The city of Bend will contribute $300,000 toward dredging Mirror Pond, the same amount the Bend Park & Recreation District also has agreed to pay, under a plan the City Council approved 5-1 Wednesday evening.
Some councilors had reservations about another part of the plan discussed — that the city pay another $5.8 million through increases in fees charged to Pacific Power. City Councilor Barb Campbell, the sole city councilor who opposed the proposal, called that part of the plan “just the super-sneakiest way” to pay for removing silt from the pond. Councilor Nathan Boddie, who missed Wednesday’s meeting, also has spoken against dredging.
“We have a sneaky mechanism to raise rates on power customers so they’re the ones paying for it,” Campbell said.
A few city councilors and park board members met last week with representatives of Mirror Pond Solutions, the private group that owns the land under Mirror Pond and has sought contributions from the city and park district for dredging for well over a year. They agreed the park district and city should each contribute $300,000.
When combined with the slightly more than $300,000 pledged by private donors, the remaining cost of dredging would be $5.8 million.
Mirror Pond Solutions offered to finance that $5.8 million with the understanding that it could be paid back through a 1.5 percent increase in the 5 percent franchise fee the city charges Pacific Power. That cost would be passed on to Pacific Power customers.
Pacific Power’s franchise fee would remain lower in Bend than it is in Redmond, where it’s set at 7 percent.
Councilor Bill Moseley said he thought the city will need to increase franchise fees on Pacific Power regardless of dredging. He said he had deep reservations about how the city and park district would split the dredging cost.
“It’s not a split,” Moseley said. “It’s $300,000 from the parks vs. $6.1 million from the city. I feel like we’re over a barrel.”
Councilor Justin Livingston, too, said he was disappointed in the park district. He said discussions over Mirror Pond will color how he views future collaboration with the park district.
“This body needs to take a leadership role where the parks department in my view has failed,” he said.
The proposal came under criticism from Bend residents who spoke during Wednesday’s meeting. Resident Allegra Briggs told councilors the city had great needs, including affordable housing and infrastructure improvements.
“Dredging Mirror Pond is not a public need,” she said. “You’re wasting taxpayer money.”
Mirror Pond Solutions, which is a partnership between Old Mill District developer Bill Smith and Taylor Northwest construction company owner Todd Taylor, does not need city money, said Ron “Rondo” Boozell, a former city council candidate.
“Two years ago, a lot of people who called themselves fiscal conservatives screamed that they don’t have money to fix our streets, and now they want to give millions to corporations for dredging,” Boozell said.
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