Bend City Hall
Twenty year sewer plan
The Bend City Council Wednesday night seemed genuinely impressed with what appeared to be a revolutionary way to plan, build and charge for utility expansion in the community. The council was presented with a twenty year plan for sewer collection, transport and treatment. And it came as very welcome news. Instead of costing $130 million dollars over the next twenty years, it’ll be something 30% less than that – $80 million. It means, according to the city’s public works department, stable sewer rates for the foreseeable future while expanding the system to meet growing needs as Bend infills its vacant lands and fills out toward the edges of its urban growth limits.
The plan relies on a highly sophisticated array of software that allows cities and sewer districts to project future needs for more pipes, pumps and lift stations to get sewage to the nearest treatment plant. And it does it all in what was described as the most cost efficient manner – so the city doesn’t spend too much too soon based on current demand while still adding capacity later – a rather efficient “pay as you grow” system.
Public Works officials told the council that current expansions like the Southeast Interceptor, the Colorado Lift Station and increasing capacity on Bend’s north area will all be integrated into the overall “smart” plan – all built at the right time to provide the proper level of capacity when needed. This will, they say, prevent future over or under capacity throughout Bend. The plan also entails getting Bend residents that are still on septic tanks off of them. A special reserve fund is contemplated to begin that process, coupled with establishing local improvement districts to ensure those property owners pay into a fund that extends pipes to their properties.
Another review session is planned before the city planning commission November 24th and then back before the city council on December 3rd and 17th. On December 19th the plan is expected to be forwarded to the state Department of Land Conservation and Development for its review and hoped-for approval.
Again, total cost to the community for future sewer expansions is estimated to be $80 million rather than $130 million which should not drive sewer rates much higher over the long run because of the smarter pacing of infrastructure improvements.
New medical response plan welcomed by city council
Putting the $2 million fire protection tax levy to good use – doing more without paying retail
The City Council also got a report from Fire Chief Larry Langston and his staff that they now have a plan to put a recent fire protection levy override to good use. As promised to the voters, Chief Langston said the new plan will lower emergency response times within the Bend city limits from roughly 8 minutes down to 6, and in the Bend rural area from 12 minutes down to 8.
Chief Langston told the council that the key is in hiring lower cost EMT’s to take the place of highly trained paramedics which are often dispatched when their level of medical expertise is not required at the scene. Langston said that during the day most medical calls can be handled by EMT’s. When the program is in full bloom in early 2016, the more highly skilled (and higher paid) paramedics will respond mainly to emergencies that require such high levels of emergency medical intervention.
An added benefit to this more ‘calibrated’ response system is that at night, when medical calls taper off, and fires are more frequent, paramedics will be able to respond with regular firefighers on trucks that will now have a full complement of responders – four personnel instead of three. Upon arrival, having four personnel will allow OSHA-approved entry into a burning building to more quickly rescue anyone inside. Currently, Bend fire trucks carry only three personnel which means a fourth firefighter arriving in a separate vehicle will have to get there before anyone can go inside for a rescue.
Chief Langston, along with the city council, congratulated all who made the plan possible, including the Bend firefighters union which saw the need for enhanced service to the community and supported the changes. Langston said 93% of union members voted in favor of it. Again, full enactment is expected by mid-2016.
Vacation Home Rentals – Issue heating up
A number of Bend residents sternly addressed the council over what they called unwelcome Vacation Home Rental intrusions into their neighborhoods, especially a few specific ones. Some chastised the city for what they contended, in a round-about way, was a “loading” of the VHR study task force in favor of business and other special interests that favor VHRs. Neighbors complained that their neighborhoods were being made into a shadow of a typical residential area, what with the constant coming and going of “strangers” who are there to party, have fun, then leave – some partying more loudly than others and causing trash and parking problems to boot.
City staff defended the make up of the task force saying that its members are on the committee only to articulate various viewpoints on VHRs, not to write rules or regulations to control them – that’s up to the city council. City Manager Eric King chimed in reminding the council that recommendations from the committee are just that – recommendations. He added that the status quo on VHRs will not be allowed to continue, especially in view of the numerous complaints that have come into city hall about problems suffered by year round residents in their own neighborhoods. At the urging of complaining citizens the council expanded the membership of the 23 member committee to 24 to include Bend Bed and Breakfast owner Anne Goldner for whom the neighbors seem to have great respect.
The VHR Task Force will meet a number of times in the near future to adopt a series of observations as to the benefits and liabilities of VHRs and what can be done to fix the problems that VHRs post to single family neighborhoods. Many cities in Oregon are wrestling with the same issues as the economy improves and those who own vacation homes in desirable resort areas like Bend are seeing their customer base return in droves.
All city and county governments generally see VHRs as beneficial because they enjoy not only enhanced property taxes but also tourism room taxes that are produced by VHRs.
Council candidate Casey Roats.
Will the city council seat accept him as the winner?
City Council candidate Casey Roats – on the hot seat
…and finally, will the Bend City Council accept City Council candidate Casey Roats as a newly elected member of the council. Coast got the most votes for Position 6 but it was learned that Coats had not lived within the Bend City limits for a full year prior to the election. Coats has stated publicly that he did live outside Bend with family while he built a new home within the city limits of Bend. The council will have to wrestle with the question; “Was his intent to live in Bend the same thing as actually living in Bend?” The law is very vague about residency and usually sides with those who can make even weak arguments as to where THEY consider home. Coats maintains that he always intended to live in the city or why would he build a home there? However, would it be different if someone else put a deposit down on an apartment but never got around to moving in? But again, Roats could argue he worked diligently to get his home ready for occupancy.
The council decided to settle the issue at a special council meeting on Monday, December 1st. The council will interview Roats as to his “true residency,” talk about his responses and then render a decision. It’s their’s alone to make under the city charter. Although the public is welcome to attend the special meeting and witness all of the proceedings, there will be NO public comment allowed. Again, the issue is strictly among city council members. If they go along with Roats’ version of “true residency” he’ll be sworn into office at the council’s regular meeting later that week. If not, the runner-up candidate, Lisa Seales, would be in line to assume the Position 6 council seat.