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Gold Hill council may hike water rates to pay off loan

GOLD HILL — The City Council tonight will discuss whether to impose a surcharge and eventual rate hike on monthly water bills to repay a loan and make improvements to the water system.

The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 420 Sixth Ave., Gold Hill.

The council is considering a $2.80 monthly surcharge on residents' bills to help repay a $200,000 loan used to pay for removal of the city's diversion dam along the Rogue River. The city pays $15,000 annually on the loan from its operating and maintenance fund.

City officials said they also may raise the monthly rate after reviewing water and sewer rate studies expected to be provided to the council at the meeting. They have not yet determined what the monthly rate hike would be if approved.

City Recorder Mary Goddard said the proposed surcharge and rate hike had prompted calls from residents voicing concerns.

The council will accept public comment on the proposals at tonight's meeting.

There are 450 residences hooked up to the city-run water system. Goddard said water, sewer and miscellaneous fees run an average $50 to $60 a month before usage is factored in.

Councilwoman Christine Alford expressed frustration the council had not yet seen the sewer and water-rate studies from Public Works Director Bob Butler as of Friday afternoon.

She said the city's water system needed careful scrutiny.

"The bottom line is that I'm going to make sure that every nickel that is already being collected is being appropriately used for operation and only operation of the plants to provide service to city residents," Alford said.

"We will evaluate to make sure every penny is going where it needs to go and then we'll talk about a rate increase."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com.