City Department Updates: November 1-13, 2014

Administration / Utility billing 

• The Utility Clerk mailed 896 bills on 24th of October. Late fees will be applied on November 14, 2014. Shut offs will be on November 21, 2014

• Under the direction of Council, the City Administrator and Utility Clerk met to review and draft an update on the “Billing and Collection” section of the Utilities/Water Ordinance. The intent is to simplify and clarify the Billing and Collection process and to limit the opportunity for the creation of large and long term outstanding water bills. Once completed, the draft will be presented to City Council for review.

• Vernonia Cares is asking Businesses and Organizations to come together and help collect food items for the “Annual Christmas Holiday Boxes.” City Hall will be a drop location; the goal is to receive 50 boxes of gelatin and 50 boxes of pudding to help support Vernonia Cares. For more information or questions, please call Pam Weller 503-429-4431 or Vernonia Cares 503-429-1414 for drop off sites.

• So far for the month of November we have opened two new utility accounts.

• Utilities Clerk will be sending out the Utility Bills on November 25 and we will have two inserts:

1. Public Work on Testing Backflow Assemblies

2. Columbia County Mental Health on Suicide Prevention


Police Department – VPD

• November 1st, 2014 – November 6th, 2014 The Vernonia Police Department documented 43 incidents/calls for service.

• November 7th, 2014 – November 12th, 2014 (5 Days) – The Vernonia Police Department documented 42 incidents/calls for service.

• On Tuesday, November 4th a fire started in a residence on “F” Street. The Vernonia and Mist Fire Departments responded to the call as well as Vernonia Police Department. The house was completely destroyed. No residents were in the home at the time of the fire. This case is currently under investigation.

• We are currently working on completing work on the second  new patrol vehicle. Once that is complete, we will be able to begin the sale of the two recently surplussed vehicles.

• We are hoping to complete interviews with the four Reserve Police officer applicants shortly. Those individuals selected will then be sent in for medical evaluations and psychological testing.

• On November 10th, 2014, the Vernonia Police Department responded to a report of “Found Property” in the 700 Block of Jefferson Ave. The property was a small back pack that contained baggies of Marijuana and a few other items. The owner was identified and the Marijuana was seized. The weight of the Marijuana was just under (1) ounce.

•⊇City Hall staff recently reported a person that has been found sleeping in the restroom/lobby area of City Hall at night.

This person was identified and trespassed. Chief discussed with the City Administrator the possibility of locking the outside doors when City Hall is not open. This is not the first occurrence of people sleeping in the lobby and the restroom.  In addition, there have been other reports from City Hall of people stealing the toilet paper.

• The Vernonia Police Department is still working on the Nuisance Complaint in the 400 Block of “A” St. The court date that was originally set has been reset. There has been some improvements on the property but  it is still not complete. VPD will be contacting the responsible person to provide more direction on what needs to be done to correct the violations.



• The Finance Director attended the City Council meeting Monday night to provide information regarding the server software upgrade proposal that was submitted to Council for approval. Council approved the funds to be expended in order to upgrade the City’s server that houses all City documents and records.

• Finance Director continues to work with Drew Davis from USDA to ensure that all necessary forms, documents, and applications have been submitted so that the Waste Water Treatment Plant project will continue on schedule.

• The City Administrator, Mayor and Finance Director met with Brad Bogus of Tetra Tech and Drew Davis of USDA to clarify necessary project oversight pertaining to the Wastewater Treatment Project.  Clarification was also made about a Project Resident Inspector that is required to be onsite to ensure that the contract specifications are being followed, the project stays on schedule and that all construction regulations are being followed. This position will report to the project manager as well as City staff.

• The Library has been accepted by TechSoup, a discount software provider for non-profits and public libraries. This will allow the Library to update their computer software in a very inexpensive way. Staff will be evaluating comprehensive needs of the Library over the next weeks.

• Finance Director, Billing Clerk and City Administrator met with other members of the sub-committee of the Public Works committee that has been tasked with verifying information in order to complete the sewer rate study. The other members include two members of the Public Works Committee and two members of City Council. This will allow the City to implement rate changes in accordance with the current operating/debt budget. The sub-committee has met twice  and plans to meet again in a month or so to finalize the data.

• The Library has entered into a service agreement with Ricoh to provide a new printer/copier/fax machine for the library staff as well as patron use. This lease agreement includes all supplies and maintenance.

• Finance Director is working with the Public Works Foreman to purchase a new motor for the tractor that was formally used to take care of the Cemetery. It has been out of service for the past two years and the cost of a new motor is less than the cost of repairs. We are currently looking at the budget to determine where the funds will come from. Once it’s back in service it will be returned to the Cemetery and the mower currently being used will go to the Parks Department.

• The online payment feature is up and running on Munibilling. So far we’ve had three customers take advantage of being able to pay their bill online. There is a small fee charged by a third party credit card processing service. Please contact City Hall for more information on how to register your account.


Public Works 

• Public Works staff continues to locate and exercise water valves throughout the City so if there was a water main break the line could be shut off in a timely manner with minimal water loss or property damage. As a side benefit the job gets public works more familiar with locations of water valves without having to rely on maps.

• Public Works staff finished the ground truthing of all water meters this week. Now staff will finish updating customer accounts with the meter’s information.

• Street sweeping continues as time and weather allow. We thank the citizens for their patience and cooperation. This time of year this is a very time consuming job.

• Public Works has been cold patching streets at least once a week as time allows. We are trying to address the streets with the most traffic first and work towards getting as many streets patched as possible.

• The Parks Department continues to deal with all of the leaves at the lake and other parks. We are on a twice weekly schedule for leaf removal.

• Public Works Department was notified that the City will be receiving an award from the National Weather Service for maintaining the Weather Station located at Vernonia’s water plant and for sending monthly reports to the Weather Service. Vernonia Public Works has been responsible for this task for a long time; this award is for 50 years of service! Current staff has been doing this since 1996.

• Public Works staff is working with Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) to replace the intake screen at the water plant. They are hoping to provide some cost sharing to improve the structure. This may involve installing a finer mesh screen and provide automatic back flushing which could eliminate leaves and debris from clogging the screen. This could help to eliminate some staff time in the fall when leaves are a problem.

• An abnormal amount of water consumption was detected over the weekend on the west side of Rose Ave. It was found to be the sump pump stuck in the run position at the Corey Hill Booster Pump Station pressure reducing valve.

• Staff began inventory and organization of water repair parts this week. This is to assure we are able to repair a water leak in a timely manner. There are various types of water lines in town and we must have parts in stock to repair all of them.

• Public works staff winterized park facilities that are not in use during the winter months. All water and sewer buildings have also had portable heater reinstalled and turned on.

• Anderson Park had an RV space with a broken water pipe that had to be excavated and replaced. These are frost free yard hydrants, but it had not been drained after use causing the water in the line to freeze and crack the pipe.

• Public Works would like to remind home owners to insulate their outside pipes or to leave some water dripping if the weather is below freezing. Also homeowners should know where the water shut off to the house is located and be able to access it.

• The Vernonia Lake pump was primed and started this week. We are struggling with the alder leaves plugging up the intake screen on it so we are monitoring it closely. We hope to be able to have the pump run for a couple of weeks before high water requires it to be removed for the winter.


Planning / Building 

• City Council has approved the “Lincoln School property zone change” from Residential “R” Zone to General Commercial “GC” Zone (with conditions). Carole Connell, City Planner, at the regular Planning Commission meeting, reported back on the City Council decision not to accept the zone change recommendation of the Commission for the Lincoln School property. Carole used this time as a training session and to answer any questions the Commissioners had to understand what the next steps are in the process.

• Permits have been issued for wood stoves, gas heaters, and electrical reconnects.


• Elijah Ferguson was the winner of the “Guess the number of candies in the jar” contest. Congratulations Elijah!

• Circulation statistics- 435 pieces of material were checkout from October 31 through November 6.

• Baby and Toddler Time with Shannon was really fun this week, it made staff want to join in. Please join in the fun with Shannon on December 10.

• Circulation statistics- 373 pieces of material were checkout from November 6 through November 13.

• Please help City Hall and the Library with their efforts to collect gelatin and pudding for Vernonia Cares holiday boxes. Others in our community need our support, please consider helping. Thank You

• November 24 is book discussion night. Book club will have a lot to talk about with the book “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou. They always have room for other book lovers.


City Clerk / Administration 

• The Unofficial Election Results are as follows: Josette Mitchell has been re-elected as Mayor for another two years. Jill Hult and Mike Seager have been elected as Council Members for the next four years. They will be replacing Councilor Donna Webb and Councilor Bruce McNair. The newly elected Councilors and the Mayor will be sworn in at the January 5th City Council Meeting. Congratulations to all and Thank You to Councilor Webb and Councilor McNair for volunteering their time and for their commitment to the City during the last four years.

• Walk your Wheels signage on Bridge Street will soon be a reality thanks to the Lyons Club. Paula Hanson has spearheaded this project supporting the well being and safety of all those that patronize the local businesses. City Council, Chief Conner and City Staff will be meeting with the businesses to discuss location of these signs.

• Volunteers are needed to serve on various City Committees and Commissions. Participating on a City Committee or Commission is a rewarding experience, providing an opportunity to learn and share your skills and knowledge and an opportunity to become involved in local government. A list of volunteer positions and the application are on the City Web Page or you are welcome to stop at City Hall and pick up an application and return to the City Recorder. Volunteer positions are appointed by the Mayor with Council approval.



City Administrator / Administration 

• City Administrator and Public Works Foreman met with Maggie Payton (Executive Director of Upper Nehalem Watershed Council), Greg Apke (Fish Passage Coordinator – ODFW) and Martin Olson (Screens Coordinator – ODFW). The group met at Hawkins Park where ODFW is in the process of investigating the summer dam being an obvious obstacle to migrating fish. The dam could block both the downstream movement of juvenile fish to the waters where they will spend their adult lives and returning salmon and steelhead. The group will reconvene periodically to draft potential solutions that could offer a compromise between ODFW and the City of Vernonia’s need.

• The Request for Proposal (RFP) for the Wastewater Treatment Plant Improvement Project is ready to bid and it only needs a final review of compliance from USDA. It is anticipated that the project will begin in early March 2015.

• City Administrator met with Councilor Donna Webb (Library Committee Liaison). The Library Board has been discussing the opportunity to expand the Library services and programs, and it is currently considering the opportunity to establish a “Books on Wheels” program that could deliver books to people who cannot come to the library. • The City Administrator met with Mike Pihl (Mike Pihl Logging) to discuss cutting two dead trees from City parks, and to have a professional estimate about a potential comprehensive logging program at City owned properties.

Over the past two months, staff identified, and was notified about trees in unsafe conditions (dead/dangerous). These trees are creating a risk of harm to the public at large.

A final report for Council review, and discussion, will be presented at Council meeting in the following weeks.

• The City Administrator and Scott Laird (Chair of the Parks Committee) toured the City’s parks system. While visiting the different parks, and aided by the Vernonia Parks and Trails Master Plan, the Chair briefed the Administrator on the different projects, and their priorities, anticipated to occur at the different parks.

• The City Administrator met with Larry Snethen (Lake Park Host) to talk about the Host concerns and potential issues about the Lake. During the week the restroom at the lake had been vandalized. The conversation was about closing the restrooms at the lake during the winter months. A recommendation will be presented to City Council for final decision.