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Recently and without prior notice, the Sallal Water Association Board voted to no longer provide individual water use data to the City, breaking from a 13 plus year practice and directly violating City code requirements. This sudden decision by the Board of Sallal is forcing changes in how sewer bills will be determined, calculated, and processed resulting in higher sewer costs to city residents on Sallal water.
Both Sallal and the City of North Bend provide water services to North Bend citizens in their respective water service areas; however, only the City provides sewer service. The City strives to provide the least costly sewer service possible to all sewer users but cannot do so without this water use information.
The City Attorney’s Office has informed the Sallal Board that Sallal is required by City ordinances to submit water use information to the City for those Sallal customers with city sewer hookups. City Council directed an update of the City Code to clarify this responsibility and also staff to develop the new special rate class to ensure equitable service and billing to all customers. Unfortunately, unless this situation can be resolved to the satisfaction of the City, sewer customers who are on Sallal water will experience changes in their billing and likely a higher cost.
To provide fair and accurate proportional rates for all sewer customers, the City uses a common formula-based rate method wherein customer water consumption is used to calculate the amount of water sent from homes and businesses to the Wastewater Treatment Plant. In this formula the City has chosen to use only water usage during the lower usage winter months in the formula so that water users are not charged based on higher summer use numbers which may be due to outdoor uses such as irrigation which is assumed to not end up in the sewer system.
In fact, it is not only unfair but illegal to have North Bend water customers subsidize Sallal Water Association members’ sewer rates. If forced to use an alternative method to calculate sewer bills for Sallal customers, these residents will incur higher charges to offset the significant additional processing costs to create a new rate category and billing system.
The City of North Bend is looking to the Sallal Water Association Board to rectify this situation as it impacts ALL utility customers in North Bend.
If the Sallal board chooses to maintain its decision, this will mean measuring Sallal member’s sewer rate based on highest average water use and may result in legal action. This latter option is not the City’s preference because it also fails to reward customers who are being good stewards of water; our most precious limited natural resource.
The City encourages Sallal members (and all concerned citizens) to contact the Sallal Board members and ask them to continue their past practice of sharing water usage data to ensure that they are billed only for what they use.