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Water treatment bonds paid off.

Byline: CITY BEAT / EUGENE by Joe Mosley The Register-Guard

FINALLY, YOU CAN FLUSH with a clear conscience. No need to get bound up anymore over that nagging debt service on local sewage disposal.

That's right. The regional wastewater treatment system, built 25 years ago with $29.5 million in general obligation bonds serving as its fiscal cornerstone, is now free and clear.

The bonds were paid off this fall by the Metropolitan Wastewater Management Commission, which operates the system serving Eugene-Springfield's metro area.

Relieved yet?

Well, consider at least that the 1978 bond sale was covered primarily by property taxes during the years since. Property owners can now cross that obligation off the list of items included in their tax bills - though the difference may be almost unnoticeable.

The tax rate necessary to cover bond payments has fluctuated as the debt decreased, going from a high of 87 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation to a low of 4 cents per $1,000. The latter amounts to just $4 per year for the owner of a $100,000 home.

But local officials are concentrating as much on the landmark of 25 years in operation for the award-winning wastewater treatment facilities as on retirement of its debt.

"By teaming, the cities and county have provided an essential metro area service more efficiently and effectively than any of the governments could have alone," Eugene City Councilor and wastewater commission member Gary Rayor said in a statement marking the agency's 25th anniversary.

"Payment of the bond is indicative of this efficiency," Rayor said.

The general obligation bonds were the key piece to a financial package that also included more than $80 million in grants from the federal Environmental Protection Agency. The regional treatment system is now valued at more than $235 million.

Trail's missing link

No, city crews and their private contractors have not forgotten about the yet-to-be-opened East Bank Bike Path north of Valley River Center, which will complete a 12-mile loop of paths along both sides of the Willamette River.

The mile-long section, which was expected to be completed this month, is now likely to open in late January.

Work on the 12-foot-wide concrete path itself - which includes a long, elevated causeway over the Delta Ponds - is nearly complete, and crews are finishing the installation of light fixtures.

But safety railings must be installed on both sides of the causeway before it can be opened to the public, and ornamental fencing must be put in place along a portion of the trail that lies adjacent to the Willamette Oaks Retirement Center. The fencing was part of a negotiated agreement that allowed the city to route the path next to Willamette Oaks.

But there have been delays by manufacturers in shipping both the railing and the fencing, extending the timetable for completion of the project, according to a memo to the mayor and city councilors. City public works staff are working with the path's general contractor, Wildish Construction, "to expedite delivery" of the causeway railing and fencing materials, the memo said.

Meanwhile, both ends of the construction project remain fenced off to discourage people from using the path until the safety rails and privacy fencing are in place.

The East Bank Trail will extend from the Greenway Bridge at Valley River Center to the south side of River Island Estates.

Shove off

For the first time in six years, boats can be launched into the Willamette River from Alton Baker Park.

A new, 20-foot-wide concrete ramp has been completed off Day Island Road, along with a parking area for 12 boat trailers. Native landscaping has been planted throughout the site, and a swale and stormwater catch basin are being used to prevent the parking lot's stormwater runoff from flowing into the river.

A few finishing touches are still in the works - stop signs for vehicles and caution signs for bicyclists where the ramp's access road crosses a bike path - but the new launch already is open for year-around use during park hours.

The facility was paid for by the parks and open space bond measure approved by Eugene voters in 1998.

Boaters have urged construction of a boat ramp in the park since an informal boat launch was closed in 1996.
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Title Annotation:Columns
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Article Type:Column
Date:Dec 1, 2002
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