District board supports franchise fee, rejects fee for rivergoers
Stephen Hamway | The Bulletin
Funding a plan to remove silt from Bend’s iconic Mirror Pond may be getting less murky.
During a meeting Tuesday evening, the Bend Park & Recreation District’s board of directors discussed options for funding the removal of sediment from the pond, starting with a list of 15 possible options and narrowing it down to three that the board would support.
In particular, the board supported letting the city of Bend charge Pacific Power and Light, the utility that manages Newport Avenue Dam at the edge of Mirror Pond, with a fee that could be passed down to ratepayers.
The board also expressed near-universal dismissal of a proposal, floated during a joint committee earlier this year, to charge people a small fee to use the Deschutes River.
“Philosophically, I wouldn’t want to charge people to use the river,” said Lauren Sprang, park board member.
Mirror Pond was last dredged in 1984, and the pond collects sediment from the Deschutes River and the Newport Avenue Dam. Last year, Mirror Pond Solutions, formed in 2013 by local businessmen Bill Smith and Todd Taylor, began organizing community fundraising efforts to fund efforts to remove silt from the pond, according to documents from the park district. However, those efforts raised only about $320,000 of the estimated $6.7 million required to remove the sediment. Because of that, the City Council and the park district are looking at ways to fund the rest.
Over the summer, a collection of park district board members, Bend city councilors and representatives from Mirror Pond Solutions met twice privately to come up with approaches to the funding.
The ideas were evaluated according to their legality, their ability to attract funding sources, how long each would take to pay for the project and their ability to pay for future dredging projects.
In addition to the fee charged to the utility, the board was open to seeking additional donations and having the city or park district contribute money from their respective general funds, though several board members were uncomfortable with pulling too much from the district’s general fund.
“Personally, I’m really reluctant to contribute general-fund dollars,” said Nathan Hovekamp, park board member.
For the park district, the dredging is just a portion of a larger effort to improve Mirror Pond and preserve it for future generations. Horton said other projects include preserving crumbling river banks and connecting the area to the rest of the Deschutes River Trail, which the district estimates will cost an additional $6.5 million.
The board also opted to have two members join a public subcommittee, joining with several city councilors to move forward on a solution for dredging the pond.
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