BEND, Ore. - Bend streets have finally seen some sunshine -- and bare pavement. But the potential for another snowstorm has the city's Streets and Operations Department on edge. If another big storm blows through, the city could have to dig deeply into reserve funds..
"To date, we have been able to handle the additional costs related to hiring private contractors, over time of staff, and that has all been absorbed into that two year budget that we have," City Manager Eric King said Tuesday. "However, if this storm trend continues and we need to call out private contractors for more events, that will begin to impact our reserve amounts."
Like other departments, the Streets and Operations Fund has a two-year budget, and if there are excess funds (due to a light winter, for example), the city uses that money for street preservation like filling potholes and re-paving streets. However, this extreme weather has depleted that budget, leaving only the reserves to handle another storm.
"If we pull that money from our reserve account, we will have to have a plan to put money back into that reserve account," said King. "What that is going to do is put additional stress on our Streets and Operations Department."
Part of that department's money comes from the state gas tax and also from the city's general fund, which also includes police and fire. Streets, police and fire make up 90 percent of the general fund, but are all competing priorities.
King said Bend has spent over $600,000 on private contractors to help clear the streets, compared to years past, where it totaled about $150,000.
This year's winter operations hinders the ability to give adequate time and money to street improvements such as filling potholes and keeping the streets from becoming worse, King said.
One resident told NewsChannel 21 he thought the city had done a good job of clearing the main roads, but could do a better job on clearing the roundabouts, where large trucks have gotten stuck.
The city is temporarily filling potholes until the spring because the asphalt plants aren't open. For now, the main stress comes from the threat of another storm forcing the city to use the reserve funds in the Streets and Operations Department, slowing down general improvement plans.