Lincoln City suffers a similar ailment that other Oregon cities suffer. Its sewer and water pipes have been in the ground a long time and a good many need replacing. But fortunately for Lincoln City residents, a lot of those pipes have already been replaced although the need continues because of wear and tear from what’s called our hillside “mud glaciers” that push and bend them. Same for pump stations. They only last so long.
City officials say although there is never enough money to do everything that everybody wants city government to do, Lincoln City has “paid enough forward” over the years for pipe and pump replacement before they fail – at least most of the time. And because of that they don’t have to replace as much as some other central coast communities have found it necessary to do – all at once! The cities of Toledo and Newport come to mind. Toledo and Newport sewer and water rates have skyrocketed over the past couple of years replacing pipes and pumps just to keep their systems working. However, Lincoln City officials say they’ve beaten the cost curve “so far.” July 1st they are seeking rate increases of 4% for sewer and 4% for water, this compared to Newport’s rate increase of 15% for sewer and 15% for water in the current fiscal year. It’s same as last year and for what is projected over the next two to three years. Many Newport residents are howling, especially those on limited and fixed retirement incomes. Newport City Councilors are searching frantically for funding that doesn’t rely so heavily on sewer and water rates. And there aren’t a lot of alternatives out there according to Newport Public Works Director Tim Gross, adding, however, they’ll always pursue them.
However, Lincoln City City Manager Dave Hawker told his council Monday night that he’s deeply troubled when he sees utility workers leaving city hall with up to fifty shut off orders in their hands for customers who are far behind in their sewer and water bills. “We’ve got to do something about that. There has to be ways to help them consume less water.” Hawker said that just the other day crews analyzed a low income couple’s water bill and asked them why, since it’s just them, that they use so much water. When city workers went out to their home, they found it was surrounded by an expansive, lush green lawn. And they didn’t want to lose it. “People have to make decisions that maybe they don’t want to make,” said Hawker. “But we have to help them make it.” City Councilors empathized with the situation. City utility workers and billing clerks have been monitoring water bills city wide for any sign of unusual spikes in usage that could suggest a leak between the meter and the home – leaking toilet, worn underground pipes, leaky faucets, etc.
The city council is expected to pass the higher rates June 24th, and to be effective July 1.