Local breweries and Bend city officials have found themselves in a bit of a sticky wicket.
Breweries have an undeniable impact on the city’s sewer services. But so do a number of other local businesses, which is exactly why city staff are taking a hard look at which businesses have the biggest impact on Bend’s sewer system and how to charge those businesses for strain they put on the system.
Such was the conversation during last night’s “sewer extra strength” update at the City Council work session that was packed with representatives from local breweries including Deschutes Brewery, Silver Moon, GoodLife, 10 Barrel and Boneyard.
The breweries, which in this town are a relatively tight-knit group, seem amenable to paying an equitable tax, but they also have plenty of questions too. What other businesses are straining the sewer system? Mustn’t they pay an extra charge too? And how much?
“We’re all on the same page,” GoodLife owner Ty Barnett said to me during the workshop, an informal exchange between city officials and concerned business owners.
“If the city has a financial short fall because of processing waste water from our facility, then we are more than willing to pay our fair share. We understand. But we need to see in what ways the city will be charging us,” Barnett said during the meeting’s public comment period.
Currently, only 15 businesses pay this extra strength fee and Deschutes is the only brewery to do so. Hotels, gas stations, auto shops, funeral homes and restaurants are among the businesses that staff will consider adding to the extra strength charge list.
After the brief workshop, Councilors said they were hesitant to plow forward with a fee structure given the number of unknowns and made plans to open the conversation to other businesses. The problem, however, remains.
Who should pay for the strain on the sewer system? The breweries, which provide jobs as well as tasty beer, are an obvious draw for Bend and one of the defining characteristics of this town. The city wants to stay business friendly. But someone has to shoulder the burden.