Astoria City Councilor Drew Herzig asked the council to consider setting up a charity fund to help those Astorians in need to pay ever increasing city water and sewer bills. Herzig pointed out that many people are struggling to meet that obligation. At a recent council meeting a member of the public asked how much longer the rates would continue to increase and the answer caused an audible groan throughout the meeting room. City Manager Paul Benoit said that as the city is under an edict to perform the big CSO sewer separation project, and the project is far from completed it would be years before there is any hope that rates would level off. He made no promises about possible rate reductions. Funding the work is directly on the back of rate payers and takes the form of a separate surcharge on water and sewer bills.
Mayor van Dusen has pointed out that the project is mandated by the State and is not something the city decided to do on a whim. He has also said that while the water that comes from the huge city watershed is essentially free, the cost of delivering that water is not. The city is responsible for all aspects of the water system including the infrastructure the distributes it and the sewer system that takes it away.
In regard to Herzig's idea to establish a fund for the needy to help pay for sewer and water the council agreed to bring it back for further discussion. Herzig also suggested that such a program could be operated by Clatsop Community Action which already has the system in place for energy assistance. He suggested that the city provide some $10,000 in funding to start the program. It wasn't clear where that money might come from.