There is complex state of affairs that threatens to compromise the health and well-being of the citizens of Bandon, Oregon.
Under the existing government structure, there are loud and glaring doubts as to the managerial capacity and financial capacity of the water and wastewater systems. The jurisdictional, legal and financial inadequacies are so serious that I fear there is a good chance the drinking water system will soon not be able to maintain Oregon’s drinking water requirements or meet Bandon’s desired level of service and the sewer system is compromised to the point that it may not meet discharge requirements.
System administrators (aka as the City of Bandon) have been unable to acquire sufficient financial resources since 1995 when the Bandon City Charter was amended. In 1995 a city charter amendment was passed by voters that no increase in water rates, sewer rates or other fees, with few exceptions, can be made without voter consent. Since then, City administrators have been unsuccessful in making needed rate increases to properly operate and update the water and wastewater utilities.
This is unacceptable. As a recent transplant to this beautiful seaside town, the first question that came to my mind when I learned this was, “That was nearly 25 years ago. Why has this been allowed to continue for so long?”
After attending many city meetings for a year and listening to the local politics, this question quickly morphed into the idea that, just like the current decision makers, the institutional and administrative decision makers over the last 25 years were either unable or unwilling to change the existing government structure to one that was able to acquire and manage sufficient financial resources.
For instance, it would not have been difficult to apply for a special district to be formed in order to manage the systems under a board elected by the public instead of depending on a popular ballot vote for a rate change. For reasons not understood and not easily answered, this was evidently not an option?
This is why I have profound doubts about the managerial capacity of the City of Bandon to do what is required to protect public health. Public health must not be a priority in their decision making, otherwise the risk the people of Bandon now face would never have come to light.
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The way things are now, with the water and wastewater systems being operated and managed by the City of Bandon, whose hands are tied by the city charter, the ability to acquire and manage sufficient financial resources are so limited that I would call the situation dire and the systems dysfunctional.
Some or all of the unit process have come to the end of their useful life and there is no short or long-term plan in place to replace them. Lack of financial planning puts our community at risk. The systems depend on the City Council implementing emergency rate increases to be able to cover projected revenue shortfalls. This action is now being challenged in court.
The only capital improvement plan in place is a general obligation bond (Measure 6-173) that is likely to fail in the November 5, 2019 election. What will happen then?