City Department Updates

Administration/Utility Billing 

• 4 new sewer/water accounts for the month of September and 2 new water/sewer service accounts for the week of the 6th of October.

• Pertaining to the Water/Sewer bills issued on September 27, (and that were due on October 10th) a Late Fee will be added (as per City policy) on Tuesday, October 14th. Subsequently, should the bills still remain outstanding, PW crew will proceed with Shut offs on October 22nd.

• A letter was sent out with the utility bills to residents that in the past have left town in the winter and have been charged a monthly fee of $5. The City Council adopted Ordinance 825 implementing new options for “snow birds.” The letter explained that the resident can either have their water turned off while they are away paying $35, and $35 to have it turned back on. Also, they can simply leave the water on and pay the regular base rate of $131.00.

• Staff is in the process of reviewing the Utilities (Water) Ordinance. Staff review is focusing on sections relevant to “Billing and Collection,” “Payment Arrangements” and “Temporary Vacancies.” Once the study is completed, recommendation for potential language change will be presented to City Council for review, discussion and adoption.

• Community Action Team has issued a new Columbia County Resource Guide. This reference book has been prepared to better acquaint Columbia County residents with available resources and services. Community Action Team’s programs include: Energy Services; Housing Solutions; Affordable Housing & Community Development; Housing Rehabilitation & Weatherization; Self-Help Housing; Senior Services; Veterans Services; Healthy Families; Head Start; Parenting Education & Support Services.  For any questions please call 503.397.3511 or visit the website at www.cat-team.org.

 

Police Department

• September 27th, 2014 – October 2nd, 2014 the Vernonia Police Department responded to 52 calls for service. This slower week has allowed staff an opportunity to catch up on other priorities.

•September 2014 Overall Stats – Columbia County 911 (CCOM) tracked 272 calls for service for the month of September.

• October 3rd, 2014 – October 9th, 2014 – The Vernonia Police Department responded to 59 calls for service.

• Columbia County 911 (CCOM) tracks calls for service and incidents for Columbia County Law Enforcement and well as other agencies from July 1st – June 30th of each year. According to their records, the Vernonia Police Department (VPD) had a total of 2761 Calls for Service/Incidents during that time period. In addition, (VPD) made 391 Traffic Stops.

• Our Department is still working on the illegal dumping/trespass case that occurred at the transfer station. As of October 1st, 2014, one of the four individuals identified has paid 1/4th the amount of the bill. Upon completion of the investigation, the case will be forwarded to the Columbia County District Attorney’s Office for Review.

• VPD has received a few nuisance complaints about properties in the 400 Block of A St. The Nuisance Violation process has been started on the two residences. The owners of the property have been given until October 10th, 2014 to correct the problems. One of the properties has made substantial improvement. Currently, the second property has not made any progress. The property appears in worse condition than it was originally last week. Should the violations not be corrected, and problems not be brought into compliance within the established date, VPD will issue citations to the person responsible for the properties.

• Patrol Vehicle Update: There may be a delay in delivery of the two fully equipped Chevrolet Tahoe patrol vehicles. This is due to a backlog of work at ERS. As mentioned in previous reports, we have purchased the vehicles from the Scappoose Police Department. The vehicles are used but have very low miles.

• Surplus Patrol Vehicle: We have looked up the “Good” value of the patrol vehicles that will be sold as City surplus. The 2007 Ford Expedition is valued at $10,603 and the 2006 Ford Crown Victoria is valued at $3,418. After decommissioning the vehicles, they will not have factory rear seats or center consoles, therefore, reducing the value of both. I suggest starting the bidding process at $9,000 for the Expedition and $3,000 for the Crown Victoria. The cost of decommissioning will be approximately $600 dollars per vehicle.

• Reserve Police Officer Update: The application process has been closed and we still have two applicants. We have scheduled post testing for the two applicants on October 27th, 2014. Upon completion of the testing, we will schedule oral board interviews and medical and psychological evaluations

• The new Police Department Webpage was activated on October 1st, 2014. We are still making some adjustments and are working out some bugs. You can review the page at vpd.vernonia-or.gov. If you have any suggestions on ways we can improve the page, please send us an email (either at the Police Department or at City Hall).

• On Tuesday, October 7th, 2014 the Vernonia Police Department responded to a Vernonia High School call regarding a student that had brought a gun to school. It was determined that there was no threat of harm and the firearm, a rifle, had been secured in the student’s vehicle the entire time. The Department investigation revealed that the student intended to deliver the firearm to a relative prior to going to school but that, because of running late, had driven directly to school. A report has been forwarded to the Juvenile Department for review.

 

Finance/Human Resources 

• Auditors from Grove, Mueller & Swank were here  to perform the annual audit of financial statements and procedures. Staff was able to provide all requested information and the audit went smoothly. We should have a draft of the audit report by month’s end.

• Finance Administrator checked in with Drew Davis (USDA) to get clarification regarding paperwork that needs to be processed for the loan the City is receiving to finish the Waste Water project.

• Finance Administrator also prepared the Request for Proposal (RFP) for the Waste Water Treatment Plant Project for Council approval.

• We received three applications for the open Librarian position this week. The position advertisement is scheduled to be open until October 12th. We are optimistic that there will be a good pool of candidates to choose from.

 

Public Works 

• Public Works staff has begun locating water meters for the ground truthing project. This job was started by volunteers from the Public Works Committee so that all relevant information to water meters in town are properly entered into the new billing system. The staff is recording meter serial numbers, meter size and location.

• Public Works staff assisted the airport by delivering rock from the lake to the Vernonia Airport. They plan to have volunteers help spread the gravel to have a level spot for the pilots lounge. The pilots lounge is one of the old FEMA trailers that was listed as surplus by the County after the Flood Relief Center moved out of town.

• A water leak was repaired on a customer water service located on 2nd Avenue. Public Work staff took care of the project. The leak was caused by a rusted out galvanized fitting.

• Public Works crews will continue to flush and inspect sewer main lines. Also on our priority list is the task to begin the locating of water valves, exercising them and making sure they are accessible to use when needed. Open ditch and culvert cleaning will also be occurring in the next couple of weeks to prepare for the coming rains.

• Public Works crew continued on the ongoing process of cold patching city streets.

• The water meter at the head of “Water Filter Number 1” at the Water Plant Facility was repaired by PW crew. During a routine maintenance, it was discovered that the meter, which is used to measure the amount of water that goes through the filter during a single day, was leaking.

• Public Works crew is constantly checking for leaks at the location of water meters citywide. This week the PW crew checked for possible leaks not only on the public right of way side, but also on the private residence side.

• PW crew periodically works on a routine maintenance of City buildings and was busy with general building maintenance of the Police Department Building.

• The Public Works crew responded to a water leak located at 524 Weed Avenue. The leak was located on the private property side of the meter. Per City Policy, when the leak occurs on the private property side of the meter, it is the responsibility of the citizen/owner to repair the leak. PW crew shut off the water so that repair could be made by owner, and eventually water was turned on.

 

Planning/Building 

• The Building Department has given a final approval for the Monument that was placed at Spencer Park.

• At the City Council meeting on October 6th, the City Council tabled the scheduled Public Hearing for the Lincoln School Zone Change per direction of the City Planner and City Attorney until the next Council Meeting on October 20th. This postponement will afford the City Attorney time to review the letter that Ross Day (the Attorney representing the applicants Bud and Sharla Dow) had sent, too late for review, to the City Council.

• Building and Electrical inspections continue to move forward as housing projects continue to be worked on by the owners.

 

Library 

• The “Book Discussion Group” met on September 29, 2014. The group discussed the book “A Town Like Alice” and had a lively discussion about it. The next book the group will discuss will be “A Tale For The Time Being” by Ruth Ozeki. The book discussion group always has room for more people. The next meeting of the Book Discussion Group will be October 27, 2014 at 5:30 at the Library.

• The preschoolers enjoyed story time with Nancy on September 29, 2014. The books about pumpkins were enjoyed by the children and parents alike. Five preschoolers attended story time.

• October 8, 2014, was “Toddler Time.” Come have fun with Shannon Romtvedt  with storytelling, bubbles, songs, rhymes and other games. The activities are mostly focused on kids between the ages of 0 and 3, but older children are welcome too (bring along an older brother, sister or friend). The “Toddler Time” group meets on the second Wednesday of every month at 11:00 – 11:30 am.

• The Stamp Club meets once a month. Stamp Club is for young and old alike to get together and share knowledge about the hobby of stamp collecting. First Thursday of every month at 4:30 is when the club gets together.

• We would like to thank the Friends of the Library for buying a storage cabinet for art supplies: “Thank you very much… it was very kind and gracious of you… and greatly appreciated.”  The Friends of the Library will also be helping with the cost of having two Oregon Humanities speakers coming to our library and giving some interesting presentations and guide us through exciting and stimulating conversations. Everyone is welcome. If you need more information about this activity, please don’t hesitate to contact our staff.

• Upkeep of the Library building is (almost) a never ending activity. After taking care of the grounds during the past weeks, we have focused our attention to the painting of the building. Finally, with the good weather we were able to complete the outside painting of the upper trim of the building. The painter did a wonderful job. It looks great.

• Circulation statistics:  401 pieces of material were checked out at the library during the week of September 22, through September 26.

• Please join us at the library every Tuesday from 3:45-4:45 for the After School Activity Program. There will be stories, snack, and crafts for the children to enjoy. This program is suited for children in grades K-5. The program is free of charge. Please call 503-429-1818 if you have any questions.

• Just a reminder that the next “Family Movie Night” will be October 21, 2014 at 6:00 pm.  Come enjoy a movie and some popcorn. It will be fun for the family. Call for movie title or come and be surprised. We hope to see you here at the library.

• Fun fact about Vernonia Library, the library checks out more material in a year than Rainier or Clatskanie. Vernonia Library checked out 23,047 pieces of material last year. WOW! Isn’t it great that the city of Vernonia has such a nice library for community use? Thank you to the city for their support of the library.

 

City Administrator /Administration

• The City Administrator, Mayor Mitchell and Dan Brown (Community Action Team) met to discuss the request of the Vernonia School District to release funds pertaining to the New Spencer Park Project that were held in escrow. The issue will be presented to City Council for consideration and resolution at the October 6th Council Meeting.

• Beginning Monday the 29th the internet connection at City Hall was intermittent and at times completely down. By Wednesday the internet was completely down. Ben Fousek (GIS Consultant) assisted the IT consultant in determining that the problem was originating from the library. Staff has determined that 4 of the 8 computers at the library were infected with malware that was maliciously attacking the City’s internet connection. The 4 offending computers were disconnected and the CPUs placed in the library office. A thorough investigation of other computers in the organization and a review of the security of City Hall’s and VPD’s networks disclosed that networks are completely secure and only share an internet connection with the library. Staff investigation strongly suggests an outstanding and systemic failure of the organization and the library to establish and implement routine/good practice policies and protocols to use and protect the computers, network and to enforce them systematically. Among others, staff findings reported: The library has used unknown and undocumented IT support. IS Outsource’s contract does not include the library. The computers are running a Home Edition of the Windows 7 operating system. Anyone can install software and change OS settings. There are no protections against malicious software.

During recent staff meetings City Administrator and Department Heads were made aware of the fact that some Library patrons routinely disregard time limits (for computer use), install games and other software, and blatantly disregard City/library policies in front of staff, and ignore direction to follow the policy without repercussion. In some cases, young adults have used intimidation of library staff. City Staff is reviewing policies and protocols on how to better protect the organization’s personnel and property. Once the investigation is completed, staff will prepare drafts for improved policies and protocols, and recommendation will be presented to City Council for review and implementation.

• The City Council directed staff to write a Library Policy. The policy will govern how Library staff and the community use the Library.

• The City Administrator and Mayor Mitchell met with Dan Brown (Community Action Team) to review financial documents pertaining to the closing of the transaction for the transfer of the Old Vernonia Health Center (record and close the escrow) and review the timeline and guidelines for the demolition of the building. Dean Larson Inc. the contractor that will be working on the demolition of the building is in the process of testing the building for asbestos and lead. Demolition of the Old Vernonia Health Center building will need to be completed by October 31, 2014.

•  City Administrator met with Dan Brown to review progress of work at the New Spencer Park. Also, Staff was made aware of concerns that there was a potential “geese problem” at the park – geese eating the grass seed.

• City Administrator attended City Council Workshop to discuss and define short and long term strategies for the use of the Vernonia Learning Center. Members of the Senior Center Board, and Jim Tierney (Executive Director Community Action Team) were in attendance. The Council met with representatives of the Senior Center to discuss the request of the Senior Center Board to use the Vernonia Community Learning Center during construction of the new facility (Senior Center/thrift store).  Also the Council discussed the fiscal situation of the Learning Center and started strategizing about potential uses/activities to make the Learning Center a viable entity again. City Council directed the City Administrator, Gian Paolo Mammone to meet with the Senior Center Board, and Jim Tierney to draft potential guidelines for an agreement that would allow the Senior Center to utilize the Learning Center building. City Council will make a final decision after a specific recommendation from this meeting.

• The City Administrator met with Jim Tierney (Executive Director, Community Action Team) and representatives of the Senior Center Board to discuss potential lease terms for the Vernonia Learning Center. Once the draft of the document is completed, staff will present it to City Council for review and consideration.

• City administrator met with Larry Snethen (Lake Park Host) to discuss current conditions, operations, concerns and possible improvements necessary to improve the Lake Park and its operations. Conversation focused on immediate necessary repairs and improvements, as well as projected long term ones.

• City Administrator and Police Chief Conner met with Paula Hanson to hear concerns about locals and tourists biking on the sidewalks. Staff is in the process of collecting information. Among other issues relevant to downtown, this issue is under consideration for potential improvements.

• City Administrator and Finance Administrator met with Jon Forrester (Otak) and Brad Bogus (Tetra Tech Engineering) to review proposed schedule of Bidding & Construction for the Wastewater Treatment Plant Improvement Project.

• City Administrator met with Utilities Billing Clerk, Mayor Mitchell and Councilor McNair to discuss concerns about current language standards and protocols pertaining to some areas of the Utilities (Water) Ordinance. Staff will review sections relevant to “Billing and Collection,” “Payment Arrangements” and “Temporary Vacancies” and will prepare recommendation for amendments and City Council for review, discussion and adoption.

• The City Administrator worked on the draft of an Ordinance Establishing a Tax on the Sale of Marijuana and Marijuana-infused Products in the City of Vernonia. The intent of the ordinance is to impose a gross receipts tax on the sale of medical marijuana, recreational marijuana (should it be legalized, through Ballot Measure 91, by Oregon voters in November) and marijuana-infused products. The City Attorney is presently reviewing the draft. The Ordinance will be presented to the City Council for review, discussion and adoption at the Council Meeting on October 20th.