December 13, 2010 - Bend Bulletin - Water system, aerial drones among issues before council

December 15, 2010
December 13, 2010 - Bend Bulletin - Water system, aerial drones among issues before council

Water system, aerial drones among issues before council

Busy Bend councilors also plan to tackle possible code change in controversial DMV relocation case

By Nick Grube / The Bulletin

Published: December 13. 2010 4:00AM PST

Bend city councilors will grapple with a number of talking-pointissues during their meeting Wednesday, causing them to kick off a worksession about 30 minutes before the regular starting time.

Amongother things, councilors will discuss unmanned aerial drones, a possible change in direction on a $73 million upgrade to the city’s water system and recommendations that aim to help eliminate a projected $17 millionto $27 million budget shortfall. They will also consider making a change in the development code that, had it been in effect four months ago,would have prevented a recent spat over the DMV relocating to a shopping center in southwest Bend.

On Dec. 1, councilors planned to approve giving a letter of support to open up airspace in Central Oregon to allow for test flights of unmanned aerial drones, but they removed the item from the agenda after hearing some complaints from concerned citizens and pilots.

Currently, drones are not allowed to fly in general airspace and usually are only allowed to be tested in restricted military zones or other areas where special certification has been obtained. Economic Development for Central Oregon, however, wants to get the Federal Aviation Administration to open up a drone testing site in Central and Eastern Oregon airspace in an attempt to attract businesses that test the aircraft. The City Council will again consider whether to give support to the plan with a letter to the FAA after discussing the issue more thoroughly on Wednesday.

Councilors will have a chance to revisit another contentious topic involving the $73 million overhaul of the Bridge Creek water system that provides about half of the city’s annual water supply. The city wants to replace about 10 miles of aging pipelines and add a state-of-the-art treatment facility to its current infrastructure that will help it meet federal clean water mandates and protect against forest fire runoff.

Part of that plan also includes the possibility of installing a hydropower plant to generate revenues to offset the costs.

The project is considered one of the largest undertakings in the city’s history. But at least one group of people, which includes Bend attorney Bill Buchanan and Old Mill developer Bill Smith, believes the project is too expensive and could have adverse impacts on Tumalo Creek water flows.

This group came up with its own proposal to switch to an all-well-based system that would eliminate the need for Bridge Creek water and would rely on Central Oregon’s robust groundwater aquifer. According to the group’s proposal, this could be done for about $60 million less than the city’s current project.

Buchanan and others will meet with the city’s infrastructure committee today to discuss this proposal, and councilors will follow up during their Wednesday meeting.

City officials and some councilors have discounted abandoning the Bridge Creek system because they like having two sources of water and because it reduces energy costs, since it flows by gravity and doesn’t require as much money for pumping.

Budget shortfall

Councilors will also have a chance to look at recommendations that would allow the city to cut into its general fund shortfall.

Because most of this shortfall is a result of funding police and fire services, a committee was formed to take a look at ways to reduce some of those costs.

The committee’s plan, which aims to cut about $15 million between 2012 and 2016 through various strategies, would include reductions in employee wages and benefits, delays in hiring police officers and firefighters, and reducing the general fund subsidies to departments like street maintenance and community development.

Code change?

As far as the DMV is concerned, the council will consider making a change that would not allow large government uses in commercial convenience zoning districts that are designed to serve neighboring residential areas.

The DMV planned to move its offices into one of these zones at a shopping center in southwest Bend in August, setting off a firestorm of complaints from the surrounding neighborhood. When residents complained to the city, councilors told them there was nothing they could do because the government office was technically allowed in that zoning district.

Since then, the Bend Planning Commission made a change to the development code that councilors will consider Wednesday, and the DMV has backed out of its lease with the shopping center and will look for a new location.

What: Bend City Council meeting
Where: Bend City Hall, 710 N.W. Wall St., Bend

Nick Grube can be reached at 541-633-2160 or at

Published Daily in Bend Oregon by Western Communications, Inc. © 2010

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An aerial view of a body of water.