By GERRY O’BRIEN Spokesman Editor
The city of Redmond is wrestling with how to maintain its small-town feel while growth is happening all around it.
On top of that, there’s a real struggle to bring in family-wage jobs versus the escalating costs of housing that keeps people out of the market.
“There are a lot of Redmond people who have a passion and pride for this community,” said City Manager Keith Witcosky, noting that residents wave to the patrol officers on the street and cheer for public works as they make road improvements.
Witcosky and Communications Manager Heather Cassaro, sat down with the Spokesman for a wide-ranging interview about the elements that are needed to make a successful city. To that end, the city has been updating its 20-year vision, Redmond 2040. The comprehensive plan update is currently in its final stages and will be presented to the city council for approval later this year.
“The comprehensive plan is one of the most significant documents we’ve done to date,” Cassaro said. “We’ve had community events, visited people’s houses, lots of outreach. What we have found is that people are not fearful of growth, but they want smart growth, good planning. I think Redmond is unique in the way it is very responsive to those demands, it is still small enough, and those voices can have an impact.”
Quality of lifeRedmond has a population of just over 30,000 and is seeing about 900 people a year moving in.
While 52 percent of the workforce are using Redmond as a bedroom community and commute to Bend each day, 48% of workers are commuting to Redmond from elsewhere for local jobs.
The city’s top five employers are: PCC Schlosser, a titanium casting facility; Medline Renewal Industries, medical-device reprocessing settling into a newly built $12 million office and manufacturing facility; St. Charles medical clinics; the school district; and Consumer Cellular call center.
Life in a small town means being able to go the local grocery store and recognize your neighbor; not stand in line for dinner and not be faced with traffic jams, both Witcosky and Cassaro said.
“By 2043, we are expecting 52,000 people to be living here. How do we maintain the quality of life going forward?” Witcosky asked.
Like Bend, Redmond is going through an housing explosion, yet the affordability is out of range for many.
“Wages here are in the low $40,000 range, but the average home price is $330,000. We need to get more workforce housing,” he said. There will be some relief soon as an affordable housing project with 49 units will be breaking ground downtown. Those apartments will be available to those making $25,000 to $55,000 annually.
Helping the homelessHomelessness is another issue the city is facing.
There are about 130 homeless camped east of town. In Central Oregon, the latest headcount put homeless numbers at 880.
“The issue for us is on the east side of town, around 17th and Antler, but they also trickle downtown,” Witcosky said. And there are issues with people camping near the Redmond airport runway approaches, which is an FAA violation.
Pilots may see burning campfires on their approach, which could cause an aborted landing.
“This has to be a regional solution with the county and other cities.” He noted there is a summit set for April put together by Central Oregon cities to bring legislators to town to work on a solution.
New infrastructureThere are three major infrastructure project in the works at Remond:
- Expansion of the wastewater treatment plant — a $30 million project. Designs should be ready by the end of the year;
- Airport is expanding its terminal — a $40 million project — to include a second floor with skyways to the planes. It is a massive endeavor that will begin to start up by the end of the year;
- Highway 97 south of town is under review with ODOT for a $50 million to $75 million renovation to make it more safe, accessible and appealing to visitors.
Another key ingredient to growth will be better and safer access to about 1,000 acres of industrial land south of the fairgrounds.
“We have a real opportunity to turn 100 to 200 acres into heavy industrial sites for new companies, but we need a straight connection to it off Highway 97. That could be another $15- to $30-million project,” Witcosky said.
In the end, the city needs partnerships with the county and with Bend.
“If Bend were not there, we would be Burns,” Witcosky said.”It’s great that city managers and the county works together; we’re all thinking about transportation, tourism and potential investments.”