Attendees at a recent State of the County event got an update on roads near Redmond, as well as a land swap that will lead to more industrial land and an expansion of the Deschutes County fairgrounds.

Commissioners Tony DeBone, Phil Henderson and Tammy Baney traded off speaking for nearly an hour at the Aug. 30 luncheon at the Juniper Golf Course.

Land exchange

The 945-acre land exchange, the next steps of which were recently approved by the State Land Board, was discussed at length. The Department of State Lands will exchange 140 acres with the county, which it will use to expand its fairgrounds, and also sell 20 acres to the Oregon Military Department for a new readiness center. The remaining acres would become large-lot industrial property.

DeBone said the project started before he joined the commission eight years ago.

“This is going to impact the whole tri-county area,” DeBone told the audience of about 70 people.

“It’s going to hold on to that next land for the large industrial employer, which can commute from anywhere in Central Oregon.”

While consultants are still working on what will go with the fairgrounds expansion, Henderson said after the luncheon that he hopes the expansion could go hand-in-hand with a southward extension of SW 19th Street to SW Quarry Avenue. An overpass at Highway 97 could tie into Quarry in the future and help take fair traffic off the busy Airport Way.

“The problem we have is, really how do you get more access to Airport Way, and, even if you have it, you still have a lot of criss-crossing traffic at fair time that gets all bogged up,” Henderson said. “You could have five outlets to Airport Way, but you still can’t get people beyond that. I think that was part of the idea with 19th Street, and with this 900 acres, that gets us quite a ways to Quarry, logistically.”

The county has commissioned two studies on the area around the fairgrounds, one in 2016 on a possible sports complex and another one it is in the process of completing on a “general expansion” of fair facilities, Henderson said.

“Where we could have more conferences, more meeting space, maybe bigger events,” he said. “We haven’t really made a recommendation yet, but we’re looking into the options and cost of those options.”

The consultants work on other fair and expo sites, and can advise commissioners on what might work in Redmond, Henderson said. The 140 acres gives the county more land to the south for future growth.

During the question and answer portion of the presentation, Redmond Mayor George Endicott, asked commissioners to prioritize getting funding for the 19th Street extension and an eventual interchange at Highway 97.

“To make that 900 acres viable, the truck and freight people that are using it have to have efficient access,” he said.

DeBone responded that the county will look at putting the project in its capital improvement plan in its annual budget.

“We’ll just start scheduling it in,” he said. “The future’s bright for transportation investment, and, when it’s time, we’ll make sure that happens.”

Other road projects

Baney, a member of the state transportation commission, discussed several other planned projects in the area. Among the more notable is a $2.5 million roundabout that will go in on the Old Bend-Redmond Highway at the intersection with Tumalo Road.

The roundabout is expected to be completed by September 2020, Baney said.

“Those of you that travel that area will be experiencing some construction and so we appreciate your patience in advance, but that is an important safety improvement,” she said. “For those of you who do not care for roundabouts, they do reduce the injuries and fatalities when there is an accident and they do keep traffic flowing too.”

The planning process is underway for improvements on Highway 97 around Terrebonne. Baney said about $21 million was secured from the state for the project. Design and right-of-way acquisition for the project is expected in 2019-20, with construction in 2021-22.

“These are all for safety improvements and also to increase our economy here,” she said.

Patti Adair, who defeated Baney in the May 15 Republican primary, told the Spokesman she attended Oregon Department of Transportation meetings on the issue and would like to see more done sooner to address traffic problems around Terrebonne. She said a temporary traffic signal in Terrebonne could be helpful.

“I’m definitely thinking that 97 in Terrebonne needs attention and sooner rather than later,” she said.

Affordable housing

The commissioners also discussed state House Bill 4079, a pilot program for affordable housing that is pitting Redmond against Bend in the competition for cities above 25,000 people. The program would allow the chosen cities to develop affordable and market rate housing on land outside the urban growth boundary, with at least 30 percent of the property designated for affordable housing.

The area Redmond applied to build its project on is 40 county-owned acres southwest of the High Desert Sports Complex located east of town.

“While we love the cities just the same, just as you love your children just the same, it does make for an interesting dynamic,” Baney said.

Other candidates

Adair, chairwoman of the Deschutes County Republican Party, will face Democrat James Cook, chairman of the Redmond planning commission, in the Nov. 6 election.

Cook, who, like Adair, attended the luncheon, said afterward that he would have liked to have seen more discussion of the county’s 911 system. A new $5 million system has caused problems for users since it went live in July 2017.

The agency has had long-term problems, partly caused by regular turnover in directors, Cook said.

“I think the idea that we’re just now starting to deal with the problem is indicative of a bigger problem,” he said.

Adair would like to see the county do more to ask residents to register their cell, so officials can contact residents of an area if a large fire or other disaster hits.

Cook was also disappointed in the average yearly salary of $43,450 for new jobs created in Redmond that was discussed. He would like to see better paying jobs created to deal with rising home and rental costs.

“I don’t think that constitutes a really livable wage in Redmond,” he said.

Adair also took issue with commissioners’ statements that the county property tax rate decreased by three cents per $1,000 valuation in the 2017-18 fiscal year. She said that doesn’t take into account rising property values that can offset that drop.

“The property tax fund has gone up more than 60 percent in the last 12 years,” she said. “I think we need to be way more careful with taxpayer money.”

— Reporter: 541-548-2186, gfolsom@redmondspokesman.com

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