Hermiston utility customers will soon be reminded the City Council agreed to raise sewer and water rates when they get their first bill of the new year.

City Council members unanimously passed the measure at a meeting in October to increase rates by a total of 16 percent in 4 percent increments every six months for the next two years.

The move was encouraged by engineering firm D. Hittle and Associates to cover costs associated with construction and operation of the city’s new $27.2 million wastewater treatment plant.

Mayor David Drotzmann said the increases were necessary to pay for future city utility upgrades.

“These increases will pay for the necessary upgrades to our systems to ensure that we continue to deliver top-quality water and sewer service to our residents well into the future,” Drotzmann said in a prepared statement.

“It’s reassuring to see that even with the scheduled increases, Hermiston’s rates remain very competitive compared to other cities.”

An analysis completed in October 2012 indicated the bill for the average residential customer was among the lowest of comparable eastern Oregon cities.

According to report figures, the average water and sewer user in Hermiston paid less for the same service than consumers in La Grande, Baker City, Ontario, Pendleton and the Dalles.

Even after the latest increases, Hermiston’s utility rates are still less than what other’s pay, according to the study.

The city’s original plan was to raise the rates by 8 percent once a year for two years to achieve the overall 16 percent increase.

This plan was abandoned because of council concerns the increase would be too much of a financial burden on low- and fixed-income households.

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