Cascade Healthcare will run Prineville’s hospital

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: July 31. 2007 5:00AM PST

PRINEVILLE — The membership of Pioneer Memorial Hospital voted Monday night to accept a lease agreement that would hand over responsibility for running the hospital to Cascade Healthcare Community, the parent company of St. Charles Medical Centers in Bend and Redmond.

The deal leaves Pioneer Memorial with ownership of the hospital’s land, buildings and equipment. Cascade Healthcare will be in charge of the day-to-day operations of the hospital, including employing the staff.

Cascade Healthcare has had a management agreement with Pioneer Memorial since 2001, meaning that it employs the hospital’s top administrators. It has a similar arrangement with Mountain View Hospital in Madras.

The company’s monthly rent will be equal to what Pioneer has to pay each month for its long-term debt liability, according to the terms of the lease agreement. That number will fluctuate, but a consultant for the hospital said Monday that the figure is currently a little less than $100,000 per month. Cascade Healthcare also agreed to a minimum $200,000 capital investment in Pioneer Memorial each year. The lease runs for a 23-year term.

Mark Severson, chairman of Pioneer Memorial’s board of directors, said before the meeting Monday that the deal will provide more support for the small, rural facility. Pioneer Memorial has federal designation as a critical access hospital, which means it gets more Medicare dollars, and it will retain that designation under the new agreement.

“Pioneer Memorial Hospital is having a difficult time keeping up with technology and services to our local community because it’s just so expensive to provide that, so we’re looking for a way to keep PMH healthy and keep it providing the great health care it has in the past to the community,” Severson said. “This would create more of a regional health system, which is good for the patient and is good for the community.”

After the vote, Severson said he doesn’t think that patients will notice big changes right away. He said he doesn’t know whether fees will increase, but he thinks they will “stay competitive.”

“I think they’re going to see business as usual at first, and I think as time goes on there will be gradual transitioning, but I firmly believe what we’re doing here is going to improve health care,” he said.

Jim Diegel, CEO and president of Cascade Healthcare, said the level of services should stay the same in Prineville.

“Our intention is to maintain services that are currently in Prineville,” Diegel told the members.

“Some of you may have heard that services in Redmond have been reduced as part of the merger (in 2001) … actually, there are more services that are offered now in Redmond than there were pre-merger.”

The hospital’s membership approved the agreement by a large margin, 51-15. Anyone who pays a $250 fee can become a member of Pioneer Memorial Hospital, and many of the members are hospital staff.

Under the terms of the agreement, the membership will stay in place and continue to elect the hospital board, which will act in an advisory role to Cascade Healthcare’s board.

All of Pioneer Memorial’s staff will be given jobs with Cascade Healthcare with at least their current salaries, according to the lease. Pioneer Memorial Hospital also will retain its current name, unlike when St. Charles Medical Center-Bend acquired the former Central Oregon Community Hospital in Redmond.

“I think in retrospect that was not the right thing to do,” said Diegel, who was the CEO of Central Oregon Community Hospital. “What we learned when we changed the name in Redmond, and that was very painful to those of us in Redmond at the time, when you change the name, you change the identity, you take away the history, you take away the pride.”

Diegel noted that the agreement with Pioneer Memorial is a lease rather than a merger of assets, which leaves more control with the Crook County community.

Thomas Matheson, a doctor at Pioneer Memorial, called the lease the “lesser of evils.”

“I’ve listened to a lot of fears and worries on this. I feel this is the only possible successful alternative,” Matheson said. “This may be a way to live in a time of a lot of changes, and those changes aren’t going away.”


Habitat’s production to increase

Group partners with American Legion post

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: July 30. 2007 5:00AM PST

Bend Area Habitat for Humanity is hoping to more than double the number of houses it builds this year from last year’s total, and it is looking for families who are hoping to become homeowners.

The organization also is partnering with the Bend post of the American Legion to encourage veterans to apply for a home.

Habitat for Humanity built four houses in Bend in the last fiscal year, Executive Director David Love said. Now, the group has set a goal of building 10 houses by July 2008.

“As you look at the affordable housing crisis in Bend, typically right now a house costs $347,000, a median-price house, and if you take someone at the median income, there’s not a house they can afford in town,” Love said. “We are expecting a 500 percent increase in families applying for our homes only because incomes aren’t rising as fast as the housing prices are.”

Love said that Habitat for Humanity focuses on people who earn between 35 percent and 75 percent of the area’s median income, which in 2006 was about $58,000 for a family of four, according to Economic Development for Central Oregon.

“There’s a lot of things going on for people with less income and things going on for people who are little bit higher than that,” he said.

“We’re not a homeless (housing organization). We’re not emergency crisis. We build homes for people who are living in substandard housing. They might be in a one-bedroom apartment with three children, let’s say, and we build homes for people with jobs who are not able to keep up with it,” Love continued.

Cynthia Jurgensen, development director for Bend Area Habitat, said the organization has been talking with Bend’s Stevens-Chute American Legion Post 4 for a couple of months about working to help a veteran family get involved with Habitat.

The group won’t set aside a house for a veteran family, Jurgensen added. Rather, if one is accepted through the regular application process, the American Legion will be a partner in the process.

“If we get a veteran, then (the American Legion) will engage with us and help us raise the money and they will engage veterans in the community to come out and build the home with us,” she said.

Jurgensen added that Habitat has nine homesites on Daggett Lane in northeast Bend, six of which already have families chosen for them. One of the other three could go to a veteran family. Crook County Habitat for Humanity also is looking for one family for a to-be-built house.

“Once we finish these nine homes, which should be done by end of fiscal year ’08 next July, we still have 10 more homes that we’re in the process of looking to purchase land for or get donated land, and I’m raising money for those homes,” she said.

“The goal of this American Legion partnership is we are looking for legacy partners to build a home with us every year.”

Jeff Lightburn, Stevens-Chute Post 4 commander, said the partnership makes sense for both groups.

“The legion is the nation’s largest veterans organization, and Habitat is the nation’s largest home builder and provider for affordable housing,” Lightburn said. “We’re mentoring veteran families who come forward, and we will help them through this process to be considered for affordable homes, so that’s kind of the first part of this journey.”

Lightburn said he thinks this is the first time in Oregon and maybe the country that the American Legion and Habitat for Humanity have formed a partnership. He added that helping veterans with homeownership is a way of reaching out to many segments of Central Oregon.

“They’re teachers; they are nurses; they are construction industry workers; they are retail workers; they are rest service industry workers. You think of it, a veteran works in all these professions and employment areas, so we’re really touching the entire community,” he said.

“We’re really supporting the community, but are giving an extra boost to people who served our country unselfishly, and when I talk about veterans, it’s not only people who have served in the past, (but) it could include current active-duty people whose families live here, or (people in the) National Guard.”

Habitat for Humanity is holding orientation meetings in late August, which are mandatory for anyone interested in applying for a house. The group is looking for 13 to 15 families in the Bend area and one family for a house in Crook County, Love said.

Jurgensen said that families or individuals who apply go through a credit check and home interview, and the application is then reviewed by a selection committee and Habitat’s board of directors. The time frame between orientation and move-in is usually from 16 to 18 months, according to Bend Area Habitat’s Web site.

“We have a very rigorous process that everyone has to go through and we’re not playing favorites with anyone,” she said. “The families are selected on a need basis — either income or there’s too many people living in a small, substandard living space.”

Prineville rebuilds its staff

‘In spite of the difficulties,’ city manager expects an improvement

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: July 29. 2007 5:00AM PST

PRINEVILLE — The city is rebuilding its public works department in the wake of administrative restructuring that eliminated the public works director’s position.

Jerry Brummer, a 15-year city employee, has been promoted from sewer and water superintendent to the newly created position of public works superintendent. The city also has appointed an “engineer in training” and is in the process of hiring a community development director, a job that formerly was called assistant city manager.

At the same time, officials have announced that a new test well at the Prineville Airport is producing plenty of high-quality water, after the city spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on three wells that did not produce drinkable water.

City Manager Robb Corbett said the goal of the changes was to make city government more efficient for Prineville residents as its population continues to expand, and the public works department takes on more infrastructure projects.

“I would hope that as people work with the city of Prineville, they would continually notice an improvement in the service that they receive, and a part of that requires us to continually examine what we’re doing and improve upon it,” Corbett said.

The administrative changes follow the departure of Public Works Director Jim Mole in January. Mole and former administrative assistant Samantha Waltjen are now suing the city, saying they were fired for raising concerns about potentially illegal financial practices. Corbett has maintained that Mole was laid off in an overall restructuring of city government.

The shake-up put then-Assistant City Manager Jerry Gillham in charge of the public works department. Gillham, whom some Prineville residents criticized for his role in dismissing Mole, resigned in February. The soon-to-be-hired community development director will oversee public works and report to Corbett.

“Just like everything I’ve learned in my life is once you get through painful experiences, you’re always a better human being, and I trust that we’ll be a better organization in spite of the difficulties of the last six months,” Corbett said.

Pat Hepperle, a city administrative assistant, said updated salary information for the new hires is not available. Brummer made about $50,000 a year as sewer and water superintendent, she said.

Brummer, 58, said his new role will focus more on the day-to-day operations of the public works department. The department has 12 employees, including Brummer.

“I’m more just in charge of the public works department itself,” he said. “The city is in the process of hiring a community development person, and as far as contracts and a lot of the environmental issues and stuff, that (person) will handle that part, so my duties are going to be more just to make sure we review plans and make sure the infrastructure gets put in properly and maintain it as we go.”

Brummer, who used to be in charge of the city’s sewer and water system, said tests on a new well the city has dug at the airport show it should be a success. The well is temporarily hooked up to the municipal system for the rest of the peak irrigation season, after which the contractor will install a permanent pump house. It will be the city’s biggest well, pumping about 1,000 gallons per minute.

“We have a test pump in just to have it in case of an emergency,” he said. “It’s really good quality water, so that’s a bonus.”

He added that important upcoming public works projects include a bridge on Elm Street in Prineville and a new route through the city on Second Street.

Corbett said Brummer has been serving as interim public works director for about six months.

“Jerry is a great guy,” he said. “I just feel like we’re very fortunate that he was interested in taking the position.”

Corbett said the newly hired “engineer in training,” Eric Klann, will be the city’s first full-time engineer. In the past, the city has relied on consultants for its engineering needs.

Klann is still in training because although he has earned a degree in engineering, he must work with a qualified engineer for two years before he can take the engineer’s exam, Corbett said. Mike Wilson, an engineer who has been consulting for the city for about a year, will continue to mentor Klann. Wilson earns between $75 and $90 an hour working for the city, Hepperle said.

“We had been trying for over a year to hire a city engineer and were unable to find someone that we felt comfortable hiring as the engineer,” Corbett said. “So we made the decision, based on our research of the job market, that it might be easier for us to accomplish what we were trying to do, which was to get a city engineer, if we hired someone that had a degree in engineering but wasn’t licensed.”

Corbett said Klann’s responsibilities will include reviewing land use applications that involve public infrastructure to make sure they comply with city standards and working with the public works department on the installation of public projects.

The new community development director will oversee the public works department, the city engineer and planning staff, Corbett said. He added that he has made an offer on the position and is waiting for a response.

The main responsibility of the position will be “coordinating the efforts between planning, engineering and public works,” Corbett said. The position essentially is the same as what was previously called the assistant city manager, although Corbett said he has removed language from the job description saying that the assistant city manager is in charge in the absence of the city manager. Gillham had been Prineville’s first assistant city manager in a while.

“I think there might have been some concern about how the position was perceived in the public,” he said. “There were a lot of questions about whether or not the city needed an assistant city manager, and I guess I wanted to try and make a clean start as a part of the healing process.”

Multiple views at Bend UGB meeting

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: July 27. 2007 5:00AM PST

Hundreds of people packed a meeting room at the Deschutes County Services Center for a public hearing Thursday about Bend’s proposed urban growth boundary and urban reserve area expansion.

Representatives from Bend-La Pine Schools, Bend Metro Park and Recreation District and local irrigation districts, as well as local developers and residents spoke up to criticize and, in a handful of cases, praise the city’s proposals.

The city is proposing to expand the urban growth boundary by about 5,000 acres, almost exclusively in the area north of the current city limits. The concentration of property led some in attendance to pointedly accuse the city of drawing the UGB map to include 850 acres of the planned Juniper Ridge mixed-use development.

“It’s obvious by the size of the crowd in this room this is a matter of great interest to a lot of people. However, the appearance of the process is one of a preordained outcome and, because of that, it brings into question the lines on the map and whether the process falls under state statutes,” said Liz Dickson, the general counsel for the Central Oregon Irrigation District.

“It is of concern to COID that the appearance of the process is that the map was drawn before the analysis was done,” she said.

Juniper Ridge could eventually cover 1,500 acres northeast of Bend and include a university, research and development park, businesses and homes.

At the outset of the meeting, Deschutes County Planning Commissioner Mike Shirtcliff said he wanted those in attendance to understand the difference between the urban reserve and urban growth boundary. The public hearing was broken into two parts, with those interested in testifying about the urban reserve area speaking first and the UGB coming second.

“The urban reserve is a 50-year growth plan for the city,” said Peter Gutowsky, a senior planner with Deschutes County. “That is a noticeable distinction with the urban growth boundary, which is a 20-year growth plan for the city.”

About 10 years ago, Bend’s city limits expanded to fill out what was then its urban growth boundary. Officials have been working on expanding the boundary, which is intended to help the city manage growth, for several years.

Bend-La Pine Schools and park and recreation officials said they were worried that schools and parks were not taken into consideration in the urban reserve area and UGB process. John Rexford, an assistant superintendent of operations for the school district, said he was still “stunned and disappointed” with the UGB plans.

After an initial expansion proposal did not include land where the school district had intended to build a new elementary school, the city added about 80 acres on the west side of Bend to the UGB in order to meet the plans. But officials said Thursday the school is still up in the air because not all of the property is included in the proposed UGB.

In addition to various agencies’ officials, many residents in the affected areas questioned why their properties were or were not included in the urban reserve or UGB areas.

“I’m not in the (proposed) Bend urban reserve, and I’m not in the Bend urban growth boundary expansion, yet I border on both, so it’s sort of a unique situation,” Fred Boos said. “I’m kind of ambivalent which direction it goes, but the only thing I’m not ambivalent about is I want to make sure the property that’s surrounding my property is equivalent. I don’t want a subdivision on one side of me and an urban reserve property on the other side and I’m neither.”

D.C. Scofield added that he has been waiting for several years for his land to be brought into the UGB.

“I purchased in November 1991, 16 years ago, some property for the family — the intention was to make an investment property off of it so that they could have an education,” Scofield said. “I’ve waited 16 years for the UGB to come up, and I’ve been placed in the urban reserve area … I feel that we should be in the urban growth area so that we could develop our property a little bit.”

Another public hearing on the city’s UGB expansion will take place at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 6 in the Deschutes County Services Center.

Prineville councilor steps down

Bobbi Young is second to resign from the City Council this year

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: July 25. 2007 5:00AM PST

PRINEVILLE — Councilor Bobbi Young announced her resignation at the Prineville City Council’s regular meeting Tuesday night.

Young, who has been on the council for about four years, said after the meeting that she is moving out of the city limits because she is getting married. City councilors are required to reside within Prineville’s borders.

Her resignation will be effective Sept. 30, or sooner if a new councilor is appointed, Young said.

“I don’t have exact dates when all of this is going to happen,” she said. “I thought I’d give them as much time as they needed.”

Young is the second Prineville city councilor to resign this year. After Tim Harris resigned in February, only two people filed applications to replace him, and one of them eventually withdrew. The other, Jack Seley, is now filling out the rest of Harris’ term.

According to the city charter, vacancies on the council are filled through appointment by the other City Council members. Interested candidates can contact the city at 447-5627. Councilors are required to be registered voters, at least 18 years old, and must have lived in the city for at least one year.

Young was appointed to fill a vacant position on the council in 2003, and she was elected to the position in 2004. Her term runs through Dec. 31, 2008.

She said she will miss aspects of being on the City Council but added, “This will be my first and last venture into the political world.”

“I’m going to stay involved in the different boards that I sit on, and I will continue that kind of volunteer work,” she said.

“There’s a lot of things that I’ll miss: the decision making; being a part of the growth; being a part of the body that effects change (and) protects citizens; the interaction of the different councilors.”

Young is a vice president at Prineville’s Bank of the Cascades branch. At Tuesday’s meeting, Mayor Mike Wendel said that her banking knowledge often has been useful for the city.

“Since you’ve been on the council, it’s always been a deal for me to every time we get to talking budgets or dollar amounts or we get to talking bonds, I always just look at you, and if you’re making some weird face, I think this must not be working very well, and if you’re happy as a clam then I think it must be working,” Wendel said. “Thank you very much for your service to us … We will miss you greatly.”

Wendel jokingly added that Young should now be responsible for finding her replacement.

“I told Bobbi that it should be a policy that if you decide to resign, you should find somebody to fill your position,” he said.

Assignment: Fix aging schools in Crook County

Issue could come before voters as early as May

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: July 24. 2007 8:15AM PST

PRINEVILLE — Many people know what it’s like to attend a crowded public school with too many students for too few classrooms and teachers.

In the Crook County School District, nearly all the students know that feeling. Officials there say that every school building is currently at or above capacity, at a time when Crook continues to be one of the fastest-growing counties in the state.

For months, a facilities review committee has been working on recommendations for the Crook County School Board about where, when and how to replace and renovate existing schools and construct new ones.

The committee’s recommendations should be finished by this fall and could result in a school bond on the ballot for the elections next May or November 2008, Superintendent Steve Swisher said.

This week, members of the facilities committee will be interviewing potential underwriters for the bond. Swisher said the process is in its early stages, and what would be included in the bond, as well as a dollar figure, is still up in the air.

“My best guess would be a May election, but a November election at the latest next year for some type of building project that would probably include major repair kind of issues for buildings and perhaps one or two (new) schools or an expansion of a school,” Swisher said.

Aging facilities

The newest school in the district is Crook County High School, which was completed in 1994. That school is crowded and could be one of the facilities looked at for expansion, Swisher said.

But the fact that the district’s newest building already is nearly 15 years old — at a time when the county has seen a steady increase in student numbers — “doesn’t really tell the whole story,” Swisher said.

“The next newest school built is the current Cecil Sly (Elementary School) and it was built as a middle school — it was built in 1962,” he said, adding that after that, the most recently built schools were in 1952 and 1946. “If you look at the dates here, (it’s) 50 years in the making … so we’re not going to solve it in one year.”

The schools with the most serious problems, Swisher and School Board member Mark Sev­erson said, are Powell Butte Elementary School, Ochoco Elementary School and

Crooked River Elementary School. The district also includes Cecil Sly Elementary School and Paulina Elementary School.

Severson said that the age of many of the district’s schools makes it difficult to upgrade them for new technology, which has an impact on the quality of education.

Ochoco Elementary School has structural problems as well as a poor location along a major highway, meaning that it is the most likely candidate for replacement, Severson said. Powell Butte could also be moved because of its dangerous location on state Highway 126.

“Ochoco has got a lot of issues with it — it’s the inability to upgrade the facility itself is the biggest problem, and then also the library, primarily, has a real foundation issue,” he said. “I don’t want to say it’s sinking, but you could place a basketball on one corner of that room and it will roll to another.”

Swisher said that a group of architects and engineers worked with the facilities committee to survey the buildings. They also targeted renovations, such as new flooring or ventilation systems, to extend the life of each school building.

“They’ve all basically said, you know, Ochoco school probably isn’t worth repairing … and they’ve said the same thing about Powell Butte school,” Swisher said. “Now, the third one eventually, although not as urgent as those two, is (that) Crooked River school is long and tired and perhaps it should be replaced, but it’s not in the same urgent category.”

The Crook County Court has expressed interest in donating a piece of land near the current Powell Butte school to the school district, which could form the site for a new school. Powell Butte Elementary School was built in 1930 and sits on Highway 126 between Bend and Redmond, an increasingly busy route. Ochoco Elementary also has a potentially dangerous location, on U.S. Highway 26 near where it intersects with 126 on the west side of Prineville.

Severson, who just started his first term on the school board, said that the facilities committee — which he previously sat on — has talked about using the Powell Butte and Crooked River buildings as community halls, rather than demolishing the structures.

“The facilities committee recognized the history and the culture that exists at Powell Butte,” Severson said. “The facilities committee felt that Crooked River was a school that has a lot of history in the community and that possibly it could be converted to a community hall or something, but stay in the school district or stay in the condition it is now used for various community events. I believe at that time, also, Ochoco was determined to be a school that could be torn down — it has a lot of structural issues.”

Public concerns

According to the results of a survey the facilities committee conducted earlier this year, Prine­ville residents also are worried about the state of the district’s school buildings. Three out of the top four issues that people said are the most serious ones facing the school district had to do with facilities and funding.

The top problem that respondents identified for the district was overcrowding, followed by lack of funding. After drugs and alcohol, “facilities in poor condition” is the fourth-largest problem facing the school district out of a total of nine issues, according to the survey.

The top two goals that those included in the survey named for the school district in the next five years also related to the facilities question: find funding for new schools and reduce class sizes.

Swisher said the district is expecting another increase in students this year.

“I’m interested to see what happens this Sept. 1,” he said. “The housing market’s cooled and all those things, so it’s hard to tell. Our preliminary indicators like kindergarten sign-ups and those kind of things indicate we have a surge coming, but it’s unknown right now — I hope we have a little bit of a cool off.”

Crook County’s school-age population is expected to double in the next 20 years, Swisher has said in the past. Without new or expanded buildings, the district could have to look at adding more modular classrooms — which are already in place at some schools — or switching to a staggered scheduling system, with students attending class at unusual hours of the day or in the summer.

Despite the facilities needs at several schools throughout the district, the committee’s recommendations and upcoming bond will probably address only the most urgent problems, Swisher said.

“It will be very measured and probably be (to) replace a school and build a new school for growth, and maybe do a little expansion on the high school,” he said. “That’s a guess right now, but what the plan will do is perhaps lay it out over the next 20 years — what the next step five to seven years after that will be, and the next step after that.”

Growth spurs look at raising impact fees

Higher development charges would boost area housing costs, critics say

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: July 23. 2007 5:00AM PST

When Prineville announced it might double its sewer system development charges last month, builders, developers and residents turned up at a City Council meeting to protest the move.

Raising the impact fees more than 100 percent, from $4,089 to $8,677 per single-family house, would make Prineville’s SDC rates the highest in Central Oregon and could negatively impact an already cooling housing market, several speakers said.

Eventually, the City Council decided to raise the sewer SDCs to $6,508 and phase in the rest of the charge in the next few years.

While Prineville may be experiencing a moment in the spotlight as the latest target of builders’ ire, it’s unlikely to hold that title for long. Redmond is also looking at doubling all of its SDC fees in the next few years in order to serve a rapidly growing population, according to the city’s public works director.

“All in all, the cost of growth is just becoming expensive, and we’re seeing that some of the other cities are adjusting their plans and coming up with higher SDCs,” Redmond Public Works Director Chris Doty said.

“Ours have not been updated since 2005, but this latest update will certainly bring them into current times with respect to the cost of construction and the number of projects that we’re anticipating to serve the new UGB expansion.”

SDC fees, which cities levy on new construction to pay for expanding municipal infrastructure, are a perennial topic of debate among Central Oregon’s developers, real estate agents, city planners and City Council members. But the charges — which homebuyers see in higher housing prices — fluctuate from city to city and are calculated in a variety of ways.

A state statute in 1989 set up the framework for SDCs, which can only be used to build new systems or increase capacity in an existing system, and can be levied for water, wastewater, stormwater, transportation, and parks and recreation. Since then, all of the largest incorporated cities in Central Oregon — Bend, Redmond, Prineville, Madras and Sisters — have implemented the fees.

Bend’s total fees are currently the highest in the region, at $13,440 for a new single-family house. With its recent increase, Prineville — traditionally thought of as a spot for lower housing prices — ranks second, at $13,142, for a single-family house. Redmond, which has a comparatively low rate of $7,908 per single-family residence, would jump into first place if it decides to double all of its fees.

“I don’t think (Redmond’s SDCs) have been significantly lower — I think they’ve been a little lower,” Doty said. “We’re just about ready to publicize new master plans that will reflect new projects and new project costs, so we all leapfrog each other as we update our various master plans.”

Determining SDC rates

Doty and Prineville City Manager Robb Corbett said cities determine SDC rates by making detailed master plans and creating lists of the projects needed to meet projected growth. Then planners figure out the cost of those projects and when they need to be on line.

“They’re definitely not arbitrary; they definitely differ from community to community depending upon the projects that are required, and so they’re very site specific,” Doty said. “For every dollar in SDCs that we receive, each dollar is broken up into dozens of projects that are on all of our capital improvement plans. It pays for just its incremental share of each to serve the whole system.”

Corbett added that some of the projects Prineville has identified as needing SDC dollars include expanding the wastewater system and making some road improvements.

“You identify specific projects that address failures in your transportation system because of all these people that have moved here, and then the cost of those projects are divided by the number of people or (equivalent dwelling units) that are going to be coming, and that’s how you come up with the rate,” Corbett said. “It’s more complicated than that — there’s more variables that go into it — but essentially that’s it.”

Most cities in Central Oregon base their rates on equivalent dwelling units, or the impact that one single-family house can be expected to have on the water, sewer, road and parks systems. But Sisters recently changed its formula to reflect the difference between a large house and a smaller one in terms of water and sewer use.

Planning and Community Development Director Brian Rankin said the city “decided it was the most equitable approach.”

“We just recently changed our methodologies from a flat fee to the fixture-unit approach, and the fixture-unit approach allows for a finer tuning of the development charge,” Rankin said. “A smaller house with fewer fixtures would have a lower system development charge than a bigger house with more fixture units, or a restaurant with, say, larger commercial washers (and) more sinks would be charged more than a small restaurant with, let’s just say, a takeout.”

Sisters’ overall fees are now about $9,389 for the average house. Madras, meanwhile, is the only city in the region that also charges a stormwater system development charge. Its total SDC rate is $9,841 per single-family residence, according to the city planning department.

Most people feel the effect of SDCs through higher housing prices — developers say they pass the costs along to buyers. But new commercial structures can face hefty fees.

Figuring out how many single-family houses, or equivalent dwelling units, are equal to one supermarket, for example, is a complicated process. Rankin said water and sewer charges for businesses in Sisters will be based on how many fixtures are included in their plans and a follow-up inspection to make sure that many were actually installed. But other cities have varied methods for determining how much of an impact businesses and factories have on local infrastructure.

Prineville’s SDC resolution spells out how to convert different structures into the equivalent of one single-family residence. Each unit in a multi-family house or mobile home park is equal to 80 percent of a single-family home. Motels and hotels are half a home for each room. A gas station with a convenience store is equivalent to two single-family residences.

When a developer applies for a building permit, the building department would take those figures and multiply them by the SDC charges, which are based on a single-family house. Most cities have a system for reimbursing developers if they decide to go ahead and build new roads or other systems using private money.

In Redmond, the transportation SDCs are based on the average number of afternoon rush-hour trips generated by each new building. A single-family house is equal to one trip, for an SDC charge of $2,877. But a park and ride lot with bus service would have to pay 43.75 times that base rate for every acre it covers. A movie theater, on the other hand, would be charged based on the number of seats it has, with each seat being equivalent to 14 percent of the SDC for a single-family home.

“How we calculate the p.m. peak-hour trips is based on studies that have been done and published by the Institute of Transportation Engineers (in Washington, D.C.), so they know what a single-family dwelling unit generates in the peak hour versus an apartment unit or a condo unit, versus a 5,000-square-foot office building or a McDonald’s,” Doty said.

The development perspective

The varying SDC rates throughout the region can have a big impact on where developers choose to build, some local builders and economic development experts said.

“Some commercial projects are paying upward of $80,000 to $100,000 in SDCs, and if you can go to Redmond and do it for $40,000 and save some money, that’s a significant savings,” said Andy High, director of government affairs for the Central Oregon Builders Association. “(It’s) definitely considered in where you’re locating, especially as you try to compete with the land prices the way they are right now.”

And at a time when Central Oregon and the rest of the country are experiencing a widespread slump in the housing market, higher SDCs or home prices could have more of an impact on buyers.

“You’re starting to see somewhat of a breaking point in the prices throughout Central Oregon — there’s a lot of inventory … and we’re starting to see reductions in home prices,” High said. “SDCs do drive up the cost of housing across the board. Even if you build a bunch of new homes around an existing home and all those new homes sell for $300,000, it’s likely that that older home will sell for right around $300,000 as well.”

High pointed out that if homes are not selling and builders are not starting new projects, cities won’t see any income from SDCs.

While the system may not be perfect, planners and developers said they understand the need for “growth to pay for itself” — a common slogan in the SDC debate. Corbett, the Prineville city manager, said SDCs put the burden of the new systems needed because of growth on new residents in the community.

“Personally, I think that if a developer is looking out for the long-term interests of the community, I think that they would want to know that the city has a funding structure in place to ensure that the infrastructure is going to be there when they need it,” he said. “The alternative to SDCs is that all the ratepayers share in the cost of expanding the system, and that’s really kind of a difficult position for any elected body to be in — arguing that the (existing residents) ought to pay for growth.”

Roger Lee, executive director of Economic Development for Central Oregon, a nonprofit organization that promotes local economic growth, said SDC rates may be steadily increasing in Central Oregon, but they are still low enough to attract new businesses and homeowners from nearby states.

“We have so many companies and individuals locating here from larger areas … In California, for example, they have something called impact fees and sometimes impact fees down there for residential can be in excess of $50,000 to $100,000 before they start building,” Lee said. “I think they look up here and think it’s pretty affordable, (but) if you go to the Midwest, they haven’t heard of this and look at some of those things and think it’s highway robbery.”