Water issues were center stage once again at last night's city council meeting.
During the public work session, council made progress on the Sewer Extra Strength Charge Program—a rate program on hold until December that would charge non-residential customers more based on the strength and flow of their contributions to the sewer system.
The Extra Strength Charge Advisory Group presented multiple rate structure options aimed at making rates better reflect costs while remaining revenue neutral (aside from some increase to cover the cost of additional staff to roll out the new program). The proposed rate structures would impose a modest increase (about $2.50 a month) on commercial customers in the lowest use category, but larger business (such as breweries and bakeries) could see more significant increases under the proposed rate change.[jump]
Council members shared concerns about the impact of the rate changes on both "super high" users who are major employers as well as businesses that put less wastewater into the system than the average residence, yet would be charged at a higher commercial rate.
Despite these concerns, council agreed to hear a refined proposal during the next regular council meeting, while making clear that they would need further clarification and discussion of the rate structure and approach to implementation.
During the visitor's section, 11 residents (and/or their representatives) of neighborhoods previously served by the now-defunct Juniper Utility spoke out about what they feel are discriminatory utility charges, to which they claim they never agreed. Their primary request was that the council agree to a work session to sort out the questions and concerns, to which Mayor Jim Clinton readily complied.
Additionally, residents expressed concern over the impact of increased costs (an additional $26.06 a month for the next 30 years) on those with fixed incomes and on the value of their homes. Many said they were worried about the practicality and environmental impact of using chemically-treated potable water for irrigation.
Kathleen Kiefer explained in an email to the Source that two years after the city condemned the Juniper Utility Co. in 2002, the city met with the president of the four home owners' association boards and "signed an agreement that gave away the irrigation water rights, agreed to a water conversion using treated, potable water for irrigation water, and also obligated 700 homeowners in the Tillicum Village, Mountain High, Timber Ridge and Nottingham Square subdivisions to pay $46,000 each for infrastructure improvements to the city's main line running down 15th street."
Ultimately, she said, the agreement was made behind the backs of the homeowners, and now they're being left to foot the bill.
The city will discuss the issue further at an upcoming work session.
In non-water related issues, council voted unanimously to approve an appeal that will allow Mt. Bachelor Center, LLC to develop the property at the southeast corner of the roundabout at Century Drive and Reed Market Road. In 2007, the development application was challenged by Bend Athletic Club over concerns it didn't adhere to Mt. Bachelor's own master plan. The two parties have since resolved the dispute.
Council also unanimously approved, without discussion, an ordinance amending Bend Code to allows professional service contracts to be directly awarded in amounts up to $30,000 with written authorization by the City Manager.
Finally, the city heard an appeal from a woman who applied for a taxi cab license from the Bend Police Department but was denied based on recent felony convictions (2009 and 2011) for the sale and attempted sale of methamphetamine. The applicant, Suzette Delancey, testified via written statement that she had been denied employment by 42 local companies, ostensibly due to her criminal record. She also stated that she had been offered employment by a manager at Checker Cab, contingent on being approved for a license.
Ultimately, the city voted unanimously after some discussion to deny the appeal. They also encourage the BPD to advise the applicant as to what step she could take to ensure a successful application in the future.