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Warrenton to restrict new water connections outside city limits

City of Warrenton water system (Source: Murraysmith Inc.)
By Cindy Yingst, Thursday, March 19, 2020

Warrenton has stopped approving new hookups to the city water system from developments outside the city.

The new policy was approved at Tuesday night’s City Commission meeting and is effective immediately.

Limiting connections has been on the radar since a 2018 study showed the city’s water supply could be inadequate during peak summer months to meet the needs of water customers in 15 to 20 years.

“I get concerned about not acting fast enough,” said Mayor Henry Balensifer, who made the recommendation to develop the new policy last month.

At that time, the City Commission approved a $41,500 contract with Murraysmith Inc. of Portland to review the city’s water supply outside city limits and come up with ways to increase it.

Previously, the company has developed a water master plan for the city, which included an analysis of its water connections.

About 35 percent of Warrenton’s water goes to accounts outside city limits.

“Service to customers outside the city has been significant, which may impact the need to expand the supply system,” the company states in its contract proposal. “The cost of constructing and maintaining the infrastructure needed to supply water to customers outside city limits often exceeds the cost of serving comparable customers within Warrenton.”

Recognizing the extra cost, the city imposes a 50 percent rate surcharge on customers outside city limits.

The new study will determine how many more, if any, should be approved.

“Hopefully, this will answer the questions we all have,” Public Works Director Collin Stelzig said.

The mayor has led the charge to stop approving outside connections at the expense of current and future Warrenton residents.

“At some point we’ve got to figure out how much is acceptable,” Balensifer said. “We’ve been talking about this for six months. … We’ve got a lot of water lines out there and no money to maintain them.”

He asked at the previous commission meeting to have the new policy drawn up.

The policy will remain in effect for 18 months and may be renewed for successive six-month periods after that.

Other provisions:

** Public Works will not approve any new water system development or new water system connections outside city limits.

** Public Works won’t allow existing customers to expand existing water meters outside city limits, including change of property use, change of occupancy, substantial remodels, increased occupancy load, or increased connections within existing developments.

** Developers who submitted engineering plans before the policy was adopted are exempt.

** Individual single-family homes on existing lots created prior to the policy’s adoption are exempt if an existing water main of sufficient size abuts the lot. Applications for service must detail how the single-family home will incorporate water conservation measures.

Cows graze in a field just outside Warrenton's city limits. It's one of many areas that could eventually become residential or commercial and, thus, require a water connection. (Cindy Yingst)

Mayor Henry Balensifer

Public Works Director Collin Stelzig (Cindy Yingst)

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