We’re skipping our regularly scheduled segment on how the council voted at its last meeting to bring you four little chunks of city news. Junk on downtown sidewalks! City plays Santa Claus on a midsummer’s night! Read on.
City Council Election Heating Up (And It’s Only June!)
The race for open Bend City Council positions in the November election just got more interesting.Bend developer, downtown building owner and Bend Planning Commission Chair Doug Knight announced June 22 that he will terminate a campaign against current councilor Kathie Eckman and instead run for the position currently held by Jeff Eager.
Eager has said he will not run for another term.
The change means Knight will now run against Pisano’s pizza owner and former Deschutes County Commission hopeful Ed Barbeau, community association consultant Edward McCoy and Bend resident Charles Baer.
Knight said he made the switch because he does not believe those candidates are qualified to serve on the City Council.
“I felt like if any of the three were to be elected that would not be best for Bend,” said Knight.
Of those three candidates, Knight singled out Barbeau as the strongest, but said Barbeau lacked the governmental experience necessary to be a good councilor.
“Nor has he really been exposed to the difference between a quasi-judicial matter and a legislative matter and I’m not really sure he knows the difference,” said Knight.
Barbeau said Knight’s perspective gives him a “reason to run hard.”
“I think what’s happening here is that we have candidates here who have been on some of the governmental affairs boards and…that makes them qualified in their own minds to run the government,” said Barbeau, who said he relishes the chance to oppose Doug Knight. “I’ll be happy to campaign against Doug Knight. I’m not afraid of Doug Knight.”
Both men are opposed to the Bridge Creek Surface Water Improvement Project, which will be an interesting factor in the fall election. A PAC has been formed to support candidates against the project called Stop SWIPing Ratepayers Dollars. As of press time the PAC was reporting a balance of about $3,000.
Candidates may file to run for the available positions through the end of August. See the Bent Blog for more on how the race is shaping up so far.
Bend Council Approves Sweeping Fee Increases
Nearly every fee charged by the city will be going up after the Bend City Council approved increases at its Wednesday night council meeting.
The fee increases affect nearly every single resident of the city.
Still, the proposed changes in fees were not formally noticed to the public prior to their appearance on the council’s agenda earlier this week, and councilors said they were frustrated they did not have more time to understand the fees before being asked by city staff to pass the changes.
But despite reservations, the council approved the new fee schedule. The final vote on the fees was 5 to 1 with Jim Clinton opposed. Jodie Barram was absent.
The most broadly applicable increases will be seen on water and sewer bills. Water rates will increase by five percent and sewer rates will increase by six percent starting July 1.
Though a few fees were reduced by the city, for instance the cost of a permit to move a building, and some fees remained unchanged, most were increased by at least 2.5 percent.
Several council members were taken aback at the request from city staff to increase the fees.
Councilor Scott Ramsay said he was uncomfortable passing a 24-page fee schedule without more time to digest whether the increases were fair.
“When we are faced with a 24-page list of fees…and we have very limited discussion of fees and why they are what they are, it makes me feel uncomfortable,” Ramsay said.
City Manager Eric King apologized to the council for not discussing the fee adjustments with the council before Wednesday’s meeting.
Council Plays Santa Clause with Unexpected Revenue
The city pulled in roughly $2 million more in revenue than expected this year.
The cash comes mostly from an increase in tax revenues and casts the council, which has governed through some of the worst of an economic recession, in a rare role.
The council decided to save about $1 million of the money and spend the other roughly $1 million on several one-time projects.
Here’s how the council tentatively decided to spend the money at its last meeting.
•$150,000. This software gives traffic cops the ability to ditch paper ticketing and instead use bar codes on licenses to help record citations and crash reports. Police Chief Jeff Sale said this will save time for cops and possibly increase number of citations by about 10 percent.
•New vehicles, $121,000. Sale said the council has cut about $850,000 from the police department’s patrol car budget. Department would buy two new patrol cars, a pick-up truck and a motorcycle.
•A feasibility study to consider consolidating the city’s fire department with the area’s rural fire department, $30,000.
•Communication hardware, $250,000. This upgrades communications equipment for the fire department that must be replaced by the end of the year.
•Repaving of a section of Empire Avenue near the parkway, $303,888.89. This upgrade also allows the city to bring 35 curb ramps into compliance with ADA rules.
Though the city didn’t decide how it will spend the rest of the $1 million during its Wednesday night meeting, City Manager Eric King said the council is considering using the funds to assist OSU-Cascades in becoming a four-year university with its own campus.
Junk on Downtown Sidewalks A Problem
Earlier this year, the owner of a shop downtown stacked her snow tires on the sidewalk outside her door and tried to sell them.
That and all the other random uses downtown business owners are finding for sidewalks—folding tables, racks of clothes, brochure displays—is a problem, representatives of the Bend Downtowner’s Association told the Bend City Council Wednesday night.
“We aren’t…trying to make it difficult to do business downtown,” clarified Chuck Arnold, director of the Downtowner’s Association. He just wants to see an equitable solution that provides access to all sidewalks downtown, he said.
The solution is clarity of rules and consistency in their application, said Arnold.
Council members expressed concerns over the problems and said they would take up the “junk on the sidewalk,” as Councilor Mark Capell put it, at a later meeting.
I Screwed Up
A few weeks back I told you that the Bend City Council approved a roughly $2.4 million contract with a company to assist in an upgrade of the city’s wastewater treatment plant. I referred to that company as a consultant and I was 90 percent wrong with that characterization, according to City Manager Eric King. The company is actually providing the equipment to upgrade the plant. About 10 percent of the work they do is consultant-like. For instance, design and trouble shooting kinds of things. Anyway, I was wrong and, Council, I apologize for the error.