With a 2-to-1 vote of approval by the Deschutes County Commission on Monday, Oregon State University-Cascades will buy the county’s old demolition landfill in Bend for $1.
OSU-Cascades’ existing 10-acre campus and the old pumice mine it owns sit adjacent to the 72-acre landfill property. The university plans to expand by building in the former mine and on the old landfill, which collected construction debris from the early ’70s until the early ’90s in southwest Bend.
After some discussion Monday morning, Deschutes County Commissioners Tammy Baney and Tony DeBone voted to sign the agreement between the county and university. Frustrated with some details of the agreement, but supportive of the university expanding in general, the third county commissioner, Phil Henderson, voted against it. The final, formal step will be for Oregon State University President Ed Ray to sign the agreement this week.
Originally the university expected discussion of the agreement would be finished in January of this year, then by spring. The two signed a letter of intent on the landfill in August 2015. Part of what led to a lengthy back-and-forth between the university and county were talks of liability.
The county could not keep the landfill as it is indefinitely; it would eventually have to pay “potentially significant costs” to clean it up, said Timm Schimke, Deschutes County Solid Waste Department Director, who worked at the landfill during part of its operation.
The agreement states if the cleanup costs more than the land is worth, the university will pay $1 for the 72-acre property.
The estimated cleanup cost is $43.3 million, while the higher of two land appraisals is $30 million.
The university is required to enter into a special agreement with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, which outlines the university’s responsibilities in cleaning up the old landfill, according to Deschutes County Property Manager James Lewis. If there is unauthorized waste found in the landfill during cleanup, the county could have to pay up to $1.5 million toward that cost. Unauthorized waste is material the Department of Environmental Quality would not have allowed during the years the landfill operated, Lewis said.
“Right now we don’t have any knowledge of such waste, but it’s kind of a common presumption that during disposal of things at any landfill that there are things that people sneak in, inside the black Hefty bag,” Lewis said.
Once the cleanup is complete, the permit the county has with the Department of Environmental Quality transfers to the university.
Discussing the agreement, Henderson made his qualms clear.
If OSU-Cascades sells the landfill property instead of developing it, it would have to give some of the proceeds to Deschutes County, according to Lewis. Henderson fears that may not come to pass because of exceptions added to the agreement.
In addition, the university is applying for grants to help cover cleanup costs. Henderson said the way the agreement is written, he doesn’t believe the county would receive any grant money to help if it had to contribute to clearing unauthorized waste.
It will be an uphill battle for OSU-Cascades to receive the funding it wants from the state, Henderson said, but he’s supportive of the university expanding and would like to help it get the money it wants. In the last Legislative session, OSU-Cascades received only a fraction of the money it asked for from the state for expanding the campus — $9 million instead of the requested $69 million.
That $9 million will go toward starting to clean a portion of the landfill property beginning in 2018, Kelly Sparks, the university’s associate vice president for finance and strategic planning said Monday afternoon. Also Monday afternoon, OSU-Cascades Vice President Becky Johnson said the university will ask for $39 million from the Legislature in 2018.
Baney and DeBone, who were both pleased with agreement, shared their excitement over what the landfill property will mean for OSU-Cascades. Part of the time the demolition landfill would have been in operation, its location would have been considered well outside of town, DeBone said. And for Baney, a Mountain View High School graduate, it’s past time for Bend residents and Central Oregonians in general to have their own four-year university, she said.
— Reporter: 541-383-0325, firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s note: This article has been corrected. The original version misspelled Timm Schimke’s name. The Bulletin regrets the error.