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Perspective from the Chair of the Septic to Sewer Advisory Committee

Beth Bicknase Sep 5, 2018 14:00 PM
City of Bend
A map of the Septic to Sewer project in Bend.

Hello! I am Bethann Bicknase, Chair of the 11-member Septic to Sewer Advisory Committee. I volunteered to serve on this committee because my home backs to 27th and, when the Southeast Interceptor was constructed, the Bend City Council was looking for citizens with finance in their background to serve on a citizen committee to make recommendations for transitioning neighborhoods reliant on septic systems to sewer, in a neighborhood near my home. I am a combat veteran with a finance and risk management background. I recently completed a Master's in Management and I have a real commitment to continue to make our community stronger and smarter as we face continual growth.

Our committee formed almost a year and a half ago and we have had 12 formal meetings, small group workshops, open houses, and have published several newsletters in an effort to keep our recommendations and efforts as transparent as possible. We have met with and listened to experts that have presented facts and advice on how several other communities in the Northwest have successfully tackled the difficult problem of transitioning neighborhoods from septic to sewer.

Personally, I have been extremely impressed with the level of detail and the amount of professionalism we have received from City staff, City Council and the experts in this process. I am also encouraged that our local government has had the courage to tackle an issue of this magnitude while being humble enough to listen to passionate invested community members. I also have been blown away by the level of neighborhood interaction, as this issue affects each neighbor differently and every citizen lives with different constraints. The amount of support the committee and I have received has been enormous. I truly understand that there is no "one size-fits all" solution to this issue. I am confident that the true spirit of this city values a connected, vibrant and accepting culture that can come together to support each other through our growing pains. I am committed to finding a way to lead this community through this process and I give you my assurance that the recommendations our committee has made to Council follow all the values we adopted. This issue is the toughest this community faces right now, and I believe this is the best time to begin the tough work to solve it.

The committee's rationale for settling on the $25,000 total cost: the City estimates it is a $30 million dollar project just for the public portion of the work in Kings Forest and Desert Woods. Divided by 503 households, it is roughly $60,000 per household. Add in the private side costs of $5,000 to $15,000 and the price tag balloons past $70,000 per household. That $25,000 price includes coordination by City to do the work in the most cost effective and timely fashion as possible. [Editor's note: $25,000 is the amount the committee recommended that each septic tank homeowner contribute toward conversion. The recommendations also include provisions for low-income homeowners and those with economic hardship.]

Should the City not participate in coordinating, facilitating or funding any portion of the project, city staff said the costs per household could zoom past $100,000. Of course, some could pay a lot less and some could pay a lot more than that. And it could take years of construction, with its constant detours and disruption of daily life.

The full-unanimously adopted-Committee report is on the City of Bend project website, and links to the Old Farm Neighborhood Associated sponsored informational session are available online. I'd strongly encourage anyone interested in learning more to read the report and watch the video. Also feel free to talk to the committee members in the SE Project Area Neighborhood. They're all happy to talk about the process.

Finally, I want to again thank this community for showing up and being involved in this process. Almost 300 neighbors attended the Saturday, August 11 meeting.

—Beth Bicknase

Committee Recommendations (PDF): https://www.bendoregon.gov/home/showdocument?id=37167

Septic to Sewer Committee website: https://www.bendoregon.gov/septictosewer

PowerPoint briefing from the neighborhood Aug 11th 12:30-3:00pm (PDF): http://oldfarmbend.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Septic-to-Sewer-briefing-2018-08-11.pdf

Video of the OFDNA neighborhood meeting Aug 11th 12:30-3:00pm: https://youtu.be/3F9JdrFm3vs