BAKER — In a split vote Tuesday, the Baker City Council again introduced proposed ordinances that would raise sewer and water rates.
Council members Pete Heine, Robert Young and John Givens voted in favor of the introductions. Charles Vincent voted against them and Joyce Burges was absent.
The proposed ordinances will be up for adoption at the council’s Jan. 13 meeting.
The water rate ordinance calls for increasing the flat water fee from $9 to $15 per month for city residents. The per gallon usage would go up from $1.50 to $1.75 per thousand gallons. Most homeowners’ per gallon total cost would increase $1 per month, Mayor Harold Rideau has said.
The sewer rate ordinance would increase the sewer fee from $14 to $16 per month for residents.
The proposal also calls for tying utility rates to the Consumer Price Index, which would allow the city to raise rates to keep up with inflation.
The council introduced the same utility rate proposal in May, but in June voted 4-1 against adopting it.
At that time, Givens, Vincent, Burges and Young opposed the sewer and water rate hike and Heine cast the lone vote for the increase.
Heine said he put the proposed ordinances back on the agenda because his constituents are worried about possible cuts to public safety.
“They are concerned about calling the police in the middle of the night and having the dispatcher tell them that the officers are out on other calls,” he said.
Baker’s surplus will run out this year and, by state law, the city will be able to spend only what it takes in, Heine said.
“You can check the finances until your tongue hangs out, but I can tell you it’s serious,” he said.
Though he voted in favor of introducing the ordinances, Givens expressed reservations about increasing sewer and water rates, adding that he doesn’t understand why his utility bill is so much higher than that of others in his subdivision.
“I’m not up here to knock anything, but give me the information,” he said.
Rideau said he doesn’t have a problem providing the council all the information it needs but he doesn’t think a work session is necessary because there has been so much discussion of the issue already.
“We done rode this horse till he fell down,” the mayor said.
Vincent said he thinks the introduction of the proposed ordinances is ill-timed because the city is currently undergoing an audit. He argued that cuts could still be made to bring the city’s finances into balance, and added the budget passed in July doesn’t contain enough belt-tightening.
“But you voted for (the budget),” Heine countered.