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First joint Bend-Redmond council meeting in decades discusses homelessness efforts, Hwy. 97 safety improvements

(Update: Adding video, details of meeting)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ)-- The first joint meeting in decades between Bend and Redmond city councilors took place Tuesday evening, a generally genial but serious event focused on two major topics: efforts to deal with the homelessness issue and improving Highway 97 safety between the two cities.

Redmond Mayor Ed Fitch told workshop participants the last such joint meeting of the two cities' leaders he could recall was 40 years ago, when he was Bend's city attorney.

Bend Mayor Melanie Kebler said, "It was really great to get together with our colleagues in Redmond and talk about our shared community issues."

Redmond City Councilor Cat Zwicker and Bend Mayor Pro Tem Megan Perkins headed up the homelessness discussion. with details of plans for an Oasis Village on Highway 126. Priorities right now for both cities include community engagement, philanthropy, and affordable housing.

Property on the north side of Highway 126 is planned for a range of uses, from the CORE 3 regional training and emergency coordination site to an Oasis Village managed homeless site, an RV/vehicle safe parking site by Mountain View Church and a possible RV parking site by Deschutes County.

Zwicker said an active advisory group made up of community members will also be created to tackle the issue. That advisory board has been approved by both cities and the county.

Changes to Highway 97 were also discussed by Gary Farnsworth, ODOT Region 4 manager, with phased plans over the next few years to add a median barrier on Highway 97 between Bend and Redmond, as funding allows, reducing the danger of cross-over and head-on crashes that often prove fatal. More changes also are planned to 61st Street access.

Multi-use paths to Redmond's new mobile home park will also begin construction in 2024. At the north end of Bend, Highway 97's major changes are well under way, including the removal of traffic signals at Cooley and Robal roads and a new Bend Parkway path that will make Third Street into a business route.

Redmond Mayor Ed Fitch said the city, like other local governments will struggle with funds in 2024, as grant funding could run out.

"Funding is always going to be a problem," he said. "We don't have the city funds for homeless projects. So usually the money that came in was from outside sources, either ARPA (American Rescue Plan) from the federal government or state allocations by the governor's budget."

It's a similar story for Bend. "The city budget just doesn't have enough money. By mid-2024, the Navigation Center is expected to run out of funding," unless new state or other funding is provided, Kebler told the gathering.

Both mayors agreed that more such joint meetings should be held in the future. Mayor Fitch said he's hoping the next meeting will also include Deschutes County commissioners.

"We do have common issues. Water is a big one that we haven't talked about yet, and I think we will need another meeting just to talk about water and in the Deschutes Basin." he said.

Here's the agenda and presentations given to councilors:

Article Topic Follows: Government-politics

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Isabella Warren

Isabella Warren is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Isabellahere.


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