October 2, 2011 - Bend Bulletin - Bridge Creek decision failure

Oct 03, 2011

October 2, 2011 - Bend Bulletin - Bridge Creek decision failure

Bridge Creek decision failure

Published: October 02. 2011 4:00AM PST

Bend will need more clean water. Where should it come from? The city has looked at options — upgrading piping, adding treatment and hydropower to its facility at Bridge Creek or drilling more wells. The city picked Bridge Creek.

We don’t know which is the better option. We don’t know how the city can say it knows, either. It failed to get an objective analysis comparing the choices. That’s scary.

It’s a nearly $70 million project. Residents will pay by watching their water bills go up. The city seems irritated by any more discussion or debate.

Councilors and city staff say the city has been looking at this issue for at least two years. Councilors voted 6-1 to move ahead on Bridge Creek almost a year ago. Why then, they have asked, are all these questions coming now?

We can think of 70 million reasons. There are effects on Tumalo Creek. The project’s pricetag and design has changed over two years. And there’s been some worrying behavior from Bend’s City Manager Eric King.

For instance, Matt Shinderman, an instructor at OSU-Cascades, was organizing a community forum on water. King called Shinderman. He said he was concerned Shinderman, who had spoken against Bridge Creek, would not be a “neutral facilitator.”
Shinderman also said King told him: “I would hate for this to jeopardize the relationship between the city and OSU-Cascades.”

Are councilors and city staff so thin-skinned about Bridge Creek, they can’t handle a forum they don’t control?

King’s concern about neutrality is one we share. Where was it when the city wanted more analysis?

The city picked HDR Consulting for the job of comparing the costs between upgrading Bridge Creek and turning to all wells. That’s the same firm that is doing the design for Bridge Creek.

HDR was not guaranteed to get an extension of its contract. But picking HDR to do the analysis is asking somebody who has a multimillion stake in the outcome to make an analysis. That’s not neutrality.

Mayor Jeff Eager said he would have preferred an independent firm. The council and city staff failed by not insisting. They continue to fail by not insisting now.

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