes water, road maintenance, snow removal, and a gate to keep the knuckleheads out. Glad I don't live in the city.

All the city commissioners need to be replaced. This arrogance is just obscene. I am going to send a contribution and perhaps even volunteer for Mr. Fernandez. The backlash is coming.

All well and good, but you left out one TEENY little detail: The sewer bill is also going up (by 6%) - so the combined increase on your combined water/sewer bill is actually a modest 17%. Sweet, eh?

The math doesn't work that way, but between the two of them, yes, it's nasty. At least with the sewer, we got something -- major sewer improvements, which were needed. With the water increases, it's just money for pet projects, and for cozy consultants on projects that aren't needed and in the end won't be required by law.

The water bill is paltry compared to the sewer bill, but at least there's a meter to measure water usage. How do they even measure sewer usage? Is it simply based on water usage?

Boycat--yes, the sewer bill is based on water usage. They figure that what goes in one pipe must come out the other.

In their magnanimous generosity, they do acknowledge that some people water their gardens in the summer, so the sewer rates are based on winter water usage.

BC: they assume that in winter most water goes to sewer (in the two weeks of July that we call "summer", they assume that some water may go onto the lawn, or whatever). Therefore, the bill is based upon estimates of winter consumption. I say "estimates" because my meter is buried under Ponderosa pine needles that have not been disturbed in more than two years.

It's still pretty close to a 20% increase in rates for the year, which fairly well sucks for somebody on a fixed income. And the "big pipe" still runs outfalls of sewage into the river during heavy rains.

You wanna go water-skiing? Great - I'll bring a camera and shoot from onshore.

Max,

I believe your math is wrong. If the water bill went up 11% (e.g. old bill was $100, now it's $111), and the sewer bill went up 6% (old bill was $100, now it's $106), then the new combined rate IS NOT 17%.

Rather, the rate increase is 11+6 (the numerator) = $17 divided by the old costs (the denominator), which is $200. That would result in an 8.5% combined water/sewer increase year on year.

Mr. T -

Knowing how much my social security has gone up, that 8.5 % increase still is unaffordable.

Water; sewer; garbage; TriMet,; gasoline.

Everything but income.

How about Tualtin Valley Water District? We cut our water use by half (kids moved out), got new washer that uses a lot less water and....our water bill went up. Not down. Try getting an explanation about that from the TVWD.

2% of the 11% increase is to eliminate quarterly billing. Contrary to Randy's January letter to Council, the WB's citizen's on its Budget Advisory Committee (BAC) did not support eliminating monthly billing.

The BAC unanimously supported retaining quarterly billing (saves the Bureau and ratepayer dollars) while allowing citizens to pay monthly if they choose. The Bureau could do this now with its current billing system (just as is done elsewhere), but in that as they have raised water rates 55% since June 2008, Randy & PWB want water bills to LOOK SMALLER as they increase further. Thus the plan to eliminate quarterly billing.

We haven't heard how much of a BES increase this will involve. The Water Bureau put this in their plan without discussing with BES though it affects their rates as well.

There are many other places where cuts could be made.

With the reservoir plans delayed until after the EPA revision, the Bureau has increased their capital plan. THAT'S RIGHT THEIR CAPITAL PLAN IS HIGHER NOW THAT THE RESERVOIR AND TREATMENT PLANT PROJECTS ARE ON HOLD FOR FIVE YEARS.

George,
Water demand has declined steadily all over the country including here in Portland and at TVWD. As water usage goes down Bureaus who spend like Portland raise rates. In Portland, personnel costs doubled during Randy's reign (2005-2010) according to the 2010 Water Bond doc. With high personnel costs, the lost revenue due to conservation and large water users exiting town is made up with higher rates.

Powell Butte II tank being build now because if one were to believe Randy "we need the storage" was recommended by cozy consultants based on water demand climbing for 24 years straight (1986-2010). Demand has declined steadily during that time- still Randy wrongly argues that we need additional storage. We currently have an excess of 50MG of in town storage as reported by PWB to 2004 Reservoir Panel, 2008 to EPA and Oregon Health Authority and 2011 in PWB book.
When PB is complete there will be an excess of 100MG of in town storage at the cost of $130 million and lower water quality. The PWB says in their 2011 water book that excessive storage results in Water Quality problems

Citizens at a recent council hearing were asking for at a minimum the same delay as NY requested until 2034 on the EPA LT2 rule. Others asked for a Waiver and testified that the rule needs to be appealed.
The Council would only delay LT2 projects until 2020-2021.......
......but instead of being able to stop the spending, wouldn’t you know – Leonard and PWB came up with a big list of other projects to continue the spending in the meanwhile anyway!!!
Financial responsibility/prudence is simply not in their mindset.
When are we going to have a Clackistani Rebellion here?


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