A Portland attorney who is suing the city over allegations of improper utility spending has a new complaint. John DiLorenzo is challenging a plan to build a massive homeless shelter on industrial property owned by the Bureau of Environmental Services.
Portland’s sewer utility put the site, known as Terminal 1, up for sale this summer. Developers offered up to $10 million for it, but the City Council decided not to sell the property and to lease it to the Housing Bureau for a shelter instead.
“The real estate itself is part of the fund, and my view of it is, they’re not allowed to use any part of the fund for a matter that’s unrelated to the provision of sewer service,” DiLorenzo said.
DiLorenzo has filed to add Terminal 1 to his ongoing lawsuit over city utility spending.
The commissioner in charge of city utilities, Nick Fish, voted against the decision to lease Terminal 1 to the Housing Bureau, saying the move did not fairly compensate ratepayers.
Portland City Attorney Tracy Reeve says any legal move on DiLorenzo’s part is premature, because the city has yet to complete a lease agreement for Terminal 1. Reese says the Housing Bureau will lease the property and cover any costs incurred by the Sewer Bureau. She says that complies with a rule in the city charter that requires that ratepayer funds are spent on reasonably related utilities.
“A rate that fully compensates BES for the use of the property and covers any BES costs associated with the facility will comply with that charter provision,” Reeve said.
DiLorenzo’s lawsuit, first filed four years ago, challenged more than $100 million in spending by the utility bureaus. A judge has upheld some of the spending as legal and found that in other cases, the city has to reimburse the utility funds from the general fund. DiLorenzo says he expects the remaining disputed spending to go to trial in December.