Bend park board candidate misrepresented the facts

It is unusual for the Bend Park & Recreation District board of directors to submit a response to an In My View to correct factual errors and misrepresentations from a member of the public. However, in this case, the board believes it is important to do so because the author of these claims is a candidate for the board of directors of BPRD.

Foster Fell submitted an In My View that was printed in The Bulletin on May 12. He made four points, all of which are factually incorrect.

Point 1: Fell claims that BPRD manipulated the level of service (LOS) numbers to support acquisition of neighborhood parks as a part of the bond program. There is no plan to acquire land for neighborhood parks using part of the bond proceeds. Neighborhood park acquisition has adequate funding through the BPRD System Development Charge program. The LOS of neighborhood parks was reduced in the comprehensive plan update because the LOS in the previous plan was unobtainable. There are funds in the bond measure to acquire larger community and regional park lands. The community park will be in southeast Bend where our residents are currently under-served. The regional park land is along the Deschutes River and represents key conservation lands worthy of public access.

Point 2: Unfortunately, the BPRD had a very public disagreement with United Senior Citizens of Bend. Fell asserted that USCB attended a board meeting where the board refused to allow them to speak. Even though USCB representatives arrived an hour and a half after public testimony had concluded, Fell believes the board chair should have suspended the meeting and allowed the senior group to speak. The board chair chose not to interrupt the course of business but later agreed to dedicate an entire meeting with the USCB board on Jan. 15 where USCB representatives fully discussed their concerns.

Point 3: Fell claims the Mirror Pond siltation solution will be decided by a five-member steering committee. This is also not true. The Mirror Pond Management Board has heard from more than 1,800 respondents to a recent questionnaire. A second questionnaire will be submitted in the near future. The Steering Committee will not make the final decision. Rather the ultimate decision will be made jointly by the elected representatives of the Bend City Council and the BPRD board. If a funding measure is required to pay for the siltation problem, it must be submitted to the public for a vote.

Point 4: Finally, Fell claims BPRD is intentionally reducing staff hours in order to subvert the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that goes into effect after Jan. 1, 2014. The BPRD, as all employers, is carefully reviewing the financial impact of the new law and related health care costs. BPRD has required employees to pay a portion of their dependent care health insurance costs. This year, in coordination with recommendations from the board-appointed benefits committee and discussions with employee representatives, BPRD is requesting that employees begin paying a portion of their health insurance premiums. BPRD has not reduced employees’ hours to circumvent the Affordable Care Act. However, the board, as good stewards of taxpayer dollars, must consider all the options as the new law is implemented.

You should know that BPRD strives in every decision to be a trusted steward of your tax dollars while delivering a vision for parks and recreation programing that sets a national standard for excellence. We hope you’re proud of your parks. As your representatives, our board is grateful for the ongoing support of this community, both business partners and citizens alike.

The ability of your park district to continue offering exceptional services is conditioned upon electing board members who understand the issues, both past and future. A good board of directors requires hard work, constant analysis, sincerely listening and teamwork.

Thank you for your consideration of this rebuttal. And please remember to vote.