The Portland Water Bureau hopes to purchase a six-bedroom, 3,825-square-foot Gresham mansion as a storage center for construction of a nearby drinking water filtration plant.
The $800,000 purchase was scheduled for a City Council vote this month—but that vote is being delayed while Commissioner Amanda Fritz examines the plan. The Water Bureau says it picked the home because it's across the street from the 90-acre construction site for the filtration plant.
But it's the latest price tag to raise eyebrows on a project for which cost estimates have risen from $500 million to $850 million.
"This is obscene," says Dee White, a longtime critic of the bureau. "Here we have an affordability crisis going on in Portland, and the Water Bureau is using our hard-earned money to buy their engineers a mansion for their job shack? Why can't the Water Bureau use temporary trailers at the site like every other cost-conscious outfit in the U.S. does? We're talking $800,000 in ratepayer funds for a frat house for the engineers."
The bureau says the property is useful because it's adaptable to several purposes.
"The property could provide a range of uses," says bureau spokeswoman Jaymee Cuti, "including a potential location for a pipeline, as a point for site access…or as a staging and storage location during the construction of the project."
But the bureau's impending purchase of the custom ranch-style home—with six bedrooms, a gourmet kitchen and a hot tub—has become a flashpoint for Gresham residents who don't like having the filtration plant built nearby in the first place. (They've started an advocacy group called Citizens for Peaceful Rural Living.)
"The main reason we moved here was for the character of this neighborhood," says Doug Silton, whose property is across the street. "I literally see herds of elk and deer on my property almost every day."