Mirror Pond dredging could cost Pacific Power customers, river floaters

Subcommittee will discuss options for raising $6.7 million

Julia Shumway @jmshumway | The Bulletin

A new City Council subcommittee will consider ways to pay for dredging Mirror Pond that could mean higher utility bills for Bend residents or fees for people floating the Deschutes River.

Six of Bend’s seven city councilors voted Wednesday to form a subcommittee to discuss paying to remove silt from the pond, and the Bend Park & Recreation District plans to vote Oct. 2 on whether it will do the same. It’s the latest movement in what’s been more than a yearlong effort from Mirror Pond Solutions, the private group that owns the land under the pond, to get the city, park district and Pacific Power and Light to help foot the $6.7 million bill to remove three decades worth of accumulated silt from the pond.

Mayor Casey Roats and city Councilors Bruce Abernethy and Bill Moseley will serve on the subcommittee, and they’ll look at 12 options. But they plan to most seriously discuss four options: charging Pacific Power a franchise fee that would be passed down to ratepayers, instituting a park user fee, having the city or park district contribute money from their general funds and seeking more private donations.

“My gut sense is it’s going to be some kind of a hybrid mix,” Abernethy said.

The new group’s meetings will be open to the public and press, unlike two meetings held this summer by several councilors, park board members, City Manager Eric King, park district Executive Director Don Horton and representatives from Mirror Pond Solutions. City legal staff said those discussions, which resulted in the list of funding options the new group will consider, could remain closed because no formal decisions or recommendations came from the meetings.

Every funding option should be discussed and vetted, Mayor Pro Tem Sally Russell said.

“We need to be smart about how we move through this financially with the city,” she said.

Two local businessmen — Old Mill District developer Bill Smith and Taylor Northwest construction company owner Todd Taylor — formed Mirror Pond Solutions a few years ago, after the family that had owned the land under the pond gave it to them. They had the permits required to start removing 75,000 cubic yards of silt from the pond this summer, but private donations have raised only about $320,000.

Mirror Pond Solutions has paid $434,000 for permits, but that total is not counted in the $6.7 million dredging estimate.

Other entities haven’t been eager to contribute. The city and park district have their own upcoming costly projects in the area: a $6.5 million park project to repair crumbling riverbanks and connect the Deschutes River Trail, and an estimated $11.5 million that the city will have to spend to replace or update 13 stormwater outfalls and stop debris from entering the pond through the city’s stormwater system.

City Councilor Barb Campbell, who opposed forming the subcommittee, said it doesn’t make sense for the city to pay for a project in a park when it has its own infrastructure projects to fund.

“We’re talking about spending city of Bend money dredging a pond that is in the middle of a park in a city that has a separate parks district,” Campbell said.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160; jshumway@bendbulletin.com


Dam inspection report under wraps

Bend park officials say PacifiCorp to decide on disclosure

By Hillary Borrud | The Bulletin

Bend Park & Recreation District officials say they will let the utility company that owns Mirror Pond dam decide whether the public gets to see a taxpayer-funded inspection report on the structure .

At least on the surface, that decision appears to be at odds with how city councilors and utility company officials want to proceed. In fact, each party involved has a different idea on how the park district should handle the report. A PacifiCorp spokesman said the decision on whether to release the report is up to the park district, while two city councilors involved in the process said on Monday the report is part of an important community discussion and should be released to the public. PacifiCorp spokesman Bob Gravely said the utility would like to see the report and possibly redact sections of it before the public would see it.

The park district, a government agency that is separate from the city of Bend, hired Phoenix, Ariz.-based contractor Gannett Fleming Inc. to inspect the dam on the Deschutes River last month and provide an independent opinion of its condition. The inspection is supposed to provide crucial information on future dam maintenance costs for city councilors and park district officials, who are negotiating to acquire the dam from owner PacifiCorp.

The park district will pay $23,500 for the inspection and report, Mirror Pond Project Manager Jim Figurski wrote in a recent email. However, Figurski and park district Executive Director Don Horton wrote in emails that because they signed a nondisclosure agreement with PacifiCorp, the utility has the legal right to decide whether the district can release the report. Figurski and Horton declined to provide a copy of the report to The Bulletin without permission from PacifiCorp.

City Councilor Mark Capell said on Monday that because this is an independent inspection report on the dam, it should not contain any of PacifiCorp’s proprietary information. Capell and City Councilor Victor Chudowsky are both members of the Mirror Pond ad hoc committee, a group that includes park board members and citizens and is tasked with deciding the future of Mirror Pond.

“In my opinion, the community needs the information to make a good decision,” Capell said. “So it’s information that needs to be released.”

Chudowsky agreed. “I think the main thing is the community needs to know whether we’re taking over an asset or a liability, and how big that asset or liability is,” Chudowsky said. “It’s critical information, absolutely critical.”

Last fall, the century-old dam sprang a leak and after PacifiCorp conducted its own inspection, company officials said repairs at the hydroelectric project would be too costly to pencil out for their ratepayers. It was the third leak in five years at the dam. Then in February, the utility company changed course and agreed to repair the leak. A PacifiCorp spokesman said in February that the utility estimated the repairs would cost $250,000.

Gannett Fleming has written a report on its inspection of the dam. However, Horton wrote in an email that in his opinion, the inspection report is not yet complete. “I reviewed it late last week and will be asking the consultants to clarify some of their findings,” Horton wrote in the April 7 email. Horton did not say what he asked the consultants to clarify .

The nondisclosure agreement, which names the park district as a potential purchaser of the dam and the city of Bend as an interested party, states that documents created with confidential information from PacifiCorp can only be released with the utility’s consent. It’s unclear at this point whether there is any confidential information from PacifiCorp in the inspection report.

Gravely confirmed last week that the utility wants to see the report before the public does.

“I think ultimately they own the report, so it will be their decision,” Gravely said of the park district. However, he said, the utility company does want to review the park district’s report before it is released to the public and might ask the district to redact sections of it.

“I think the only thing we would want to do first is to make sure there’s no commercially sensitive, confidential information that was provided under the nondisclosure agreement,” Gravely said. “We wouldn’t have a problem with the report itself being released and that would ultimately be their decision.”

Gravely said PacifiCorp employees have not yet seen the report, so he did not know what type of information the utility would consider to be commercially sensitive and want to redact.

Gravely said PacifiCorp executives have not met with local officials since December to negotiate the possible transfer of dam ownership because officials were waiting to learn the findings of the inspection.


Park district is set on turning Mirror Pond into wetland

While we blissfully enjoy all that Drake Park and Mirror Pond offer to our community, your park and recreation district is quietly working to inalterably change it from the iconic pond that is the face of Bend, to a wetland complete with narrow river, cattails, reeds and sloping banks.

I recently attended a “community outreach” event hosted by Jim Figurski, the project manager for the “Mirror Pond Visioning Project.” He presented four options, one of which included dredging the pond and otherwise leaving it alone. He then spent our time explaining why that won’t work — too expensive, too much mud, too much trucking, too short-lived and the dam is too old. It became apparent that a “natural” river is viewed by the district as the only sensible choice, with wetlands and natural vegetation making up the greatly expanded banks adjoining Drake Park.

It quickly became obvious that the unintended consequences of the destruction of Mirror Pond have not been considered. Figurski opined that mosquitoes would not be a problem in the newly formed wetlands because the cattails would blow in the wind, drowning the mosquito eggs.

Though much time and money has been spent controlling ducks and geese, the audience was assured that the profusion of nesting areas resulting in more water fowl would not be a problem because the birds’ line of sight to the water would be obscured by the vegetation along the river bank, making them too nervous to use the lawn. He dismissed the idea of people and animals swimming, saying it is against city ordinances. The danger of children traveling through the underbrush and into the river unobserved was not discussed. Nor were ticks and the threat of disease posed by mosquitoes.

He focused on the age of the dam. He sang the praises of a natural river, ignoring the fact that there are two dams just downstream of the power company dam that would prevent the river from being “natural,” even if the dam were removed. The silt that would fill the downstream dam if the first were removed was clearly not considered.

When asked why the questionnaire sent out to residents did not request a preference as to whether to keep the park as it is, he replied that, like a doctor, the park district could not make a decision until first identifying the symptoms. Apparently the district, like a doctor, will decide what is wrong and make a decision as to how best to treat it. He rejected the idea of a vote, saying the people get to decide whether to vote money for parks but the district decides how to spend it.

I must confess a bias. I have occupied an office across from Mirror Pond for the past 30 years, watching people walk along the river, play and picnic on the lawns, and fish, swim and float in the quiet waters. Visitors are quick to assure me how lucky I am to have a view of the beautiful place that makes Bend so special.

I hunt, fish and enjoy the natural rivers with which we are blessed. The Deschutes flows naturally for hundreds of miles, from Wickiup to the Bill Healy Bridge, from Bend to Billy Chinook and on to the Columbia. The continued maintenance of our beautiful pond in the heart of Bend is not too much to ask. You can visit the parks district website at www.mirrorpondbend.com. If you do not act, Mirror Pond, as we know it, will be history.

— Bruce Brothers lives in Bend.

Mirror Pond questionnaire doesn’t reveal public opinion

If more people fill out an unscientific questionnaire, does that make it mean more? Clearly not, which has been the problem from the start with the approach of the Mirror Pond Steering Committee.

Now officials are concerned that too few people are filling out the second questionnaire or coming to the latest round of meetings.

Project manager Jim Figurski said last week that if more people fill out the questionnaire, decision-makers will be more “comfortable” using the “information.”

If true, that’s unfortunate, because the “information” will be all but meaningless, no matter how many people participate.

Mirror Pond, the central feature of Bend’s downtown, is turning into a mud flat, gradually filling in since it was last dredged in 1984. After years of discussion about what to do, the steering committee was formed and spent January and February holding meetings and collecting responses to its first questionnaire, leading to its June presentation of alternatives and price tags. The new questionnaire asks for reactions to those alternatives, which include doing nothing, preserving the pond as it is, returning it to a natural river, and steps in between. The cutoff date for responses is July 12, and results are to be presented to a joint meeting of the Bend City Council and the Bend Park & Recreation District’s board on July 16.

We’ve argued for dredging to preserve Mirror Pond as it is, although such a decision does depend on resolving questions about the future of the nearby dam and ownership of the land beneath the pond.

Unscientific questionnaires or surveys can easily be influenced by organized groups or even loose coalitions on either side of an issue. They tell you nothing about what a majority thinks or wants or is willing to pay for. And yet the discussion about Mirror Pond has treated these limited bits of reaction as if they mean something about general public opinion.

It’s a dangerous approach, because it builds public policy on a phony foundation. Without at least a scientific survey, the public opinion portion of this project can be worse than meaningless, it can be false.

Overseer is named for Colorado dam project

The first major project funded under last year’s Bend Park & Recreation District bond measure took a step forward Tuesday, with the district’s board of directors hiring a contractor to oversee the construction of the Colorado Avenue Dam safe passage through completion.

Hamilton Construction of Springfield was awarded a construction manager/general contractor contract, an arrangement that will have Hamilton working closely with state and federal regulatory agencies and the engineers designing the project over the next several months. Once the design is set and regulatory issues are addressed, Hamilton will provide the district with a guaranteed maximum price for construction of the project.

The project will convert the area into a three-channel system with separate areas designed for safe passage, whitewater play and a wildlife/fish corridor.

Tuesday’s bid award grants Hamilton $52,900, while the overall estimated cost of the safe passage project is estimated at $7.3 million. The project is expected to break ground in spring 2014 and be completed by spring 2015.

Chelsea Schneider with the park district told the board Hamilton will work with local contractor Jack Robinson and Sons for the duration of the project. By being involved from the design stage onward, Hamilton will be able to monitor the design and engineering of the project to ensure it can be constructed safely and on budget, she said.

“There’s unknowns now, and we felt we needed them on board to help guide what direction the design goes,” Schneider said.

Park district director Don Horton said views differ as to whether the CM/GC style of bidding a project is less expensive than going out for competitive bids at every stage of the process. However, in the case of the safe passage project, Horton said there is a risk that if design and engineering were to proceed without input from a contractor, the construction bids solicited at the end of that process could come in well over budget.

The award of the bid for the dam project came on the same night the board approved the district’s overall budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Like most governments in Oregon, the park district’s budget year begins on July 1 and ends June 30.

Due to the passage of last year’s $29 million bond and adjustments to reserve funds, the 2013-14 budget totals $72 million, as compared with last year’s $34 million budget. Most of the bond funds will not be spent during the upcoming year, however, and will remain in district accounts as the district works its way through the list of projects approved by voters.

The district expects to spend 8 percent more than last year. That doesn’t count bond-related funds and money generated through systems development charges (known as SDCs) assessed against new construction.

Much of the additional cost expected in the coming year is due to staffing increases that replace some of the positions cut in recent years. Park district staff declined from 92 full-time positions in 2009-10 to 83 in the current budget year; next year’s budget creates four new full-time positions.

Park district staff will be required to start chipping in to fund their health and retirement benefits, both of which have been significant drivers of the district’s personnel costs in recent years.

Beginning in the upcoming budget year, full-time employees will begin paying 10 percent of their health insurance premiums and 25 percent of the premiums for their dependents — currently, the district picks up 100 percent of health insurance premiums for full-time employees, and such employees pay 20 percent of their dependents’ premiums.

Similar changes are in store for retirement benefits provided under the state’s Public Employees Retirement System.

On top of its own obligations to the PERS system, the district has also historically paid each employee’s obligation, an amount equal to 6 percent of each employee’s salary. Under the new district budget, employees would begin paying their own obligations, starting with 1 percent of salary and increasing by 1 percent per year over the next six years. New employees hired after July 1 would pay their full 6 percent obligation upon meeting PERS eligibility.

Employees are slated to receive cost of living increases of 1.6 percent and merit-based pay increases of up to 3 percent.

Due to a rebound in residential construction, the district expects revenue from SDCs to jump 27 percent in the upcoming year. Funds generated from SDCs are used to expand park facilities to accommodate the influx of new residents.

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Board finds no conflict in Mirror Pond deal

Members of an oversight committee say they see no problem with Mirror Pond project manager Jim Figurski’s prior connection to the company favored for a consulting contract.

Figurski, a former principal with GreenWorks, a Portland firm, appears to present no conflict of interest under Oregon law, and Figurski disclosed to the Mirror Pond Steering Committee his connection to the company before reviewing contract proposals. The committee could award GreenWorks a contract later this month.

Committee member Bill Smith, of William Smith Properties Inc., said the committee discussed Figurski’s previous employment with GreenWorks and at least one other firm that submitted a proposal for the project.

“We discussed that at length,” Smith said. “Jim made all the disclosures.”

Figurski worked at GreenWorks, a landscape architecture and environmental design firm, for more than a decade and was a principal there when he retired in February 2011. Figurski said Friday that he held stock in the company worth less than $40,000 when he retired, and he receives a payout that is amortized over five years.

“In terms of whether I have a financial interest, the money that’s paid to me as a retirement is basically a stock payout, and is independent of whether GreenWorks continues to make a profit or not,” Figurski said. “I am, in essence, another creditor.”

The contract is to develop and illustrate with drawings a set of alternatives to manage sediment in Mirror Pond. Sediment has piled up in the pond, which was created by a dam at Newport Avenue in Bend. The price range for the contract was advertised as $75,000 to $100,000, and Figurski said he hopes to take a contract to the park district board for approval Feb. 19. The city of Bend and the park district have pledged $200,000 toward finding a solution for Mirror Pond.

Figurski said the Pacific Northwest landscape architecture and environmental design community is small, and he worked at or with nearly all of the firms that submitted proposals for the Mirror Pond project. Two members of the Mirror Pond Steering Committee, an interagency group that oversees the search for a solution for the pond, also said they did not see a problem with Figurski’s connection to GreenWorks.

Under Oregon law, public officials who undertake actions or decisions that affect businesses with which they are associated may have a conflict of interest. This includes a business in which a public official owned stock or had another form of equity interest worth at least $1,000 in the last calendar year. This does not appear to apply in Figurski’s case, because he took a stock payout from GreenWorks more than a year before working on the Mirror Pond contract.

Figurski wrote the request for proposals that described the project for potential bidders, said Bend Director of Community Development Mel Oberst, a steering committee member. “We made a lot of changes to it, and then he sent it out,” Oberst said. “We’re having Jim negotiate the price within the limits we set.”

The steering committee evaluated and scored each firm’s proposal. The steering committee includes officials from the city and the park district, as well as Smith, whose company owns the dam at Colorado Avenue upstream from the pond. The committee also includes a representative of Pacific Power, which owns the dam that created Mirror Pond, and a member of Bend 2030, a civic group.

“The second-place firm also had the same kind of fuzz on their tennis ball,” Smith said, referring to the fact that Figurski had worked for more than one of the companies that sought the contract.

“When I made my ranking sheet, I made (GreenWorks) number one and I didn’t know that he had worked for them,” Smith said. “He told us he doesn’t have any financial interest there. That one is as pure as Caesar’s wife.”

Oberst also said the committee discussed Figurski’s ties to firms that submitted proposals for the project.

“He’s been around for so long, he’s worked for almost all of these companies,” Oberst said. “He’s a veteran of this kind of environmental analysis. He’s 30 years into it.”

Committee members wondered aloud whether Figurski’s history with the firms was an issue. Oberst said it was his understanding that Figurski is completely retired from GreenWorks and does not have a financial interest in the company.

It would be good for the consultant to get an early start on the work this year, because it does require scientific analysis that could require the contractor to work in the river, Oberst said. The proposed options for the pond must be based on information about fisheries and hydraulic actions of the river, Oberst said.

Figurski said he hopes the visioning process brings some clarity to the future of Mirror Pond.

“I think really what I’m ultimately looking forward to getting to is … having a definite direction that we can move forward with,” Figurski said Friday. “I think it’s been missing before, knowing from the community what direction we want to go.”

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Finding a fix for Mirror Pond

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Around 30 Bend residents turned out Wednesday night to weigh in on the future of Mirror Pond at the first of two public meetings hosted by the Mirror Pond Steering Committee.

The committee recently launched an outreach effort to determine what, if anything, should be done about the silt buildup that is slowly transforming the pond into a wetland. Through the end of the month, the committee will be using community meetings and a questionnaire to try to find out what Bend residents value about Mirror Pond. Starting in March, the committee expects to turn toward drawing up potential plans reflecting public preferences.

Jim Figurski, the project manager hired by the steering committee, said there are two “bookends” when thinking about what to do with the pond. One bookend would be a thorough dredging, returning the pond to a state similar to that when Mirror Pond was last dredged in 1984. The other bookend would be removing the Pacific Power dam that created the pond more than 100 years ago, he said, and allowing the river to return to its natural state.

Figurski spent an hour and a half fielding questions Wednesday night, with members of the audience suggesting both “bookend” alternatives and nearly everything in between.

An online questionnaire — available at mirrorpondbend.com — has already attracted nearly 1,000 responses, including half a dozen detailed proposals as to what should be done.

Jane Williamson, a resident of Harmon Avenue on the west side of Mirror Pond, recalled the 1984 dredging, accomplished for $300,000, a fraction of the $2 to $5 million estimates being floated today for similar work. It was a simple process, she said, and much of the silt harvested from the river bottom was sold back to local residents as “the best compost we ever had.”

Williamson said the process of deciding what to do has become overly bureaucratic, and she’s concerned those who live farther from Mirror Pond may not be supportive of a costly dredging operation.

“I would just be so sad if it went back to a river,” she said. “It’s a jewel, it’s the crown jewel of Bend.”

What Pacific Power elects to do with its dam could determine whether the pond remains a pond or becomes a section of the Deschutes River.

The dam, built in 1910, only provides electricity for around 400 homes, Figurski said. He said the utility is nearing the point where the revenue from power generation will be outweighed by the cost of upkeep. The utility could decide to dismantle or decommission the dam in the near future.

Multiple local residents took issue with the online survey, claiming it didn’t provide adequate opportunities for them to cast a vote for dam removal and a natural river approach.

Figurski said that while Pacific Power’s cooperation is needed to return the pond to a natural state, it’s still very much an option. If the pond were left alone and the dam were not removed, the small islands near the Galveston Avenue bridge would likely grow, he said, while shallows would grow even shallower and be taken over by grasses, cattails and similar plants.

“Doing nothing is actually doing something, because something will happen. Rivers evolve,” Figurski said.

Bend resident Bob Baer said he views the silt buildup behind the dam as similar to snow in a shopping center’s parking lot — it’s Pacific Power’s problem, and they should pay the bill.

“I don’t see the people of the city of Bend paying one dime to do maintenance for their business,” he said.

Baer said he wants local residents to have an opportunity to vote before any money is spent to address silt buildup.

Figurski said the public will likely have an opportunity to vote when the time comes. The process is at a very early stage, and even if a plan with broad community support emerges by early summer — as is the goal — funding has not been identified.

A second public meeting is scheduled from 6:30 p.m. Feb. 12 at the Bend Park & Recreation District offices, 799 S.W. Columbia St.

Source: The Bulletin ©2013

Mirror Pond’s future still unclear

While a state wildlife official has said removing the dam that creates Mirror Pond would be a permanent solution to sediment buildup in Bend’s signature body of water, members of a board trying to determine what to do about the clogged pond say that’s not going to happen.

State and federal wildlife managers, as well as state land, water and environmental officials, met with the Mirror Pond Management Board earlier this month. At the meeting, Mike Harrington, assistant district fish biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in Bend, told the board that fish would benefit from reopening the stretch of the Deschutes River known as Mirror Pond.

“I think that would be the best option for everyone,” he said in a telephone interview after the meeting. “You won’t have to dredge the pond on a periodic basis.”

Those involved in the project want to keep Mirror Pond, though, said Don Horton, executive director of the Bend Park & Recreation District.

“It’s been an icon of Bend for 100 years,” he said.

Finding support for the removal of the dam and the demise of Mirror Pond would be a major challenge, said Bend City Manager Eric King.

“I think Mirror Pond is an iconic symbol of Bend,” he said.

Since summer 2009, the management board — which includes leaders from the city of Bend, the Park & Recreation District, Pacific Power, neighborhood associations and watershed restoration groups — has been meeting about how to address the sediment situation in the pond. There is also a separate Mirror Pond Steering Committee, started in November 2010, which is tasked with developing and implementing a long-term plan for dealing with the silt in the pond. The board advises the committee, which has members from many of the same groups.

Pacific Power and Light, which is now Pacific Power, built a small power dam in downtown Bend in 1910 and created Mirror Pond. Silt regularly collects in the pond, creating mud flats that degrade the water quality in the river. Dredging has been the solution in the past. The last time the pond was dredged, in 1984, it cost $312,000. A 2009 study estimated that dredging would now cost between $2 million and $5 million.

The key questions remain: Who would pay for the further study of dredging, and who would pay for the dredging itself?

“That’s the crux of the Mirror Pond issue,” said Ryan Houston, executive director of the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council. Houston is on the management board. “It’s not very clear whose responsibility it is to fix it and what the fix is.”

Before his nonprofit group supports any plans for the pond, be it dredging or dam removal, there needs to be an understanding of the costs and benefits of the options, he said.

The Park & Recreation District was considering a $425,000 Mirror Pond dredging study among its project list for a November bond measure, but removed it last week.

Without the possible bond to support the study, those involved in the Mirror Pond talks are again considering putting the formation of a special taxing district on the November ballot. The district would collect taxes to fund the study.

As the discussion continues, Portland-based PacifiCorp, the parent company of Pacific Power, doesn’t have any plans to remove the dam, said Angela Jacobson, regional community manager for Pacific Power.

“PacifiCorp plans to continue to operate the Bend hydro facility as long it is the interest of our customers,” she said.

The dam helps the power company create about one megawatt of power, which produces enough electricity to supply about 500 homes, according to the company.

Source: The Bulletin ©2012

Bend parks likely to ask for bond

The Bend Park & Recreation District Board is likely poised to ask voters in November to approve a $29 million bond for park improvements.

If the board goes forward with the bond proposal, it will be a downgrade from its initial discussions of a $31 million bond. The board discussed bond options at a work session Tuesday night and will vote on a bond proposal and recommendation at its July 3 meeting.

Don Horton, the district’s executive director, recommended the board eliminate one project — a study that would have explored ways to get rid of silt at Mirror Pond.

That study’s cost was estimated at $400,000.

Horton told the board the Mirror Pond situation is a polarizing issue, with some people thinking the pond should be dredged and others questioning the district’s involvement. As a result, the item would consume a lot of time to explain to people, he said.

“I think the community’s still struggling on what ought to be done and who should be responsible,” Horton said.

Board member Dallas Brown said leaving the Mirror Pond project off is a good idea.

“I don’t think it’s our issue exclusively and I don’t think it’s the best thing to have on the bond,” he said.

And based on low support in a poll, the bond proposal will no longer include a skate park, a project estimated at $500,000.

The district is still crunching numbers and hasn’t fine-tuned where the rest of the cuts — about $1.1 million from the original bond proposal — will come from. The proposal calls for about $11 million of property acquisitions along with another roughly $18 million in projects.

But Horton said savings will be found throughout the proposal process and costs are only estimates at this point.

Board Vice Chairman Scott Asla called the proposal a “golden opportunity,” noting it asks the community for a smaller investment than what the cost would have been five years ago.

The goal is to keep the proposal’s tax increase at less than $50 a year for the average homeowner, Horton said.

Source: The Bulletin ©2012

Park district takes a first step

The Bend Park & Recreation District took a timid step toward putting a $31 million bond measure on the November ballot to develop large-scale projects and buy more land.

While the wish list hasn’t been finalized, some projects could include an ice rink, a passageway for floaters and boaters at the Colorado Avenue dam, upgrades to the Deschutes River Trail, and an analysis of how to address sedimentation buildup in Mirror Pond.

On Tuesday, the park district board of directors said it supported the idea of asking voters to approve a property-tax-funded bond measure, but admitted there’s still a lot of research to do.

“This is a very preliminary, very big, ugly, scary step,” Board Chairman Ted Schoenborn said. “Well, I shouldn’t say it’s ugly, but it is big and it is scary.”

The $31 million bond measure would be paid back through property tax assessments. According to district officials, an assessment for the average homeowner would be less than $50 a year.

In addition to a nearly $20 million list of possible construction and development projects, directors discussed an $11 million list of potential property acquisitions. That discussion took place during an executive session that was not open to the public.

If any land acquisitions were a part of a bond measure, Park District Executive Director Don Horton said that property information would almost certainly be revealed. In general, he said the district is looking at property that bolsters the Deschutes River trail system and add to the amount of open space that’s available, particularly for regional parks such as Shevlin Park.

Director Ruth Williamson expressed the most apprehension about the bond measure. She was concerned about whether it was the right economic climate and wanted to make sure the district was ready to undertake such an “ambitious” proposal.

“If we’re going to do this,” Williamson said, “we (need to) understand that we’re going to have to give this 150 percent, nothing less, to give this a chance.”

The park district last considered a bond measure in 2004. At that time, the district wanted a new tax to pay for a $25 million indoor recreational facility and pool on Bend’s west side similar to Juniper Swim & Fitness. The bond would also include $5 million to renovate the Juniper pool facilities.

Ultimately, district officials decided not to put that measure on the ballot. Survey results at that time showed there wasn’t much support among voters.

The district recently hired a firm to poll residents about whether they would support a new park district bond measure. The results were mixed, with some officials describing the support in terms of a traffic signal that’s stuck somewhere between yellow and green. There was also more support for conservation projects rather than the expansion of recreation facilities.

Based on these results, the survey firm told the park district that it would “clearly be challenging” to pass a bond measure, but “there does appear to be a path to success.”

The district has until September to craft ballot language for a bond measure. In the meantime, district officials said they will continue to look at the best way to approach a bond measure, and work with the community to come up with a project list they think would pass.

Source: The Bulletin ©2012