At the August 18, 2014 City Council Meeting:
CDBG Public Hearing- The City held a Public Hearing to hear testimony about a plan to apply for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for construction of a new Senior Center and Food Bank facility. The City of Vernonia is eligible to apply for CDBG funds in 2014. The funds can be used for public facilities and housing improvements, primarily for persons with low and moderate incomes. Susan Wagner, representing Community Action Team (CAT) which has been hired as the Project Development Manager for the Senior Center and Food Bank, is preparing the request to apply for funds and explained the process to the Council. Wagner told Council they would apply for $2 million in CDBG funds and assured the Council that a joint project between the Senior Center and Food Bank was an allowable project under CDBG. Deadline to request to be considered for an application is September 30. Three citizens, Pat Ray, Sandy Welch and Jack Harvey all testified in favor of applying for funds for the Senior Center/Food Bank. Jim Tierney, Executive Director of CAT, also testified in favor of the project and spoke at length about the process for applying, the timeline for the project, why the project would benefit the senior citizen community and the details of the project. Tierney told Council that the project plan calls for two projects, a $2.1 million dollar project for construction and $700,000 to do street improvement and other ancillary requirements of the development project which are not covered by CDBG funds. Tierney said additional funds would need to to be raised for the project. Tierney noted that the Senior Center has been losing $10,000 per year but told Council part of the development plan would include setting aside a reserve for operations for the first several years to ensure the entity can function successfully. No citizen testified against the project. Three citizens, Tobie Finzel, Brett Costley, and Bill Langmaid, all testified as neutral, but questioned the business model and financial ability of the Senior Center to remain solvent. Costley suggested the funds might be put to better use if applied towards the city’s Wastewater Upgrade Project and reduce the debt for the City by $2 million. Council has already approved requesting to apply and agreed they would take no further action until they have received an approval to officially apply for the funds.
City Moves Forward With Water Meter Checks- Council held a discussion and agreed to continue having members of the Public Works Committee verify all water meters in the city system. The hope is to have the project complete by the end of September. Councilor Donna Webb expressed concern that the volunteers are not receiving enough instruction and direction. Council agreed to have the Public Works Committee discuss it at their meeting on August 26th and move it forward.
Mayor Reads United Way Proclamation- Mayor Josette Mitchell read a proclamation, proclaiming September 2014 “United Way of Columbia County Fund Raising Month,” and urging all citizens in the community to support activities and efforts of the United Way of Columbia County.
Public Works Monitoring Water Levels- Mayor Mitchell informed Council that Public Works Foreman is monitoring the water gauge at Rock Creek and will inform Council if there is a need to request voluntary reductions in water use by citizens. Water levels were adequate at the time of the meeting.
Topics From the Floor- Mike Pihl told Council he looked at two trees of concern in front of the new Spencer Park. Pihl said one tree was healthy, and one tree is not healthy and should be removed. Pihl also told Council he will be doing some logging on private property on Louisiana Avenue and that the City should consider logging trees on adjacent property they own to avoid issues with blowdown.