Portland utility bills set for 4.5 percent rate hike

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PORTLAND, Ore. -- Portland City Commissioners are set to approve a 4.5 percent rate hike for utility bills Wednesday.

Commissioner Nick Fish, who is in charge of the Water Bureau and the Bureau of Environmental Services, said it was a tough decision to increase the combined utility rate even below 5 percent. He said a lot of the pipes around the city are more than 80 years old and need to be replaced.

He also emphasized the city's needs to prepare for "The Big One."

"If the pipes don't get replaced and the system fails and we don't deliver water to your home or business, you'll be complaining and if we don't start making those big investments now to make the system more resilient, when we have an earthquake, hundreds of thousands of people will be put at risk," Fish said.

Residents we talked to today say they support the increase.

"I'm glad to see those projects growing and I think for the most part the money is really well used," said Sascha Strand.

Ray Johnson pays about $175 every 3 months. He says while he doesn't necessarily want to pay more, he'll do it.

"It's not going to keep me from Portland, I like this town a lot," said Johnson.

The increase is expected to bring about $19 million in revenue and is expected to go into effect July 1.