About Sunrise Water Authority
Sunrise Water Authority was established November 9, 2000 under Oregon Revised Statute 450.650. Growth pressures, limitations on water supplies, and opportunities for increased efficiencies and better service delivery to customers drove the Mt. Scott Water and Damascus Water Districts to join in forming the agency. A seven member Board of Commissioners elected by zone establishes policies and oversees the operation and finances of the agency.
Sunrise Water Authority Headquarter Location
10602 Southeast 129th Avenue
Happy Valley, Oregon, 97086,
Latest Sunrise Water Authority News
Jun 17, 2011
comments View full size The Oregonian/fileGrowth in Happy Valley and the incorporation of Damascus prompted expansion of Sunrise Water Authority and increased debt. HAPPY VALLEY -- Sunrise Water Authority is poised to raise its base rate by 84 percent, increasing the average household bill 17 percent, after a public hearing about the issue June 22. The proposal, outlined in a letter sent to residents June 3, calls for an $8 increase to the base rate, from $9.50 to $17.50, and an adjustment to the usage tier system raising the average user's rates from $2.54 per unit to $2.70 per unit. 129th Ave., Happy Valley Agenda: A proposal calls for an $8 increase to the base rate that residential customers pay, from $9.50 to $17. 50, and an adjustment to the usage tier system. The current tier system classifies customers who use 15 to 47 units as average; however, the proposal changes the average tier to include only customers using 11 to 20 units. The average household uses about 26 units during the bimonthly billing period and a unit is equivalent to 748 gallons. Wade Hathhorn, general manager, said the rate increases are not ideal but are unavoidable because of a mountain of debt due in the next 13 years and dwindling funds. Sunrise carries a debt of $26.5 million that is paid for in $2.2 million yearly increments out of the general fund. As growth occurred in the early 2000s in Happy Valley, and Damascus incorporated as a city, Sunrise jumped ahead and laid miles of new pipes. But as new housing slowed, the ability to pay that debt went away, Hathhorn said. This left the authority without the resource of new system development charges and with very few people needing new meters or water service. The agency must gain 300 customers with new meters a year to pay the yearly $2.2 million. However, during the past four years, sales have been averaging around 100. Hathhorn said this has had such an impact on the company that the only repairs being done on the 203 miles of pipe, 18.8 million gallons of storage, 16 pump stations and seven wells are those classified as emergencies. "It was fine for a while ... but now we're stuck in a situation that we can only fix something when it breaks," he said. In the meantime, Sunrise has reduced its staff by cutting seven full-time employees since a peak of 25 employees in 2004 and last year implemented a 5 percent rate increase. But no change this big has been proposed in some time. "We had the increase last year, and that was the first one in some time, but I think what's getting people's attention this time is that base service charge increase," said Sunrise board member Ernie Platt. So far, the board and the authority have not received many complaints, but one Damascus resident sent a letter and plans to speak at the meeting about concerns of money misspent. Steve Biggs' letter outlines a series of complaints, including the authority's participation in a pilot meter reading service that malfunctioned when cold and wet. In a report for the Sunrise board, Hathhorn writes that system was installed as a study with the "intent of greatly reducing labor needs in the reading process. " Of the authority's 40,000 customers, 11,000 have meters that require manual reading. Hathhorn's report goes on to say that the experience suggests results that are "less than desirable as far as performance and reliability as well as costs much higher than anticipated due to ongoing maintenance. " Biggs argues that this sort of malfunction could easily have been prevented. "How does this benefit the ratepayers? " he asked. "Due diligence and research could have prevented this. " Another concern of Biggs, and one he plans to point out at the meeting, was the participation of 12 employees in the 2008 Portland to Coast Relay. Records show that hundreds of dollars were spent on the participants' entry fees, transportation and stay at a home in Seaside. The board unanimously approved the employees' participation, saying it was a good team-building experience and encouraged fitness. Chairman of the board Robert Frentress said allowing the participation was "an extension of the board's commitment to provide support for the health and wellness of Sunrise employees. " Employees participated in the race only as a sponsored team that year. Platt said that while concerns brought up at the meeting are important to the board, the core reason behind the increase had nothing to do with overspending or mismanagement and everything to do with the rise in service costs and the $26 million in debt. "We look forward to seeing what comments we get and we will certainly listen to them, but I don't know if we have an alternative," he said. "We don't have any other source of income. " Twitter: @hppyvlyreporter Connect with us