New Bend survey finds upbeat city views

Council asked to add staff as building picks up

BEND, Ore. - After wrestling with some big controversies recently, Bend city councilors take up a couple of upbeat matters this week – a generally positive community survey and the proposed addition of six employees, half in Community Development due to a recent sharp uptick in building activity.

The phone (both landline and cell phones) survey last month of 400 Bend residents found a strong majority are happy with the city's performance, with 60 percent giving the city an A or B grade, the Portland-based DHM Research survey found. That's up 11 percent from the last survey, in 2007.

Younger residents are more likely to give Bend higher grades than older ones, the results showed.

What's more, 57 percent consider Bend an excellent place to live and 33 percent give it a good rating, up 14 percent from the similar study six years ago. The two weights on those figures – weather and limited job opportunities.

Nearly half (47 percent) believe Bend will be an even better place to live 10 years from now, while just 17 percent say it will be worse. The top issue cited by both groups, population growth.

However, the recession's impacts are seen in that only 13 percent called Bend an excellent place to work. Nearly half, 46 percent, call it an excellent or good place to work – that's off 11 percent from the '07 survey, the results summary says.

As for city services, over 90 percent believe funding all major services are very or somewhat important. But if there needs to be cuts, the top-ranked, at 57 percent, would consider reducing street and sidewalk maintenance, followed by cuts to job creation and economic growth, at 41 percent. Services least likely to be cut if residents have their way are water and sewer and public safety.

A slim majority, 52 percent, would back a mixed approach of new taxes and budget cuts to keep the cuts from going too deep. Fewer than one-fourth (22 percent) said they'd prefer major cuts to city services to avoid tax hikes. But only 15 percent believe taxes should go up to maintain current service levels.

Six in ten residents said they'd consider paying more on their water or sewer bills to help fund upgrades to that infrastructure. It's most popular among new residents, renters and younger residents (18-34), while opposition is strongest among those ages 35-54 and long-time residents (10 or more years).

While the survey presentation is on the work session agenda that begins at 4 p.m., the 7 p.m. meeting agenda includes adding six full-time employees, moving the city total to 450 workers after years of cuts as the once-hot economy cooled.

Human Resources Director Rob DuValle proposes adding three staffers in Community Development: a permit tech, a building inspector/claims examiner and a senior administrative specialist.

In his issue summary, DuValle said CDD has seen an increase in building activity, which has increased approval times beyond identified service delivery standards. In the fiscal year to date, he said, building permit activity has jumped about 65 percent from last fiscal year. Since the department is fee-supported, the added revenues from the building boost is expected to cover the added personnel costs, based on current trends.

The other three proposed positions include new financial and IT analysts, to help in the transition to a new system, and an accessibility manager. The city had an agreement with Redmond last year to share an accessibility manager, but that person retired, and Bend plans to recruit its own full-time accessibility manager.

Click here to find a link to the council's Wednesday agenda, which includes the full survey and other issues.

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