Ratepayers question Portland's spending on water and sewer

Ratepayers question Portland's spending on water and sewer »Play Video

PORTLAND, Ore. - Mayor Charlie Hales and the Portland City Council wanted to hear concerns about rising water and sewer rates.

Randy Ferguson was more than happy to help out Wednesday night during a meeting at Parkrose High School.

“I've got a wife that's half my size, and a son. My bill is $352 every quarter for water and sewer,” Ferguson told the Portland City Council and Mayor Hales. “I'm getting into my early age right now and I just don't have enough money to go around to keep fooling on with stuff.”

The city says water rates aren't going up much. Sewer costs, pushed by "unfunded federal mandates” are driving up rates. That includes $1.7 billion to build the so-called 'Big Pipe' under threat of EPA sanctions. Also, a huge covered reservoir to avoid federal sanctions over drinking water safety.

Commissioner Nick Fish says a planned 14 percent rate increase is now five percent.

“I directed my bureaus to find additional savings,” Fish said. “In fact, I told them to get two-and-a-half percent cuts in operating. No other bureau in the city was required to do that.”

That's not good enough for those handing out flyers at the meeting - promoting a May 'yes' vote on forming a Public Water District for Portland.

“There's been a lot of spending of water and sewer funds on things that have nothing to do with water and sewer systems. That needs to stop,” says Kent Craford, petitioner for the water district measure.

Mayor Charlie Hales thinks the forming that district is a mistake.

“We think the facts are the best defense against foolishness, and this measure is really a foolish idea,” Hales said.