Membrane filtration will hike Bend water rates

Ratepayers can expect to pay about $3.60 more a month

Bend councilors pick costlier water option

BEND, Ore. - For every twist of the tap, soon you'll be paying more.

"The rates will increase, it looks like 10 percent, which the equivalent is $3.60 a month," City Councilor Sally Russell said Thursday.

In a lengthy council discussion Wednesday night, following years of delays and months of debate, councilors voted 4-3 to clean the city's drinking water with a $31 million membrane filtration system -- rejecting a cheaper, ultraviolet option that could have have cost rate payers nothing.

If more groundwater wells were added with the ultraviolet system, that option's cost could have risen to $1.80 more per month for ratepayers.

Although it's the most expensive option, councilors Mark Capell, Jodie Baram, Victor Chudowsky and Scott Ramsay voted to for membrane filtration.

"It is the best long-term system for the community, and I think in the long-run will save us money," said councilor Mark Capell.

However, Russell was one of the three who voted for the UV system.

"I really thought UV would do the job, and that membrane committed us to much higher short-term and long-term financial commitments," Russell said.

Capell, whose yes vote for the membrane option broke a 3-3 tie, earlier had declared a potential conflict of interest, as he has several times in the past.

"My brother works for the company doing the design -- now he has nothing to do with the water project, he's an electrical engineer," Capell said.

City Attorney Mary Winters told NewsChannel 21 that state ethics officials determined all Capell had to do was declare a potential conflict of interest before voting -- something he said was important to him.

"When there is a fire in the watershed, chances are the UV system would get thrown away, and we'd end up putting in the membrane filter," Capell said.

But Russell argues UV works great for many cities around the U.S. -- and says we've added the wrong burden on taxpayers.

"Our community has a lot more investments to make," Russell said. "We have new schools, we still have the operational funding for those, we have public transit to figure out."

Construction on the new treatment station is expected to begin this spring and finish in 2015.

City officials said as many as four new jobs could be added to operate that station.

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