Mirror Pond dredging plan has permits, lacks cash

April 27, 2018
Mirror Pond dredging plan has permits, lacks cash

City, park district have yet to agree on sharing $6.5M cost

The group that wants to dredge Mirror Pond has permits in hand and a July start date in mind, but it could have a hard time getting the city of Bend and the Bend Park & Recreation District to help foot the bill for the project.

Mirror Pond Solutions, a partnership between Old Mill District developer Bill Smith and Taylor NW construction company owner Todd Taylor, plans to remove more than three decades worth of accumulated sediment from the pond. Private donors have committed about $300,000 to the project, which was last estimated to cost $6.7 million, and Taylor expects to get the rest of the cash from the city, the park district and Pacific Power and Light in time to start dredging in July.

“We’re hopeful that we can secure all the funding to allow us to start at that date,” Taylor said.

An earlier proposal would see the city of Bend and the park district each contribute about $1 million and Pacific Power about $4 million, and those funding splits could vary, Taylor said.

A majority of elected city councilors and park board members would have to support spending any city or park district money on the project. But the park district is looking for nonfinancial ways to support the dredging project, and several city councilors said they’d be open to the city paying for part of the project only if the park district also contributed.

Park district Executive Director Don Horton wrote in an emailed statement that the park board has discussed a “funding strategy” with Mirror Pond Solutions and the city of Bend. In a follow-up email, district spokeswoman Julie Brown said the park board supports providing Mirror Pond Solutions with staging areas, access to Mirror Pond and other in-kind contributions.

“We don’t yet know what the funding strategy will be, but we are hopeful that a funding strategy can be found that doesn’t include public funding,” she wrote.

Park board Chairman Nathan Hovekamp said the district is focused on its own project near Mirror Pond and doesn’t have money to spare for dredging. A $7.3 million project expected to be completed in phases would restore the pond’s east bank in Drake Park, replace crumbling retaining walls with more natural plants and expand the Deschutes River Trail.

“We’re absolutely committed to the critical work of restoring the bank of Mirror Pond,” Hovekamp said. “We have more than enough to do in the bank restoration.”

Vice Chairman Brady Fuller added that the board has discussed dredging and that no board members were comfortable paying for the project.

“I’m not comfortable at this time using general fund revenue to support dredging Mirror Pond,” Fuller said.

Board member Ted Schoenborn said discussions are underway to find a “pragmatic solution” to the dredging question. He has participated in many discussions about Mirror Pond during his 15 years on the park board and was one of two park board members on a joint city-park district committee that tried to set a vision for the pond.

“We would likely mirror what the city chooses to do, but it’s really a problem, from our point of view, of the power company,” Schoenborn said.

Pacific Power said it expects conversations about how to pay for the dredging project to pick up now that Mirror Pond Solutions has the permits it needs, but nothing specific has been proposed.

Bend City Councilor Bill Moseley said ideally, the park district would pay the whole cost of dredging. However, he said the city could contribute a portion because city drainage pipes that empty into the Deschutes River contribute to the sediment problem, but only if the park district is an equal partner.

He said the park district’s reticence to pay for dredging is similar to conversations around waiving developer fees for subsidized affordable housing projects. The City Council and school board agreed to exempt affordable housing developers from paying fees, but the park district did not.

“The district exists for the benefit of residents,” Moseley said. “It doesn’t exist for the benefit of parks.”

A city contribution to the project could come from budgetary savings or from increasing franchise fees on Pacific Power, Moseley said.

Councilor Bruce Abernethy and Mayor Casey Roats said they’d support a collaboration between the park district, the city and Pacific Power to pay for cleaning up the pond. Roats said he hopes to know a lot more after a May 10 joint meeting between the city council and the park board.

“I don’t want to see the city go it alone by any means,” Roats said, adding that he was OK with the city paying for a portion of the dredging.

Mayor pro tem Sally Russell, meanwhile, said the council needs a public update on the project before councilors can even begin to consider whether it’s worth contributing to.

“I haven’t seen budgets,” she said. “I haven’t seen proposals. I don’t know who the partners are.”

She said she views Mirror Pond as a community value on some level, but the city has many other community demands to meet. Councilors have spent the past several weeks discussing how to plan for growth and have a tentative agreement to raise water and sewer bills and developer fees to pay for the some of the tens of millions of dollars of new road construction needed to annex new areas.

Councilor Barb Campbell was more blunt about Taylor’s chances of receiving city money for Mirror Pond.

“I don’t see his path for getting money from the city,” Campbell said. “All of the pennies we can gather are going to streets.”

City councilors Nathan Boddie and Justin Livingston and park board members Ellen Grover and Lauren Sprang did not return phone calls. Last fall, Boddie said he opposed the idea of spending tax money on a private project.

Along with trying to secure funding from the city, park district and Pacific Power, Mirror Pond Solutions plans to step up its private fundraising. So far, it’s received $300,000 in private donations, primarily from nearby homeowners and local businesses. Consultant Judy Campbell said the group is likely to expand the scope of its fundraising following a meeting later this week.

“The feeling is that having a beautiful pond is good for everyone,” she said.

Permits would allow dredging to continue until the winter. Mirror Pond Solutions plans to remove 75,000 cubic yards of silt — the equivalent of 900,000 full wheelbarrows.

— Reporter: 541-633-2160; jshumway@bendbulletin.com

Share this post