New Bend councilors may sink water project

Newly elected members critical of expense, path

New councilors may decide water project's fate

BEND, Ore. - The races for Bend City Council may have been decided largely on one issue: that controversial surface water improvement project.  So just how key was the issue in knocking out a long-time incumbent and the other choices?

Every single candidate elected, or re-elected, last night was either running against the water project in total or favored changing some aspects of the current plan, which begins with a $20 million pipeline replacement but eventually could cost even more.

It appears quite likely the issue played a key role in the races.

"I have been consistently the only city councilor to vote against the project as it evolved in that form," Councilor Jim Clinton said at a Rotary meeting weeks before Tuesday's election. "Current events show that it would have been wise to follow my advice."

Clinton won re-election easily, and joining him on the next city council is Sally Russell, who defeated incumbent Kathie Eckman.

Eckman voted for the project, which Russell opposes.

"It absolutely needs to be re-evaluated," Russell said.

Russell says she'll urge the council to reconsider the project as it is currently proposed.

She also says she's interested in creating new ways to involve the community on such major decisions.

"I'm really concerned about the way city council makes decisions, especially decisions that have huge dollar amounts attached to them," Russell said.

Doug Knight, an engineer and planning commission member who also won a council seat, doesn't like the project's high cost to ratepayers.

"We've learned clear and loudly that the city of Bend ratepayers are not going to absorb the cost of this project," Knight said.

The third newly elected councilor, Victor Chudowsky, says he's also against the costly project and wants to look at more ways to reduce the price tag.

And he knows he's not alone.

"New people have been elected to the city council that have ideas that they are going to bring to the table," Chudowsky said. "We are going to look at those ideas and subject it to the same level of scrutiny as the current plans are."

Chudowsky knows the issue is an important one.

"There is no other thing that the city does that's more important than bringing clean fresh water to everybody's houses," Chudowsky said.

It's just one of the big issues the new and current councilors will have to deal with.

Chudowsky told NewsChannel 21 while the water project was important for the candidates who won, there were other issues equally as important, including the siltation of Mirror Pond,  the parks bond and another big-ticket item: the city's sewer upgrade project.

The new councilors will be sworn in in January for their four-year terms.

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