Bend homeowners and developers will pay higher fees to cover the cost of completing Empire Avenue and Murphy Road, which are needed to speed the construction of homes and businesses outside city limits.

The Bend City Council voted Wednesday to increase water and sewer fees and hike developer fees to pay for the two roads. Both are viewed as crucial to developing land north, south and east of Bend. Mayor Casey Roats, whose family owns a water utility, recused himself from the discussion about water and sewer fees.

These fee increases are intended to pay to extend Empire Avenue east to 27th Street and Murphy Road east to 15th Street. Completing Empire Avenue is expected to cost $23 million and completing Murphy Road would cost $32 million.

The water and sewer fees have traditionally been used for street construction, but the city’s most recent budget shifted that money to use it for street maintenance, City Manager Eric King said.

“The council has decided to prioritize those corridors, and we’re looking for ways to fund those corridors,” he said. “The franchise fees provide a revenue stream to go out and issue debt for these projects.”

Developer fees will increase 28.7 percent, from $5,285 to $6,800. These fees are based on the number of trips new homes and businesses are expected to cause. Water and sewer fees will increase by 1 percent, which the city estimated will result in bills that are $1 to $3 higher for most homeowners. The actual increase depends on how much water they use.

Councilor Barb Campbell, who reluctantly voted for the increases, called it a “nice sneaky way to get money for our streets from our citizens.” Customers of the city’s water system, as well as Roats Water System and Avion Water, pay the water and sewer franchise fees on their water bills.

“There have been a couple of folks who have announced their candidacy saying they’ve been able to find money to fix our streets without raising taxes,” she said.

Councilors also approved funding for several new employees focused on implementing plans to annex and develop 2,380 acres outside city limits and redevelop some areas in town, as well as a new police detective focused on the marijuana black market. The detective will have a counterpart in the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office.

They also approved a $5.5 million contract to repair a pipeline that brings all wastewater in Bend to the city’s sewage treatment plant northeast of town. The project, expected to be completed by the end of the year, will essentially replace the 30-year-old pipe by forcing a new lining into the pipe through manholes and then curing it with heat or ultraviolet light.

Mayor Pro Tem Sally Russell said she only wants to have two closed-door meetings on how to pay for Mirror Pond dredging. She, Councilor Justin Livingston and Councilor Bruce Abernethy are part of a work group that the city contends can hold closed meetings without telling the public because members will only gather and report information, not recommend policy.

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

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