Hot water topic at Bend council debate

All but one candidate speaks to Bend Rotary

POSTED: 7:37 PM PDT October 10, 2012 
Bend council candidates spar over water project
BEND, Ore. -

As Bend City Council candidates stumped for votes Wednesday, a federal judge in Eugene heard arguments for and against the city's controversial surface water project.

There wasn't a  ruling Wednesday, with a decision expected in coming days. But as you would expect, city council candidates did bring up the controversy numerous times at a Rotary Club of Bend meeting Wednesday.

"It's clear to me that the surface water project is an outrageous amount of your money going in pursuit of a couple of red herrings," said council candidate Barb Campbell. 

"In 2006 the EPA wrote a report called the "National Primary Drinking Water Regulation' -- we have to adhere to that, and part of that is putting the pipe in the ground," said Ed McCoy, another council candidate.

Campbell and McCoy were just among the 11 (of 12 total) Bend City Council who introduced themselves at the gathering, one of many such appearances in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 6 vote count. The only candidate absent was Jim Clinton's challenger, Mike Roberts.

Clinton has been the lone city councilor to oppose the project, and on Wednesday, continued to stand by his position.

"I have been consistently the only councilor to vote against the project as it evolved in that form and in what form it should take," said Clinton. "So the votes have been 6-to-1, 6-to-1 continuously."

Clinton said he thinks the city should go for a less expensive project.

"I think current events show that it would have been wise to follow my advice," Clinton said.

Critics have raised environmental impacts, as well as the project's high costs to ratepayers and their belief the city would fare better by solely on ground water wells.

"I think we've learned clear and loudly that the city of Bend ratepayers are not willing to absorb the cost of this project," said candidate Doug Knightl. "That's why it has been necessary to have this stay of execution" -- the temporary restraining order and injunction sought in court by Central Oregon LandWatch.

Knight, who hopes to replace outgoing Mayor Jeff Eager, is also against the project.

"I feel like the project unfortunately has been built on the backs of the ratepayers, and also dependent upon on uncertain SDC (developer fee) funds," Knight said.

One of his three challengers, Ed Barbeau, feels differently.

'I actually wish that we would have 1,000 people at city council paying attention to this. Because it's made city council, the current one, sit up and take notice," Barbeau said.

Barbeau said he isn't against the whole water project. He just wants to limit its size and scope and get more support from the federal government.

"The city of Portland did that very effectively," Barbeau said. "That would have saved us another few million dollars, and I think that would have been the way to go with this."

A federal judge heard arguments Wednesday from critics who want a full hearing on the issue. The city stands by its decision to move forward but has agreed to hold off on Wednesday's originally scheduled project start until the judge rules on the opponents' request for an injunction..

While infrastructure has become a big issue, with a potentially even costlier sewer project on the way, Knight said economic development and jobs are more important.

He says the city spends more on animal control then it does on business recruitment --  something he says is a travesty.