May 19th, 2010 By BETH SLOVIC | News | Posted In: CLEAN UP, City Hall

Saltzman to Leonard: "I Don't Want to See Water Ratepayers Pay for This" (Updated)

City Council the day after the May primary
The day after a bruising primary election looks and sounds like the debate at City Hall around 10:30 am today.

That's when, during a discussion of water and sewer rates for fiscal year 2010, newly re-elected Commissioner Dan Saltzman came out swinging against an idea to use $10 million in water ratepayer money to pay for land in Northwest Portland. That industrial land would then be turned into a staging area for emergency crews in the event of a catastrophic earthquake, flood or possible birdemic.

"I don't want to see water ratepayers pay for this," Saltzman told his colleagues on the City Council.

Commissioner Randy Leonard, who oversees the Water Bureau, has been a frequent target of accusations the bureau funds pet projects like college scholarships. He called the idea of using Water Bureau funds to buy a tract of land in the Northwest Industrial District "entirely appropriate."

Here's the rub: The land purchase was supposed to have been included on a list of projects that would have been funded by a proposed 12.9 percent water rate increase for July 1. But today Leonard proposed reducing that increase to 12 percent. If approved, that lower rate wouldn't allow the Water Bureau to buy the land it was eyeing.

Does that mean everyone on the west side of Portland will die when the big one hits? Not necessarily. Mayor Sam Adams pledged to find money to buy the land before he finalizes his adopted budget on May 27. "I've asked the City Council to be very creative about that," he said this morning.

Update at 12:53: I overlooked an important detail. The current owner of the land in question -- that patch of green below -- is The Oregonian.
Oregonian land for sale
 
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