Contract changes proposed by Medford Water concern Eagle Point

There was a definite variety of action items at the Nov. 9 Eagle Point City Council session. The retirement of Police Chief John Meeker, the hiring of Vern Thompson as the new police chief and approving Santa’s Shop are all covered in separate articles.

Bids were opened on Nov.9 to construct Centennial Plaza and that bid went to EZ Landscape & Construction. Their bid was $252,165. This is about $60,000 lower than the architect’s cost estimate. Acme West was the next lowest bidder at $276,372. Ground was broken on Friday, Nov.12 with the finished product to be handed over to the city no later than Jan.24, 2011. The city plans to dedicate the plaza on Feb. 12, kicking off a year-long 100th year celebration of the founding of Eagle Point.

Eagle Point, Central Point, Phoenix, Talent and Jacksonville contract with the Medford Water Commission for their water. As renewal of the five-year contract approached, several additions to the contract are prompting Eagle Point to seek additional discussion with the water commission. Central Point, Phoenix and Talent share concerns. Jacksonville has yet to be contacted. The Eagle Point City Council was asked to pass a resolution authorizing the city to participate with the Cities Water Coalition on a joint letter to the Medford Water Commission.

Highlights of Coalition concerns include:
• Medford Water Commission (MWC) water right permits from 1915 and 1955 were obtained on behalf of the Commission and other cities.
• MWC has required Eagle Point and other cities to obtain additional water rights based on population growth projections. Eagle Point has lead the way and actually exceeded requirements.
• The most  recent draft of the Commission’s contract requires Eagle Point to acknowledge that they have no prior rights or claim to water obtained by the City of Medford. This appeared with no previous discussion and would allow the Commission to allocate water to any part of their system with no repercussions.
• The Commission wants the water rights (which they required cities to obtain) be made available to the Medford Water Commission in an acceptable and timely manner. 

MWC is proposing a rate structure increase in addition to system development charges to build a second treatment plant in the future. Eagle Point would like the plant to be built through a combination of SDCs, bonds and rate structure increases. MWC seems opposed to the  bonding option. Eagle Point and other cities have paid for the existing Duff treatment facility and believe there is a partial ownership in this plant and in the future treatment plant.

Eagle Point says the Current Capital Improvement Plan for MWC includes projects that have been completed for many years. The city would like the SDC methodology reviewed for consistency with current SDC methodology practices.

Finally, Eagle Point and other cities have a graduated rate structure based on usage. Medford does not and therefore their rates are considerably cheaper with no incentive to conserve.

Speaking to the issue, City Administrator Dave Hussell said the proposed new contract MWC has imposes standards the city has never heard. “The partnership they expressed when they appeared before the Eagle Point Council is not what is happening.”  Hussell said the city doesn’t want to go to war, but needs permission from the council to engage in conversation. “Their approach is negative, almost juvenile,”said Hussell. 

The council unanimously approved a resolution to participate with the Cities Water Coalition on a joint letter of request to the Medford Water Commission. They appointed Mike Parker and Council President Alan Curriston to attend future discussions with the Medford Water Commission.

If you noticed an overflow of vehicles at the city hall parking lot recently, it was a session of some 25 to 30 agencies from around the state, including local irrigation districts, county and state representatives in an initial meeting to see how they could improve the water quality in Little Butte Creek. It was part of the governor’s revitalization program.  Hussell gave great credit to Mayor Sherman and the governor’s team for initiating the project after a report was presented by state officials on the creek.  The three-plus hour meeting found people working together to develop a plan. Sherman said the group left with a positive attitude  that something can be done to improve the creek.

Following an executive session a motion was made to table ratification of the general unit labor contract and to re-open negotiations. The vote was 6-1 with Councilor Rick Tree voting no.

Not related to the executive session, but following it, Mayor Sherman read a letter of resignation from Councilor Pat Jacobson. She said she needs to spend more time on her job, where she is manager of Rogue Federal, Eagle Point branch. “…have to remember to do the job for the city, and I feel this is the job I can do for the city. I love this city,” said Jacobson. Two years remain on her term.

The council took no action. It will be brought back as an agenda item at the Nov. 23 meeting. She has asked the resignation be effective Jan 2.
By Nancy Leonard
Of the Independent


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