The Daily Astorian of Tuesday, March 21, featured an article on the intent of Cannon Beach to hike water and sewer rates to residents by “up to 40 percent in July to fund needed water, wastewater and storm-drain repairs and maintenance.” The article goes on to quote Councilor George Vetter as saying, “The new rates will put us in line with what our neighbors to the north and south are paying.” George also states that rates have not gone up in 10 years. He should check his facts before making public statements.
I object to the proposed rate hikes based on the falsehoods stated by Mr. Vetter. First of all, water rates should be based on the costs of operating the system, not on what our neighbors charge. Our neighboring cities have dramatically different water storage, treatment and distribution systems. Their costs and their fees have no bearing on the costs of operating Cannon Beach’s system and should not be relevant in establishing local rates. Secondly, I just reviewed my water bills from the past five years and found, contrary to Mr. Vetter’s claim, they went up three times in the past five years alone (3.1 percent in 2014, 3.1 percent in 2015, and 7 percent in 2016).
Two years ago, City Manager Brant Kucera was quoted in The Daily Astorian as saying that water rates needed to be increased here to bring us in line with Warrenton’s water rates and shortly afterward our rates increased 7 percent. Warrenton’s water is sourced high in the hills east of Seaside and must be pushed through miles of pipeline just to reach their city limits. Their costs didn’t correspond to those in Cannon Beach then and they don’t now either.
Another issue I have with the proposed rate is the replacement of the existing reservoirs. While I concede they likely won’t survive a magnitude 9 earthquake, if a tsunami destroys the distribution system, and the homes and businesses that use the water, what purpose will the surviving reservoirs serve?
If a rate hike is truly necessary to maintain the system, then I can support it. But, if these “alternate facts” are the best the City has to offer as justification, then I oppose it. When capital improvements such as replacing reservoirs are needed, funding should come from bond sales, not rate hikes. Another possible source of revenue is tax imposed on motel rooms and vacation rentals. In the past, much of this money has been spent to buy statuary and artworks of questionable taste (the polite term) as well as to support many optional programs and organizations in Cannon Beach, and in other parts of the county. The City should prioritize those dollars to provide essential city services and leave the frills for someone else to fund.