Friday, October 24, 2008

UPDATE: Suterra Sale--Site Pics, Cali Spraying Controversy

First, a link to the actual sale agreement in a searchable PDF:

Suterra Sale and Purchase Agreement

Went out to the worksite earlier today and I am amazed at how far along Suterra is on site preparation. There were approximately 20 pieces of heavy equipment breaking rock and moving rock and dirt. If you go out to the new Les Schwab building at the east of Cooley and turn north at the double roundabout, the Suterra site is about 800 yards north. Here are a couple pics:

There was so much going on I didn't want to get too close. I'll try again this weekend.

According to the Sale Agreement, Suterra has had site access since Oct. 4th in anticipation of an agreement. They want to be in the facility next summer-fall from what I've read.

On another Suterra note, Buster has flipped into full research mode on Suterra spraying their Checkmate products from the air in the Bay Area. The stated purpose is to control the Light Brown Apple Moth. There is far more controversy than anyone knows about, including lawsuits, injunctions, city resolutions, state and federal intervention, secret hazardous ingredients, sealing of court records, etc. See the comments at BB2's last post for a whole lot more. It's rather disturbing.

There are plenty of very unhappy folks in the Monterey and Santa Cruz areas over this matter. They've even set up several dedicated websites:

For more info here is a Google search for "lbam spray".

I really hope Suterra is a good neighbor to us here in Bend. This kind of stuff is where public process really needs to be proactive. I will further such efforts after the election, so as not to inadvertently help even more pro-development candidates get elected. Candidates like Tom Greene, Don Leonard. Kathie Eckman, and Jeff Eager.

If you have had it up to here with the Council, please consider writing me--Bruce Ewert--in for Position 3. I know I'll get at least one vote :) And I will be in a position to be even more proactive about ending the abuse of Executive Sessions.

There was a ton of activity around the Les Schwab building as well, including a couple of moving trucks that look to be bringing in office equipment. They look really close to moving in. I'll try to get pics soon, without all the trucks and other equipment.

Juniper Ridge is moving forward fast. Here's to keeping it much more public and making sure it doesn't bankrupt the City.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Secrecy Surrounds Suterra Land Sale

The City of Bend has entered into a Sale and Purchase Agreement with Suterra for land at Juniper Ridge. According to earlier media reports, this purchase is for eight acres at $7 a square foot, a purchase price of $2,439,360. Juniper Ridge Partners will received a fee of 6% on this transaction initiated by Suterra, about $146,000, for some kind of ill defined services that have no documentation. The cost to the city to prepare the site is estimated to be $3.5 million, which will also serve future tenants of Juniper Ridge when the City/ODOT logjam over traffic on Highway 97 is solved. City Manager Eric King estimates this will happen in the spring of 2009.

Only four of the seven Councilors actually made it to the special Joint Session of the Bend Urban Renewal Agency and the City Council (BURA is the City Council), with Councilor Friedman attending via conference call. Councilors Abernethy and Clinton were not in attendance.

Once again a disheartening level of secrecy surrounded a transaction at Juniper Ridge. The meeting was called to order by Councilor Telfer and immediately recessed into Executive Session "to discuss real estate issues" for almost an hour. Suterra executives and EDCO director Roger Lee left he executive session early, and then the Suterra execs were summoned back into the Executive Session again by Economic Development Director John Russell. When the execs came back out 15 minutes later, they were complaining to each other about being questioned so strongly on the subject of being able to finance their project.

The Purchase and Sale Agreement was not available to the public before, during and after the vote on the agreement, and there was no public hearing held before the vote on the agreement, which passed 5-0 on the condition that Suterra provides adequate proof of financing capability to the City. There were public hearings held on the two topics regarding financing issues, specifically to allow the entire purchase price plus another $200,000 from the General Fund to be transferred to the BURA Juniper Ridge Construction Budget to build out the area. The City will also not pay itself over a million dollars in SDC's related to the Les Schwab purchase until some future date, will maintain it's $6 million line of credit until some future date, and will continue paying the $120,000 per year in interest on the line of credit.

No public comments were made. The meeting was not held at the normal time of Council meetings, but rather at 4 PM on the fourth Wednesday of the month, and virtually no public was in attendance. The three votes and all council discussion took about 20 minutes. Most questioning was by Councilor Telfer regarding taking monies from the General Fund for this project. Telfer was the only Councilor to vote no on any of the three issues. Finance Director Sonia Andrews stated that the City could increase it's line of credit by $200,000, but that it was easier to take it out of the General Fund. None of the other Councilor's seemed to take issue with this, although we all remember several hours of discussion over using $70,000 to fund the transit system.

I was told by City Attorney Pete Schannauer that there was no requirement for a public hearing on this public land sale, and that for unspecified reasons the agreement was not made available to the public prior to the special Joint Session. ORS 221.725 states that "...when a city council considers it necessary or convenient to sell real property or any interest therein, the city council shall publish a notice of the proposed sale in a newspaper of general circulation in the city, and shall hold a public hearing concerning the sale prior to the sale." Pete and Economic Development Assistant Director Jerry Mitchell assured me that I could receive a copy of agreement the next day, today. I will update this post with a link to the agreement if and when I receive it.

Suterra seems to be an excellent tenant for Juniper Ridge. According to Suterra President Steve Hartmeier the average salary is $90,000. Five to ten new jobs will be created per year, in addition to the 50 or so employees that will move from the current Suterra facility in the Columbia/Simpson area, which has almost 200,000 square feet of space empty and available already. Suterra creates pheromone-based insect control products. Suterra claims a high level of safety, although there have been reports of extensive safety issues with aerial applications in California.

This reporter has no issue with the tenant but does take issue with the process. Secrecy and extensive Executive Sessions have no place in the public process, and in fact are tightly regulated to certain issues that the City of Bend has far exceeded. This is an issue that will be further examined in the near future, as I firmly believe that the next City Council needs to become much more open, especially as the Highway 97 issue is cleared up and further lands are sold in Juniper Ridge. Also the continued significant payments to Juniper Ridge Partners for completely undocumented "services" is very troubling.