Power line charges spark Shady Cove debate

SHADY COVE — Officials of the Upper Rogue Community Center are asking the City Council to return nearly $10,000 for what they believe were incorrectly imposed system development charges and the cost of relocating a power line.

In January 2010, while applying to the city for permits to build a 3,600-square-foot addition to its building, the Community Center was assessed $2,839 in wastewater fees and $12,979 for transportation fees.

Half the fees, $7,909, were paid in April of that year after the City Council decided it didn't have the authority to waive system development fees for a nonprofit group.

Community Center board member Gary Endicott said he has reviewed the city's ordinances relative to transportation SDCs and believes those fees shouldn't apply.

"Transportation SDC fees were and remain questionable," he said, "if for nothing else but the logic that the Community Center's new addition had zero impact on any offsite transportation infrastructure. "… Through all previous ordinances, the intent appears to be consistent that the center should not have transportation SDCs imposed."

The Community Center doesn't dispute the wastewater fee assessment because restrooms and sinks are installed in the new addition, but they want the city to return the $5,070 they've already paid in transportation fees.

In addition, when work on the new building began, workers uncovered the city's buried electric power line running beneath the site of the Community Center's addition. "When this was found," Endicott said, "the power company stopped all construction until the power line was moved."

Endicott said he believed the city was asked to pay for moving the power line, but at the time, the city said it wasn't its responsibility.

"In order to maintain our construction schedule," Endicott said, "and not lose our grants, because these grants were timeline based, the Community Center had no alternative but to pay Pacific Power $4,823 to move that power line."

The consensus was that the power line had been buried before 1980, when both the Community Center and City Hall properties were owned by the school district, and, after a long discussion, no one could decide who was responsible for moving it.

"I don't think you can hold the city responsible in this particular case," said Mayor Ron Holthusen. "There's nobody at fault here. "… I don't think we have any particular obligation that would indicate that we're responsible for it — unless we made it our responsibility."

"Yes, it's a stretch, to say the city is responsible," said Councilman Leith Hayes. "I'm a lot more sympathetic to the other part of this argument, other than the power line. I'd like to waive the entire fee."

Other councilmen said they were worried that waiving fees might set a bad precedent.

City Administrator Danise Brakeman said the Community Center could officially request a credit in fees, however, no one was sure if the council had authority to grant such a request for an SDC.

The council also discussed possibly splitting the fees and costs, or finding other ways to help with some funding for the Community Center, but agreed that before making any decisions council members would need advice from the city attorney.

Brakeman was asked to contact the attorney and bring answers back to the council at a future meeting.

Councilman Jim Ulrich asked Community Center members to realize that the council was on their side and wanted to support them, but also had to make sure they were doing what was best for the entire community.

"Realize that this is a tough spot for us," he said. "None of us are opposed to the Community Center. We're not your enemies. Opposing you would be like opposing mom and apple pie."

Writer Bill Miller lives in Shady Cove. Reach him at newsmiller@live.com.

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