BEND, OR -- Three dozen Bend residents turned out to speak to City Councilors during Wednesday's Septic to Sewer listening session. The Southeast Septic to Sewer project aims to help nearly 600 homes connect to the city’s sewer system. But, many testified that the cost of the switch is out of reach and should be shared by the whole city.
County Commissioner Phil Henderson has lived in the area for 20 years. He calls it an expensive fix to a nonexistent problem, "Somebody testified that 'well, we don't want to be like La Pine.' La Pine and South County, the depth of the aquifer is much less, so you have a water problem, and a nitrogen loading problem - phosphorous. We don't really have that in our neighborhood."
Henderson says it would be cheaper for homeowners to maintain, and even replace, existing septic tanks. He asked Councilors to do more to help, "We're going to spend $50 million in our neighborhood, and $150 to $200 million for all this sewer. What have you done to lobby Salem about this rule? Because, I'm sure there are other cities, there are other people facing the same dilemma we're facing. And, it's extremely expensive to solve a problem that we don't really have." That led to a heated exchange with Councilor Barb Campbell who told the audience, "Ladies and gentlemen, this your County Commissioner. He is the person who will not give you a permit to replace your system. In the system, the county has to give you a permit in order to fulfill state law. Phil, are you lobbying the state to change the law so you guys don't have to enforce it?" He replied, "I'd be happy to lobby the state," as Mayor Pro Tem Sally Russell tried to regain control of the meeting saying, "This is not the time to have this conversation."
Bend City Manager Eric King talked in more detail about the Septic to Sewer Project and the controversy surrounding its cost, Thursday on KBND's Morning News. Click HERE
to listen to the full conversation. Another meeting on the project is scheduled for August 29 at the Bend Senior Center, from 6:30 to 9 p.m.