Water and sewer rates will increase for Hermiston residents beginning March 1.
The Hermiston City Council voted Monday night to adjust the rates by 3.75 percent in an effort to keep up with inflation, which has been rising sharply in the past year.
“Inflation’s been out of the news for a long time, but this year it’s coming back,” said Hermiston Assistant City Manager Mark Morgan.
Morgan said the city’s Public Infrastructure Committee recommended using the three-year average of 3.75 percent inflation instead of basing the increase on last year’s inflation rate, which was 7.35 percent.
“This will help smooth out the increases over three years,” said Morgan.
According to the Engineering News-Record’s Construction Cost Index, inflation averaged 2.65 percent between 2011-2020. In 2019 specifically, the rate was 1.74 percent.
To the consumer, the new rate hike means the base charge for water will increase from $31.20 to $32.37 per month and an additional 54 cents for every 1,000 gallons of water used up to 15,000 gallons. If the consumer uses more than 15,000 gallons per month, they will pay $3.76 per 1,000 gallons after.
The new sewer base charge increases from $36.36 per month to 37.75 with an additional $3.24 for each 1,000 gallons of water used.
Morgan said the median impact to the customer will be an average increase of $46.16 per year for the water and sewer rates with an average monthly increase of $3.85.
Hermiston Mayor Dave Drotzmann said he liked the idea of using a three-year average, but was concerned about the possibility of higher inflation continuing unabated, which could put the city in a position of having to implement a larger hike down the road to make up for continued increases in inflation.
“But who knows? Things could turn around quicker and the rate drops faster,” he said.
Phillip Spicerkuhn said he thought the water and sewer rate increases would be too much for some consumers.
“I don’t like the 3.75 percent increase,” he said. “Especially coming on the heels of a 15-percent increase (in 2018). “It’s asking our consumers to pay a lot and quite frankly, income’s not going up that quickly.”
The council passed the rate hikes by a vote of 6-2 with Spicerkuhn and Councilor Lori Davis voting no.