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Power open house draws crowd, criticism
crowded into a building at the Klamath County
Fairgrounds Tuesday evening to talk to state and
power company officials about a possible tenfold
increase in power rates.
"I don't know how it could be any worse," said Don
Rajnus, a third-generation farmer whose homestead
is near Malin.
A contract Pacific Power holds with Klamath
Reclamation Project irrigators that keeps power
rates at about a half-cent per kilowatt hour is
set to expire in April 2006. With the end of the
contract, Pacific Power officials have said rates
will go up tenfold, up to the level other
irrigators around Oregon are paying.
Rajnus said the Oregon Public Utility Commission
should have run the meeting more like a public
forum, where there would be one speaker at a time
putting the comments into a microphone and onto
the public record.
Inside the fairgrounds' blue exhibit building was
a row of tables with booths set up by the PUC, the
Klamath Water Users Association's power committee
and Pacific Power.
In another corner, a pair of Klamath County
Sheriff deputies stood at watch, part of the
precautions organizers took in case discussions
became heated. The deputies' squad cars flanked
the entrance and a private security guard also
walked through the crowd.
He said he came to hear Pacific Power's story for
not keeping the contract, and he wanted them to
tell it to the group. For about an hour, Knoll sat
in a chair near the middle of the room, talking to
other irrigators who passed by.
About halfway through the two-hour open house all
but 30 people had left.
Rajnus said the power company shouldn't be allowed
the rate increase because it would cause "rate
shock" for irrigators.
Along with the four PUC officials at the open
house, there was also a Pacific Power contingent,
including Don Furman, senior vice president.
"The answer is we have laws in the books that
don't let us do contracts like this," he said.
Next week the company will send out sample bills
that will give irrigators an idea of how the
change in rate will affect their bill, said Jon
Coney, company spokesman. The sample bills will
show much how much power irrigators have used over
the past five years and how much they paid for it,
and then how much they would have paid with the
"No," Coney said.
He said higher rates would make some of the
systems too costly to run.
Tuesday's open house was one of four the PUC is
holding about the power rate change in general.
The first two were in Bend and Portland. Those
meetings drew about a half dozen people each,
Valdez said. Many more showed up in Klamath Falls
because of the irrigation rate issue.
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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