The Rainier City Council has denied, for the time being, a rate increase request by Hudson Garbage.
“Hudson asked us for a two percent rate adjustment for residential and commercial customers, citing significant business revenue losses of 17 percent on the commercial side due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Rainier Mayor Jerry Cole said. “The council felt it was necessary to deny the request at this time. It just seems to be bad timing.”
Cole said the additional financial burden on customers still facing the pandemic impact would be difficult.
“It does not mean that the rate request can’t be reevaluated at a later time,” Cole said.
“We completely understand that they want to back away from that at this time and we absolutely respect that,” Hudson Garbage District Manager Nathan Smith told The Chief. “We have seen many of our customers struggling through the pandemic, so we suspended all late fees and stop-service orders.”
Smith also made a rate presentation before the St. Helens City Council Wednesday, May 20, and was scheduled to do so before the Clatskanie City Council in June.
“Each year in June we look at a rate adjustments,” Smith said. “But for now, we are going to postpone the requests to give our
customers the opportunity to get back to work and back on their feet. We will revisit the requests in the fall it if is warranted.”
The Rainier council did approve a resolution offering city customers COVID-19 utility bill relief for water and sewer of one half of their May water/sewer bill up to a maximum of $300.
“This is to help take the edge off of the customers struggling through the pandemic and who need some help,” Cole said.
During the Rainier City Council, meeting held by phone on May 18 due to social distancing requirements, the city staff presented a next step in resolving flooding issues linked to Fox Creek. Cole said the next phase of the project could be a study to review options, which could include opening up the creek and what size of additional piping would be needed.
“The study would tell us exactly what options we have, what we need to do and help us justify spending the public’s money,” Cole said.
The city council also discussed moving ahead with enhancing the Riverfront Trail that runs along the banks of the Columbia River in Rainier and seeking grant funding to update the city’s park master plan.
“We will apply for a $40,000 Oregon Parks and Recreation Department grant,” Cole said. “That would help us add more amenities to the city park.”
The council discussion also included restarting the search for a city administrator.
“We had a search about a year ago but we really didn’t have candidates that the council was happy with so now we are revoking at our options,” Cole said. “We don’t favor spending money for a consultant, so we are going to look at other options.”
Debbie Dudley, the former Rainier City administrator who retired last year, has been working part time as the city’s finance director. Cole said he and Dudley would review options for the search and report back to the city council in late June.
According to Cole, the city administrator’s position salary is approximately $90,000 annually, plus benefits.
“The council knows it has it may have to spend more to attract a qualified professional candidate,” Cole said.
Follow the Rainier City Council decision here online and in the Friday print editions of The Chef.