EP Council seats new member, discusses water rate changes

The Eagle Point City Council meeting on August 9 ran the gamut from a possible reduction of water rates that may or may not be passed on to residents to infestations of tent caterpillars on city-owned property. When appointing a replacement city councilor, experience won out and retired businessman and former councilor Wayne Brown got the job.

In a workshop preceding the meeting, Joe Strahl, CEO of Public Works Management, gave an update to council on negotiations between the Cities Water Coalition and Medford Water Commission. The coalition represented by Chris Peters of PWM and Chris Clayton from Central Point met in a series  meetings with MWC Manager, Larry Rains and two MWC Commissioners, Tom Hall and Leigh Johnson.

 

A compromise of a six-cent reduction per 1,000 gallons in year-round water rates beginning March 2012 was reached. It is not final, however, until the entire MWC Board agrees to the reduction. If passed, the savings would be an annual $37,000 for the City of Eagle Point or $12 for the average household. $37,000 would be a big deal in the water fund, said City Administrator Dave Hussell. It is undecided whether the city would pass the savings on to customers or keep the monies for the fund.

 

Cities in the coalition also must agree to the six-cent reduction. Strahl pointed out those rates are reasonable when compared statewide and that MWC can in reality charge what they want. Whatever rate is finalized will mean that customers in Medford (who currently have the lowest rates) will face higher rates as the MWC requires a set amount of revenue. One contingency to the reduction would be an analysis justifying the decrease to the cities aside from Medford.

Other issues of major significance in negotiations are water rights and System Development Charges, said Hussell. If the coalition agrees to the six-cents, a second contingency would be an agreement that further rate negotiations are off the table for up to possibly five years to focus on other issues. Water rights for example need to be negotiated for future generations. Council reached a consensus in favor of the six-cent reduction.

The Jackson County Planning Commission has come up with 29 changes in the Greater Bear Creek Valley Regional Problem Solving Plan. Only two will impact Eagle Point and are low-keyed compared to proposed changes in other cities, said Hussell.

In the Eagle Point urban reserve, density would be bumped up to 7.5 units per acre from the 6.5 units that had been agreed on. This would not affect land in the existing Urban Growth Boundary and the change would not be imminent. In what is a fifty-year plan, the increase to 7.5 units per acre would take place in the second twenty-five years. Hussell used the Glenwood Development as an example of what 6.5 units per acre looks like. Twin Creeks in Central Point is an example of 7.5 units per acre.

Achieving higher density could be as simple as adding a duplex or triplex on a corner lot in a development or a mix of commercial and housing such as apartments above stores. The RPS allows for density to be transferred from urban reserve to other areas such as downtown. Counties and cities are under pressure from the state to densify, said Hussell.

Councilor Bill Fierke had plenty to say about the density increase. “People moved here because of open spaces. This is incompatible to me.” And, “I don’t know anyone capable of making a 50-year plan. I can’t put this on our kids and grandkids.” Hussell assured the council the RPS plan can be revisited every ten years. He also said the county commissioners may not go along with the planning commission recommendations.

With very little land left to develop inside city limits, Hussell pointed out that compromise might be necessary to achieve future expansion. Councilor Alan Curriston agreed with Hussell saying Eagle Point is the smallest fish in the pond and giving a little now would be better than fighting later at the state level to grow.

The second change is a recalculation of acreage for the city. Eagle Point would get an increase in developable land instead of a reduction, said Hussell. Council tabled a decision on Resolution 2011-48 until more information is available.

Two residents, Aaron Prunty and Wayne Brown, applied to fill the council seat vacated by Michael Parker. After interviewing both candidates, council agreed it was difficult to choose. But in the end it was decided because council is “green” with so many new councilors that experience in city matters would be helpful. Newly appointed Councilor Brown owned Eagle Thrift store and has been active in promoting the city for many years.

Hussell will retire early next year and Resolution 2011-56 approved a job description for the position in order to advertise. Although not yet official, there have already been inquiries about the position.

In council comment, Mayor Bob Russell who had just returned from a conference with 65 mayors told about destruction in Aumsville and Brookings from a tornado and tsunami respectively. It made him more conscious of being prepared in Eagle Point. Although long, the meeting ran like a well-oiled piece of machinery with an overall ambience of cordiality among the councilors and in interaction with city staff. All-in-all, a good night’s work.

By Margaret Bradburn
Of the Independent

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