Pacific Power & Light pledged Friday to contribute $300,000 to dredging Mirror Pond, but whether the project will move forward depends on support from the Bend City Council.
The utility company’s promise to contribute $300,000 from its foundation, combined with about $300,000 raised from private donors and $300,000 pledges made this week by the City Council and Bend Park & Recreation District means the remaining cost of dredging is about $5.5 million. The park district, power company and the two men who own the land under the pond favor raising that money through fees charged by the city to Pacific Power customers, but some city councilors are reluctant to support that proposal.
Still, attendees at Friday’s meeting said they thought the dredging project has the momentum it needs to move forward. “I have not ever seen this much energy coalescing around moving this forward,” Bend Mayor Casey Roats said.
Mirror Pond, a small lake in the Deschutes River in Bend between the Newport Avenue Dam and the former Colorado dam site, has been filling with sediment for decades.
The funding proposal, which would result in the city paying about $5.8 million over 10 years, most of it through higher fees paid by Pacific Power users, is different than funding splits proposed earlier. In October 2017, Todd Taylor, of Mirror Pond Solutions, suggested the park district should pay $1 million, the city should pay $1.4 million and Pacific Power should pay $4 million. During a May meeting with The Bulletin’s editorial board, Mirror Pond Solutions, the private partnership that owns the land under the pond, said the park district should pay $2.3 million and the city should pay at least $1 million.
The park district’s board is willing to contribute no more than $300,000, board Chairman Brady Fuller said.
“Our discussion was focused around the cash contribution and that the payment of debt service for the project would come from other means,” he said.
The park district board has not officially voted on the pledge, and its contribution will be contingent on the city committing to the rest of the cost through increasing its franchise fee for Pacific Power, Fuller said. The city charges franchise fees to utility companies for the use of city right-of-way, and companies pass those fees on to customers.
Matt Chancellor, Pacific Power’s regional business manager in Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties, said the company has pledged not to raise base rates on customers, but it is open to negotiating increases in franchise fees in Bend. Bend’s 5 percent franchise fee is lower than other cities, including Redmond.
“We are OK in this instance if the city needs those funds for dredging to negotiate a higher rate,” Chancellor said.
A decision about whether to commit city franchise fees for the remaining roughly $5.5 million will likely be left to the new Bend City Council, which takes office in January. Roats, who supports the dredging project, and City Councilor Nathan Boddie, who does not, will leave at the end of the year.
City Councilor Barb Campbell and City Councilor-elect Gena Goodman-Campbell have publicly opposed the dredging project, while incoming Mayor Sally Russell and City Councilors Bruce Abernethy and Justin Livingston have voiced support of the plan. City Councilor Bill Moseley supports dredging, but has said he has deep reservations about using franchise fees to pay for it and may not support the funding plan.
If Moseley joins Campbell and Goodman-Campbell in voting against a proposal to pay for the project with franchise fees, the decision could be left up to the new councilor expected to be appointed Jan. 16 to fill the last two years of Russell’s council term.
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