Local News That Matters

UPDATES: Cherriots seeks two members for its budget committee

about 1 month ago

Construction finished on new wing at Auburn Elementary

A new addition at Auburn Elementary School, completed in the fall of 2021, includes classrooms and a new kitchen. (Courtesy/Salem-Keizer School District)

A nearly $22 million expansion of Auburn Elementary School in northeast Salem is now complete, the Salem-Keizer School District announced this week.

The project added a new wing to the school to reduce overcrowding. With about 530 students enrolled in early October, Auburn is one of the largest elementary schools in the district.

With 11 new classrooms added, students will no longer learn in portable classrooms. The project also included a new cafeteria and kitchen, and a multipurpose fitness room, according to district documents.

Construction on the school began in the summer of 2020. It's part of a construction package local voters approved in 2018 to be repaid over 20 years of property taxes.

A new cafeteria at Auburn Elementary School, completed in the fall of 2021. (Courtesy/Salem-Keizer School District)

-Rachel Alexander

about 1 month ago

Salem residents to pay 13% more for monthly natural gas bills

A natural gas meter in Salem (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Salem residents will pay more for natural gas starting Nov. 1 due to the state’s annual rate change.

The Oregon Public Utility Commission recently approved an increase in natural gas rates for customers of NW Natural, the only natural gas utility serving Salem customers.

The average Salem resident will see a 13.2% increase in their natural gas bill. That's around $7.50 more per month, from $57 to $64.50, according to a Wednesday news release by the commission.

Commercial customers in Salem on average will see a 17.3% increase of around $36 to their monthly natural gas bill from around $209 to $245, the commission’s news release said. The average industrial customer's bill will increase by around $594 – or 20.4% – from around $2,910 to $3,504.

The commission every year adjusts the rates of Oregon’s three regulating gas companies to reflect changes in the actual cost of wholesale-priced natural gas and allow companies to avoid a markup added to the price of supplying gas to customers.

The increase is a result of the commission approving a $81.3 million revenue increase for NW Natural compared to 2020, which was “largely due to significant weather-related events and the increase in natural gas prices worldwide.”

Around half of U.S. households use natural gas for heating and will spend over 30% more doing so on average this winter compared to last, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“But we’re fortunate that because of the storage capabilities in our local system, NW Natural’s customers won’t see those higher national averages that are being reported,” Stefanie Week, a spokesperson for NW Natural, wrote in an email.

NW Natural customers may also get a one-time bill credit in February amounting to around $35 credit for average residential customers and around $165 credit for average small-commercial customers. “These bill credits are a result of the company’s efficient pipeline and gas storage management from the past year,” Week said in an email.

The commission said customers should be more energy efficient and save money on energy bills by turning down thermostats to save up to 3% for each degree, upgrading low-efficiency furnaces and water heaters to more efficient models, fully insulating homes to save up to 30% on a heating bill, cleaning or changing the furnace filter once a month during the heating season or conducting an online Home Energy Review through Energy Trust of Oregon to assess their homes’ current energy use.

Programmable thermostats that lower heat at night or when nobody is home can lower heating bills by 5-10%, the commission's news release said.

Customers that need help making past-due payments can contact customer service at NW Natural to discuss options, according to a NW Natural news release issued Wednesday.

-Ardeshir Tabrizian

about 1 month ago

Cherriots seeks two members for its budget committee

Cherriots buses at the Del Webb Operations Facility on April 6, 2020. (Amanda Loman/Salem Reporter)

Cherriots is looking for people to serve on its budget committee.

The transit service is seeking two Salem or Keizer residents to fill openings in subdistrict two, which is primarily Keizer, and subdistrict four, which is primarily northeast Salem.

Applicants must be registered voters and live within the urban growth boundary area of Salem and Keizer.

APPLICATION LINK

The budget committee consists of the agency's seven-member Board of Directors and seven appointed volunteers, who serve three-year terms.

“Budget Committee members help ensure the responsible stewardship of public funds and the ability of Cherriots to provide services now and in the future by maintaining a balanced budget,” Cherriots wrote.

“With the addition of weekend and holiday service, the distinction of being the cleanest public transit fleet in the state because we use renewable natural gas, and the electrification of our fleet on the horizon, now is an exciting time to be a part of Cherriots.”

-Saphara Harrell