Toledo City Council hopes Siletz water intake can be relocated for better water. But it’s going to cost the town some tall dollars for that and other upgrades.
The Toledo City Council is keeping its fingers crossed that its aging public water intake system on the Siletz River, at the photo’s lower left, will last long enough to be recreated just down stream at a location in the upper right. It’s the town’s main source of water since Mill Creek Reservoir is tricky to operate and the city doesn’t like to rely on it because to upgrade it would be very expensive.
The city council was reminded that Toledo is about to issue bonds to pay for the reconstruction of the city’s water intake as well as for improvements to the pipe between there and the city’s water treatment plant. City Public Works Director Adam Denlinger says the current intake location is becoming somewhat perilous in that the riverbank appears to be moving, and because of that they’ve got emergency parts and supplies at the ready if something changes the local topography. Denlinger told the council the city is in negotiations with the owner of the property just downstream where they want to relocate the intake pipe. He says talks are going well. He said if the city floats the bonds as anticipated and city water rates are sufficient to pay off the bonds, the new water intake system could be in place and pumping water to Toledo within three years. However, water rates were determined to be too low, despite a recent rate increase, to pay off the bonds necessary to finance the project. It turned out that ratepayers simply used less water which caused the city to miss their financial target.
To complicate the discussions further Denlinger said the town’s sewer system has been leaking like a sieve for years, with storm water getting into the main sewer lines. He said it’s forcing the sewer plant to process far more than just raw sewage; it’s also processing millions of gallons of storm and ground water that is getting into the system through aging bad joints and broken pipes. He said this greatly adds to the cost of operating the sewer system. And it’s wasting a lot of money.
To prevent this storm and ground water intrusion into the sewer system, it’s going require new pipe and other equipment. And that’s going to cost a lot of money too, according to Denlinger.
The city council swallowed hard.
The council agreed that if the town is to have reliable sewer and water service, the town will have to pay for decades of neglect that have now come due. The council tentatively agreed to rate hike for water and a new rate hike for sewer. The council said if they don’t raise rates the town can’t sell the bonds. City manager Michelle Amberg told the council there must be enough revenue to pay them off and to have a mandatory level of reserve funds in case a financial emergency of some kind befalls the town. It all figures into the interest rate the city will have to pay for the loan (bond).
The cold hard facts.
The combined sewer and water bill for a typical Toledo family will rise June 1st to an average of $74.05, roughly a 22% increase. That’s what the city council Tuesday night tentatively agreed to. The actual decision is likely to come at their next city council meeting April 18th.
Public Works Director Adam Denlinger offered the council a bit of solace as he told them that these higher rates will put the city at a level that will improve Toledo’s access to future federal and state grants or low interest loans. He said such grants or loans will lesson future rate hikes. He said because previous generations of Toledo residents did not pay for system upgrades they never had to raise rates very much.
And because of Toledo’s “artificially low rates,” federal and state agencies would not consider grants or loans for Toledo. The agencies have continually demanded that the city’s water and sewer rates be brought up to the state average for cities the size of Toledo. Denlinger said, with this next round of increases, coupled with higher system development charges and other revenues, Toledo will finally be in a better position to expect that future upgrades (and there will be required upgrades) will be eligible for those grants or very low interest loans. But again, the rate hikes must come first.
Seal Rock residents are also served by the Toledo water system. Both communities are tied at the wallet on system upgrades and so must negotiate the financial contributions that Seal Rock customers will provide to the water portion of the river intake and water treatment process. Toledo City Manager Michelle Amberg tells NLC.com that Seal Rock’s recent bond election covered Seal Rock’s obligation for their portion of the water intake and pipe to town upgrades.