EWEB: Eugene Water and Electric Board

Bond Petition - April 2008

Our Utility - Our Vote

1,897 signatures collected, 4,208 signatures were needed by April 28

 

www.registerguard.com/csp/cms/sites/dt.cms.support.viewStory.cls?cid=95834&sid=5&fid=2

Should EWEB’s new operations center go ahead?

Con: Money could be spent on renewable energy

BY SHANNON WILSON, PAUL CAUTHORN AND BOB RANSOM
Published: April 22, 2008

Our Utility, Our Vote is a citizens’ effort that believes Eugene voters deserve the opportunity to decide whether the Eugene Water & Electric Board will issue $85 million in bonds to relocate part of our facilities to the west Eugene wetlands. This important decision has enormous implications for our city. The end of cheap oil and the other energy crises that are unfolding are emergencies that require major efforts to make the region more energy independent through investments in renewable energy and efficiency.

In February, the Eugene City Council voted 5-3 against allowing a public vote on EWEB’s future. Bonny Bettman, Betty Taylor and Alan Zelenka voted in favor of an election; Andrea Ortiz, Chris Pryor, Mike Clark, George Poling and Jennifer Solomon voted against permitting it.

Afterwards, the City Council authorized EWEB to solicit $85 million in bonds for their Roosevelt Operations Center, which would relocate the utility’s maintenance facilities to Roosevelt Boulevard between Belt Line Road and Bertelsen Road.

Our Utility, Our Vote is collecting signatures to require that a democratic decision be allowed by Eugene voters before these funds can be spent. If 4,208 valid signatures are collected before Monday, then a special election will be held to determine the will of the people. Petitions can be downloaded at

www.greenwasheugene.com/eweb.html.

Election opponents claim that this delay would waste money and that there already was plenty of input. The truth is there has been extremely little public awareness of EWEB’s plans, the cost increases in their proposal (last year, the price tag was $70 million, not $85 million) or the greater need to prepare the region for energy shortages.

Most of EWEB’s electricity is generated by hydroelectricity, mostly from the Bonneville Power Administration’s dams on the Columbia River but some also from EWEB’s dams on the McKenzie River. Climate change is likely to shrink the region’s glaciers, which provide summertime water flows, and that will leave us with less locally produced electricity. In addition, the end of cheap oil and natural gas are making all energy uses more expensive.

The $85 million planned for the new Roosevelt Operations Center — the relocated maintenance yard — could be spent instead on creating a solar panel factory (for hot water or electricity) that could create lots of green jobs that pay good wages.

Solarizing the homes and businesses of Eugene would employ a lot of plumbers, electricians, construction contractors and others with the required technical skills. There would be enormous positive opportunities to train apprentices to help with these energy transitions. There is also a tremendous need to insulate homes and businesses to reduce energy waste, which would create even more jobs.

EWEB is better than most utilities in its investments in solar energy, but the scale of the energy crisis requires that this needs to be more than a small part of its business. When EWEB closed its Energy Outlet, a public outreach effort about energy efficiency, the utility complained that it could not afford to keep it open (since funding from other utilities ended). If a small effort to educate about energy savings is too expensive, how can EWEB afford to spend at least $85 million? These costs will average about $1,000 per EWEB customer over the life of the bonds ($85 million divided by 85,000 customers).

One motivation for moving the EWEB maintenance yard is a desire to sell off the riverfront properties for private developers. McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center has considered this location in the past. It is also possible that some sort of condominium development or commercial center would be built.

Moving part of EWEB to west Eugene also would be part of a larger effort to expand the city of Eugene farther into neighboring farmlands beyond the urban growth boundary.

These are all extremely important decisions that require public ratification through a binding vote, not three-minute comment periods at poorly publicized meetings that only a few people attend.

HHHH

Shannon Wilson, Paul Cauthorn and Bob Ransom represent Our Utility, Our Vote, the organization seeking a public vote on the Eugene Water & Electric Board’s plan to issue $85 million in revenue bonds for a new operations center.

 

 

 

 

http://www.registerguard.com/csp/cms/sites/dt.cms.support.viewStory.cls?cid=94135&sid=1&fid=7

EWEB names five to riverfront development advisory panel

BY JEFF WRIGHT
The Register-Guard
Published: April 16, 2008 12:00AM

The Eugene Water & Electric Board leaned toward business expertise
Tuesday in selecting five people out of a pool of 45 applicants to
serve on a Community Advisory Team charged with helping to guide
redevelopment of roughly 20 acres of choice riverfront property.

The Eugene City Council next month will select another four people to
serve on the nine-member panel.

The appointees named Tuesday include Dave Hauser, president of the
Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce; business attorney Thomas Hoyt; real
estate broker Desiree Moore; real estate development consultant Dean
Pape; and retired construction company officer Gary Wildish.

The advisory team will make suggestions on how to develop the acreage
that EWEB expects to vacate when it relocates its operations complex
to a new site in west Eugene in 2010.

 

 

 

You MUST be a City of Eugene registered voter to sign the petition. Support from people outside the City limits is welcome, but you cannot sign the petition (urge your friends and co-workers inside the City to sign).
You can collect signatures even if you are not inside the City limits, but YOU CANNOT SIGN IF YOU DO NOT LIVE INSIDE THE CITY OF EUGENE, even if you are an EWEB customer whose mailing address says "Eugene" but is not technically inside the city limits. Sorry.

How to help get the Bond Measure on the ballot

1. download petition for printing at www.greenwasheugene.com/eweb.pdf

You can "right click" the above link and save the file to your computer. Please read the "questions and answers" below for guidance on how to collect signatures, even if you are only signing for yourself.

Note: this is NOT an electronic petition, you MUST print out the entire PDF file above if you want to sign the petition if you do not already have a printed copy. The first six pages are the text of the resolution passed by the City Council (which you need to have available if you ask people to sign the petition in case they want to read the six pages of bureaucratic language). The seventh page is the actual petition to sign, please follow the simple instructions below so the signatures will be considered valid by the City Recorder. Electronic only petitions for ballot initiatives do not (yet?) exist, sorry.

2. fill in a page of petitions - or many pages. Please make sure to follow the guidelines listed below so that the collected signatures can be considered valid.

3. Mail the petition by April 25 to Our Utility, Our Vote, Box 51222, Eugene OR 97405
or hand deliver by April 28 to the Cascadia Ecosystem Advocates office 454 Willamette Street Office 205
(shared with the Eugene Peaceworks at the Grower's Market)

 

What guidelines do petition gatherers have to follow?

1) Only 1 person per sheet (you can't have one person start collecting on sheet and hand off to another)

2) Need to witness all signatures (you can't leave at table unattended)

3) Circulator needs to sign, write name, address, date on bottom and sign ONLY AFTER THE LAST SIGNATURE WAS collected.

4) A copy of the entire resolution must be with the signature sheets for potential signers to see.

5) WE MUST KEEP TRACK OF EVERY FINANCIAL EXPENDITURE -- SHOULD PRETTY MUCH ONLY BE PHOTOCOPIES. PLEASE KEEP VERY ACCURATE RECORDS AND IF YOU SPENT MONEY ON THEM OR IF THEY WERE DONATED.

6) Make sure in the left hand corner of each petition to put the Petition ID # which is: 08-02

 

on this page:

Questions and Answers about the EWEB petition

a two page PDF version for printout is at
www.greenwasheugene.com/eweb-roosevelt-petition.pdf

 

What is the petition seeking to do?

The petition would allow voters in the City of Eugene the right to decide whether EWEB would have authority to issue $85 million in bonds to finance the relocation of its maintenance yard from the riverfront to the west Eugene wetlands along Roosevelt Boulevard.

What does signing the petition mean?

Signing the petition means that your voice is added to others seeking a public vote on this issue, it does not require that you support or oppose the bonds issue, merely the right to have a democratic decision of the citizens.

Who can sign the petition?

Only people who are registered to vote inside the City of Eugene may sign the petition, EWEB customers who are not located inside the City may not sign and will not be able to vote yes or no should the petition be placed on the ballot. If you are not sure whether you live in the City limits or not -- since the exact boundary is complicated -- you can check your voters registration to see if you are registered in the City or in the County.

Who can gather signatures?

Anyone can gather signatures, you do not need to live in the City limits to be able to collect signatures.

How many signatures are needed, and what is the deadline?

4,208 valid signatures from registered city voters -- 5 percent of the electorate -- are needed before April 28, 2008. Since there are always some invalid signatures inadvertently collected as part of a petition campaign, more than this number will be required.

If the petition campaign is successful, a special election of the City of Eugene will be held on this issue on September 16, 2008.

How can I get a copy of the petition, and where do I send completed petition forms?

You can download a copy from www.greenwasheugene.com/eweb.html

Please send completed petitions to:
Box 51222, Eugene OR 97405

You can also give completed petitions to the petitioners who will be at the Saturday Market on April 12, April 19 and April 26, or at a number of other community events before the April 28 deadline.

Petition gatherers do not need to contact the organizers to collect signatures, but it would be helpful to inform the organizers - if you plan to collect them in a public location so we can better coordinate volunteer energy.
Please contact us at eweb at greenwasheugene dot com

No petitioner is being paid to collect signatures for this effort.

Where are good places to collect petitions?

When you download the petition, make sure to sign it yourself, if you live in the City limits.

You can ask your family, neighbors, friends, work colleagues, fellow students or teachers, your church group, fraternal association, etc. Many food stores are excellent locations to collect signatures, although if you have to be on private property to approach customers the very large stores are generally hostile to the presence of citizens engaged in democracy. Public sidewalks are free speech zones where

A few schedules of local community events that would be appropriate venues:

Eugene Weekly calendar

Register Guard has several listings for community events

KLCC.org has a calendar of local events

www.lanecurrent.net/cal

We especially need lots of petitioners at the Saturday Markets on April 12, 19 and 26. Thousands of citizens visit the Saturday Market and Farmers Market, and we could easily reach our goal of 4,208 signatures solely at these markets.

 

I'd like to help! What are your suggestions for how to approach citizens to ask them for their signature?

Here is a suggestion of what you could say:

Hi, how are you today?....Good.
Are you a registered voter inside the Eugene city limits?....Great.
I’m with a group called Our Utility, Our Vote and we’re collecting signatures for a referendum petition for the September ballot to decide whether city voters wish to authorize $85 million worth of bonds for Eugene Water and Electric Board or EWEB to finance the construction of a brand new building in west Eugene (wetlands).
The bond measure will initially result in a $52 per year/ per household increase for EWEB ratepayers, $1,000 per household when all is said and done.
Keep in mind your signature is not a vote “yes” or “no,” it is merely support to place on the ballot in September whether or not the people of Eugene want to authorize the $85 million bond measure for their public utility.
In February, City Councilors Bonny Bettman, Betty Taylor and Alan Zelenka all voted in favor of placing this measure before the people of Eugene, but were overruled.
In my opinion, $85 million dollars would be better spent towards creating green jobs, like a solar panel factory or weatherizing homes.
Thanks. Have a good day.

What is EWEB planning to do?

EWEB is planning to move its maintenance yard from their downtown facility to Roosevelt Boulevard between Beltline highway and Bertelsen Road. They do not now plan to move their administration functions (located in the large white building on the riverfront).

This relocation of their operations would shift their crews toward the edge of the city, although this would enable EWEB to be more centrally located if Eugene is further expanded out onto the surrounding farmland.

EWEB’s website on their planned Roosevelt Operations Center is at
www.eweb.org/News/projects/Roosevelt/index.htm

How much is EWEB planning to spend on their new complex?

The initial estimates from EWEB were about $70 million. The bonding authority that EWEB has been given by the City Council is for $85 million. Construction cost increases with the skyrocketing prices of fuel and materials make it likely that the real cost will be higher, still. EWEB ratepayers are ultimately responsible for paying back any bonds for this facility.

What is the cost per EWEB customer?

EWEB claims the Roosevelt Operations Center would cost $52 per year per household per year. They don't mention how many years, but it would be many. They also don't mention how much interest would have to be paid on the bonds, or what would happen if the price tag goes up more than it already has.

EWEB has about 85 thousand customers, so it would be about $1,000 per customer.
www.eweb.org/about/facts/

here is EWEB's point of view about their plans:

www.eweb.org/News/projects/Roosevelt/q_and_a.htm
How would EWEB pay to construct the new operations center?
The Eugene City Council on Feb. 25 authorized EWEB to issue up to $85.5 million in bonds to finance construction of the Roosevelt Operations Center. EWEB will issue the bonds under the Uniform Revenue Bond Act.

Under the URBA process, the bonds can be issued following a 60-day period after City Council authorization, in which citizens have the opportunity to place the measure on the ballot through an initiative petition.

EWEB Commissioners established a project budget of $83.5 million for the facility; the additional $2 million in bonding authority is needed to cover insurance and other bond-sale costs. The bonds will be paid back with electric and water revenues.

What is the current estimate of how much it would raise rates?

Based on the preliminary design for the Roosevelt Operations Center, residential customers could see an increase of approximately 1.6 percent in their electric rates and 8.7 percent in their water rates, or $52 annually for the average residential customer.

Proceeds from any sale of riverfront property vacated when construction is completed would reduce the rate impacts.

What is planned for the riverbank if EWEB moves?

There have been several proposals for construction projects on the riverbank to replace the EWEB maintenance yard. The Arlie company, a local real estate speculator, has sought to acquire this property for many years. There has been considerable discussion in the media about the potential for the site to be used for a hospital. The exact fate of this publicly owned property after EWEB remains unknown at this time.

How did the City Council vote on the bonds issue?

When the City Council gave EWEB the authority to issue the bonds, Councilor Bonny Bettman forced a vote on whether to give the citizens of Eugene the right to vote yes or no on the bonds. Her measure was defeated by 5 to 3. Bonny Bettman, Betty Taylor and Alan Zalenka voted to give the citizens of Eugene the right to vote on these bonds. Andrea Ortiz, Chris Pryor, Jennifer Solomon, Mike Clark and George Poling voted to block the citizens of Eugene from voting on these bonds. Mayor Kitty Piercy stated that if there had been a tie, she would have voted against giving the citizens the right to decide this issue.

What would the petitioners like to see EWEB do instead?

The twin crises of Peak Oil and Climate Change require that our public utility make steps to reduce energy consumption and increase renewable energy production. The money that is to be invested in the Roosevelt Operations Center could be spent instead on solar energy for many of the rooftops in Eugene, which would make the community more energy independent. We could have a local factory to make solar panel (for hot water and / or electricity) equipment for this amount of money, which would create lots of green jobs. There is also a tremendous need to insulate homes and businesses to reduce energy waste.
A majority of EWEB’s electricity is from hydroelectricity, mostly from the Bonneville Power Administration’s dams on the Columbia River but some also from EWEB’s dams on the McKenzie River. Climate change is likely to reduce the region’s glaciers that contribute to summertime water flows, so investing in solar power is critical for avoiding energy shortages.

 

www.eugeneweekly.com/2008/04/17/news.html

SLANT

Last week in this column we wrote about the new petition that would force the $85.5 million EWEB bond sale to go before voters. Now people are asking, "Should we sign the petition?" We recognize the need for EWEB to upgrade and expand its facilities for its 250 operations workers and all their vehicles and equipment, and we appreciate EWEB's efforts to create an environmentally sound facility at Roosevelt and Beltline. But we think this bond sale should have gone to the voters when the City Council had its chance back in February. The bond sale will have a big impact on ratepayers for decades to come, and that alone calls for the higher level of public scrutiny that comes with putting funding before voters.

EWEB needs more public scrutiny. The revelation two years ago that EWEB had subsidized Hynix's power bill with untold millions of ratepayer subsidies elicited only a shrug from the board and management. EWEB's rate structure for industrial power encourages waste while shifting costs to homes.

The utility's plans for its prime riverfront property have so far ignored the public interest in a park at the site. And this week the EWEB commissioners did something outrageous and politically foolish. Out of a pool of 45 applicants, they picked five like-minded people to serve on the nine-member Community Advisory Team to guide redevelopment of the EWEB riverfront acreage. EWEB has stacked the panel with construction and development people, with the exception of business attorney Tom Hoyt. Not one person with expertise in landscape architecture, riparian habitat or urban design was chosen, leaving the four remaining positions to be filled by a split City Council.

EWEB wants to maximize the value of its surplus property in order to help pay for its new facilities, but EWEB is a public utility and the public has a right to a balanced decision-making process. A ballot measure on the bonds would hopefully stir a lively public debate about EWEB's priorities.

 

www.registerguard.com/csp/cms/sites/dt.cms.support.viewStory.cls?cid=90428&sid=4&fid=1

Petition seeks public vote on EWEB bonding
BY JEFF WRIGHT
The Register-Guard
Published: April 9, 2008

A Eugene environmentalist has filed a referendum petition to give city voters a say on whether the Eugene Water & Electric Board should be allowed to issue $85.5 million in bonds to finance a new operations complex in west Eugene.

Joshua Schlossberg and other volunteers have until April 28 to collect signatures from 4,208 registered city voters — 5 percent of the electorate — to force a public vote on the question at a special election on Sept. 16.

EWEB officials say that, if successful, the referendum campaign would delay the project by nearly a year and push up construction costs by $4 million to $6 million. It alsocould delay efforts to redevelop the 20 acres of prime riverfront property that EWEB plans to sell after moving its current operations facilities to a new site at Roosevelt Boulevard and Belt Line Road.

The referendum drive marks the first time an EWEB bond proposal has been challenged since the enactment of a 1993 state law that allows the utility to issue bonds with just the approval of the City Council. The law requires a public vote only if a petition referendum is successful.

EWEB commissioners unanimously approved the bonding plan, as did the City Council, though on a 5-3 vote, back in February. At the time, councilors Bonny Bettman, Alan Zelenka and Betty Taylor favored putting the question before voters.

Schlossberg said he filed the petition on behalf of Cascadia’s Eco system Advocates, a volunteer group affiliated with the League of Wilderness Defenders. He said the organization that he works for, the Native Forest Council, is not involved in the petition campaign.

Schlossberg said signature gatherers are not taking a stand on the merits of the EWEB project, but feel voters should be allowed to decide the matter “when such massive sums of money are being utilized for bonds.”

Shannon Wilson, chairman of the Sierra Club’s local Many Rivers Group, said the group’s executive committee voted last week to oppose EWEB’s building proposal. The committee’s concerns, he said, include EWEB’s intention to build on undeveloped land that includes wetlands, and the proposal’s timing in light of the possible economic recession.

“We don’t think it’s the right time to spend $85 million,” Wilson said. “I think people will see that this is not the correct time to incur such a debt on the city and EWEB and its ratepayers.”

The Sierra Club has not formally endorsed the referendum campaign, but Wilson said he and other individual members intend to take part.

Petitioners face a deadline of April 28 — 61 days after the city published a notice of the council’s authorization of the bonds — to gather the necessary signatures. Schlossberg said advocates debated for several weeks whether to pursue the referendum before deciding to do so. Even at this relatively late date, petition supporters believe they can gather the required number of signatures within the short three-week window still open to them, Schlossberg said.

“If we get 50 folks involved and each gets 100 signatures, that’s quite doable,” he said. “Our army is being mobilized.”

Petitioners will canvass the Saturday Market and seek signatures at the city library, natural food stores, bus stops and other venues, he said.

EWEB has won authority to issue nearly $250 million in bonds without public votes since the 1993 law, the Uniform Revenue Bond Act, went into effect, utility spokesman Lance Robertson said. That authority includes about $60 million to buy high-priced power during the West Coast energy crisis in 2001; $50 million for improvements made to the Leaburg-Walterville hydro project; $36 million to build a new Hayden Bridge Treatment Plant reservoir and make other water supply improvements; and $15 million for a high-speed telecommunications system that EWEB ultimately abandoned.

In several cases, EWEB did not spend the full amount it was authorized to borrow, Robertson said. For example, EWEB issued only about $30 million in bonds to get through the 2001 energy crisis, despite having authority to issue roughly twice that amount.

EWEB has spent about two years planning and publicizing its new operations complex, and has received very little comment about the project’s financing plan, Robertson said. Most of the public’s interest, he said, appears focused on redevelopment of the riverfront property — which won’t be available until EWEB moves its operation complex to the new site on Roosevelt Boulevard.

The bonds are to be financed solely through EWEB electric division revenues. EWEB estimates the bonds will increase a typical residential customer’s combined water and electric bill by 2.6 percent, or about $52 a year. That increase should be cut by about half, however, once EWEB sells its riverfront acreage and applies the proceeds to the costs of building the new Roosevelt Operations Complex, Robertson said.

While $85.5 million is not an insignificant figure, “we feel we have a plan and a facility that’s been designed with economy in mind,” Robertson said.

The existing riverfront complex includes an operations building that was built in 1952 and is “almost unusable,” and vehicle shops in similarly poor condition, he said. The property is also home to the utility’s storage and pole yards.

A September election would delay the project because initial earth-moving work can only be done during certain times of the year, as prescribed by state and federal permits relating to water quality and wetlands mitigation, Robertson said.

With an election, such work probably wouldn’t begin until next year, with project completion thus pushed back from late 2010 to late 2011, he said.

Nonetheless, state law unequivocally gives concerned citizens the right to pursue a referendum on bonding issues, Robertson said.

“Some citizens think this is important enough to start the effort to get it on the ballot,” he said. “We’ll have to see if enough citizens think it warrants actually putting on the ballot.”

 


 

EWEB's new wetlands complex:
A distraction from mitigating the energy crisis

by Mark Robinowitz

In 2007, the Eugene Water and Electricity Board (EWEB) promised that their maintenance yard in west Eugene, which would wreck wetlands, would cost about $70 million.

In 2008, the price tag is $85 million.

The real cost is anyone's guess.

For that much money, we could build a factory to make solar hot water panels and train lots of people to make and install them.

It is good that EWEB is not an investor owned utility, but they are not welcoming the "public" to their decision making process. I've even run into EWEB employees who privately admit that their Roosevelt Blvd. complex is a boondoggle, but they don't speak for the EWEB board (and also do not have a say in the decision).

EWEB is pushing this boondoggle in part so they can sell off part of their riverfront property so it can be turned into some sort of yuppieville on the Willamette, part of the long sought Riverfront Research Park with roads and more "impervious surface" along the river.

It would be nice to see a loud demand that our money (public funds) should be used for things we need (solar panel factories) rather than boondoggles that are not needed.

EWEB also owns a smaller piece of paved over wetland along Green Hill Road (just south of the railroad track) that is intended for a future substation if and when the Urban Growth Boundary is expanded between Green Hill Road and Oak Hill. But since the West Eugene Porkway is now "No Build" that UGB expansion is unlikely to happen any time soon. Similarly, EWEB's perceived "need" to stick their maintenance yard near the edge of town is unlikely to be necessary since the sprawl machine is starting to slow down (housing bubble, economic crash, rising oil cost, peak everything). In other words, let's build a solar panel factory instead of the EWEB palace. If there was any sense in the planning systems this is what would happen.

Prevention of harm is always better than mitigation of detrimental impacts.


Register Guard
LETTERS IN THE EDITOR'S MAILBAG
Published: February 18, 2008

by Shannon Wilson

We're ignoring the big problems

Let us define insanity. The biosphere and civilization are facing collapse because of toxics and greenhouse gases released as a result of our current lifestyles and industrial processes.

Yet, as the entire human race, its leaders, and all its highest institutions around the world foresee this doomsday, we have the University of Oregon pushing to spend $200 million to $300 million for new basketball and baseball stadiums. How about spending $200 million on efficiency, conservation, solar energy and research to save the biosphere?

We have Eugene, Lane County and the Oregon Department of Transportation, run by the most educated minds in the county, planning to spend $800 million on new freeway projects. No mention in their documents about the end of cheap oil or the collapse of the biosphere.

We have the Eugene Water & Electric Board telling us that it must have a brand new $85 million palace on undeveloped land in west Eugene. Is this preparing EWEB ratepayers for future shortages of water and hydroelectricity when the glaciers feeding our community are gone? What about spending $85 million on energy conservation and efficiency?

We have federal and state agencies, again run by the most educated minds in the state, pushing for the good old days of extraction on our publicly owned lands so that a handful benefit while ecosystems and salmon runs collapse.

What are our elected leaders doing to prepare us? Why are the media not exposing this insanity instead of covering stories about downtown or cops or politics?

Shannon Wilson

Eugene

 

Council vetoes EWEB bond vote
By Edward Russo The Register-Guard

Published: February 14, 2008

The Eugene City Council on Wednesday killed the idea of asking voters to approve the $85.5 million financing plan for the Eugene Water & Electric Board’s new operations center.

EWEB officials met with councilors because the council on Feb. 25 will be asked to approve the bonds to pay for the utility’s proposed complex, on the southeast corner of Roosevelt Boulevard and Belt Line Road.

Under state law, EWEB does not have to refer the bonds to voters unless 5 percent of city voters sign petitions for a vote within 60 days of the council’s approval.

Councilor Bonny Bettman said the council has not been able to “weigh in” on the utility’s reliance on debt to finance the complex. She suggested that EWEB officials think of ways to reduce the cost of the project and consider “reshuffling” priorities.

She asked her colleagues to make the bond financing dependent upon voter approval in the May 20 election.

“I just want (EWEB officials) to make their case to voters,” she said.

But the council voted 5-3 against Bettman’s idea.

EWEB’s West Eugene buildings will have “green” elements, such as natural lighting and solar hot water heating. The utility hopes its complex will achieve a gold rating from the U.S. Green Building Council, which would be one of only two or three buildings in Eugene with that designation.

 

[wetlands destruction, financial boondoggles and increasing the total vehicle trips for the building's operators are not factored in to the so-called Green Building standards)

 

But EWEB has cut other environmental features -- such as rooftop photovoltaic solar panels to generate electricity -- in order to save money.

That drew criticism from Councilor Alan Zelenka, a former manager for the Emerald People’s Utility District and now an energy consultant with Kennedy/Jenks, an engineering and environmental sciences firm.

Zelenka said he was disappointed that the photovoltaic panels were dropped. “If EWEB isn’t doing solar PV, who will?” he said.

Zelenka said he favored voters having a say because $85.5 million is a lot of money. The proposal could be an “easy sell” to voters, he said, especially if EWEB reinstated the photovoltaic panels.

The utility estimates that the sale of bonds for the center will increase customer rates by about $52 a year for a typical residential customer. That amount could be cut by nearly half, however, if EWEB ultimately sells the Willamette riverfront property it will vacate and applies the anticipated $30 million sale proceeds toward the Roosevelt Boulevard project.

Mayor Kitty Piercy urged councilors to endorse EWEB’s financing because it would allow the utility to move its operations yard from its downtown riverfront property.

A yet-to-be created master plan will guide the conversion of the industrial yard to other uses and thereby help connect the city to the riverfront, Piercy said.

She told councilors that she would vote against Bettman’s proposal if she had to break a council tie. “I think the public is eager to have this opportunity to have more access to the river,” she said.

 

note: if the riverfront becomes a series of privately owned yuppieville developments, the public would have LESS access to the river

 

The council, like the elected EWEB board, is accountable to the public and “we are given the (city) charter responsibility to decide these things,” Piercy said.

Piercy did not have to vote because only Councilor Betty Taylor joined Bettman and Zelenka to support Bettman’s proposal.

Opposed were councilors George Poling, Jennifer Solomon, Chris Pryor, Andrea Ortiz and Mike Clark.

“All of us can see the clear benefit to the city,” Solomon said of EWEB’s plans.

Copyright © 2007 — The Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon, USA

copied for Fair use provisions - for non-commercial purposes