Handling of Bend Water Project Series of Misrepresentations according to Former Bend Mayor


City councilors recently gave city manager Eric King a positive job performance rating, except for his handling of the Bridge Creek water project. The city is making progress on a number of issues, however Bridge Creek is by far the largest project in the city. Failure here cannot be ignored. King admitted such failure saying “we learned our lesson with the water system … we need to take a different approach.” Commentary by Allan Bruckner, former City of Bend Mayor.

The handling of the water project was a series of misrepresentations and inappropriate action from the beginning, starting with requiring a large long pipe (needed for electric power production that proved uneconomic) and exempting that from value engineering review. It continued through the city engineer’s presentation last November stating that the value engineering team enthusiastically endorsed the filtration system. This was a complete falsehood that could have been and should have been corrected on the spot. It wasn’t.

I believe in a dual water source. However after years of planning there is no guarantee today that we will be getting the most efficient system because the pipe and filter components (about 80 percent of the project cost) were excluded from proper value engineering.

Additionally many decisions were rushed due to false deadlines (starting with buying the steel before prices go up!– in the middle of a recession? Or was this just to get an early commitment to the project?) Thus we have a system the staff wanted and the consultants necessarily endorsed, to their great financial advantage– with no truly independent review. Obviously the consultant endorsed the staff position, they stand to make a great deal of money, and gain future contracts.

Finally we are told we must install the pipe under the road before its reconstruction. This is another false issue to rush a decision. Nowhere is there proof that installing a water pipe under a rural road is better than installing it beside said road. For what reason? So heavy trucks might compact it in spots? For ease of maintenance? And for the city to propose installing it now, and write off $10 million if the court rules again against it, is totally irresponsible. It is unbelievable that the city is willing to potentially waste $10 million in a “stranded asset.” How can that be that justified?

This type of flawed staff performance indicates again that the culture of the city remains that the staff decides what they want, and then are allowed to do whatever is necessary to get it (false deadlines, misrepresentations, elimination of outside review).

Because of its admitted failure with this project the city adopted a more rigorous public outreach on the sewer and urban growth boundary projects. However the city is proceeding full speed ahead on Bridge Creek despite substantial opposition from a cross section of very well-informed citizens.

The city needs to stop this project and employ the “different approach” King spoke of. It is unbelievable that the city would consider spending $60 million on a complex engineering project, and potentially abandon a $10 million pipe, with no independent value engineering of its most critical and costly elements. The only reason not to delay and have a valid review, is so the pipe can be laid under the new road rather than beside it. 

We cannot afford another fiasco like Juniper Ridge or Juniper Utilities or the bus system or ADA sidewalks program or the urban growth boundary expansion. Each of these had substantial public opposition but the city moved aggressively ahead, costing them creditability and money, just like the Bridge Creek project will.

It is the city manager’s and city council’s responsibility to the public to overrule its public works department and force a new look at this most costly and controversial project.



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Founded in 1994 by the late Pamela Hulse Andrews, Cascade Business News (CBN) became Central Oregon’s premier business publication. CascadeBusNews.com • CBN@CascadeBusNews.com

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