Residents can expect utilities to 'take a hike'

On Monday, June 25, the city council approved a resolution amending the city’s comprehensive fee schedule that included adjustments to the current utility system rate. The resolution, passed unanimously, will raise utility rates across the board with monthly water rates, including the base, consumption and improvement rates, by 1.80 percent. Monthly wastewater rates will increase by 3 percent and storm drainage rates will see a 7.9 percent increase. 

The increases are part of the city’s five-year financial plan. 

Cottage Grove’s water bill consists of water, wastewater and sewer services, something City Manager Richard Meyers says his office routinely tries to clarify for the community.

“They’ll call somewhere else and ask what the water bill is and then come back and say that our water bill is higher,” he said. “That’s because we’re not just water. They’ll call Eugene and ask and Eugene is just water.”

The base rate for water service, meaning the water service is turned on and able to come out of the tap and go down the drain but no water is actually used by the resident, is $84. The av-erage residential household in Cottage Grove will use 5,000 gallons a month and, according to the city, see an average bill of $113 under the new increase. Previously, the average bill was $110. 

“It’s an increase, on residential meters, of $3.21, total,” Meyers said. 

The increase is split with some of the funds needed to continue operating the treatment plant and some of the funds required to make updates to infrastructure. 

“One of the issues, and I think Salem’s problems they’re having, and we’ve had to some extent too, and then you look at Flint, MI, those are issues that show why it costs money to run water systems,” Meyers said. 

In May of this year, Salem issued a health advisory, warning residents not to drink the city’s water after algae blooms, carrying and dangerous toxin, were found in the water supply. Last month, the same algae was found at Dorena Lake which feeds Cottage Grove’s water supply. The city’s drinking water was not affected. 

“Folks who have lived here for 30, 40 years, they remember going to a restaurant and the cups were brown,” Meyers said. “That was so you couldn’t see that the water was a little brown. Now, we can have clear glasses. It’s not rain water and river water we’re drinking anymore; we have to treat it.” 

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