Thursday, June 21, 2012

Bend Council Approves Sweeping Fee Increases

Nearly every fee charged by the city will be going up after the Bend City Council approved increases at its Wednesday night council meeting.

Posted By on Thu, Jun 21, 2012 at 8:13 PM

Nearly every fee charged by the city will be going up after the Bend City Council approved increases at its Wednesday night council meeting.

The fee increases affect nearly every single resident of the city.

Two city residents spoke against the changes saying the fee increases will discourage businesses from setting up shop in Bend.

"I don't think this is the time to be raising fees that are already excessive," said Deborah McMahon, former community development director for the city of Bend who has worked in private business in recent years. 

Mel Oberst, current community development director, said it has been many years since many fees had been increased. City staff also said the fees must be increased to help the city recoup costs and accommodate cost of living increases.

Still, the proposed changes in fees were not formally noticed to the public prior to their appearance on the council’s agenda earlier this week and councilors said they were frustrated they did not have more time to understand the fees before being asked by city staff to pass the changes.

But despite reservations, the council approved the new fee schedule. The final vote on the fees was 5 to 1 with Jim Clinton opposed. Jodie Barram was absent.

The most broadly applicable increases will be seen on water and sewer bills. Water rates will increase by five percent and sewer rates will increase by six percent starting July 1.

Though a few fees were reduced by the city, for instance the cost of a permit to move a building, and some fees remained unchanged, most were increased by at least 2.5 percent.

Ambulance charges, car impounding fees, fire prevention plan reviews, building permit fees and system development charges, which are fees assessed on new developments designed to offset the burdens those new developments put on infrastructure like roads and sewers, will all be going up on the first of next month.

Several council members were taken aback at the request from city staff to increase the fees in such a sweeping way without notification to the public and without more time to learn about the fees.

“This is an ill-considered resolution that has not been properly discussed by the council,” said Clinton. “People getting charged the fees should be informed before we make decisions.”

Councilor Scott Ramsay, who often brings the concerns of small business owners to council discussions, said he was uncomfortable passing a 24-page fee schedule without more time to digest whether the increases were fair.

“When we are faced with a 24-page list of fees…and we have very limited discussion of fees and why they are what they are, it makes me feel uncomfortable,” Ramsay said.

Though Ramsay did ultimately approve the fee increases, he encouraged each councilor to review the fees in depth in the coming weeks to see if they support the changes.

City Manager Eric King apologized to the council for not discussing the fee adjustments with the council prior to Wednesday’s meeting.

“I’ll take some responsibility—we usually have a work session,” said King about previous preparations for changes to the city's fee schedule.

Go here to see a full list of the changes to the city’s fee schedule. Click on the PDF entitled 6.3D new Resolution Fees 2012-13 062012. 

The next city council meeting will be held July 18 in the City Council Chambers, 701 NW Wall St.


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