At the April 6, 2015 City Council Meeting:
Parrow Sworn in as Mayor - Randy Parrow took the Oath of Office and was sworn in as the Mayor of Vernonia. Parrow, a former City Councilor, took over the position when former Mayor Josette Mitchell resigned in order to accept the position of City Recorder/Assistant to the City Administrator.
Council Approves Daily City Hall Closure for Lunch – Council approved a proposal from staff to close City Hall from 12:30 to 1:30 PM beginning May 4, 2015, so staff can take a scheduled lunch break. City Hall will also now be open to the public for business beginning at 8:00 AM; the office was previously not open until 9:00 AM.
Council Approves City Car – Council approved the conversion of an old Police vehicle that is no longer in service and has been for sale, to use as a city vehicle. The vehicle would be used by the City Administrator as needed for city business, by the Police Department for Code Enforcement duties, by the City Flood Plain Manager and for travel by staff outside the city. Cost to convert the vehicle and operate it for a year was estimated by staff to be $1,304. Cost to reimburse employees for use of their own vehicles for city business was estimated to be $2,488.
Council Approves Library Notification Plan – Council approved a plan presented by Library Director Shannon Romtvedt to publicize the new Computer and Internet Use Policy at the Library. Council approved the new policy at the March 16, 2015 meeting, which requires minors to have a signed “opt out of internet use” form as opposed to them being required to have signed permission for use. The plan to publicize the changes include: informing new patrons of the Library, posting it on the City Facebook page, publish a notice in Vernonia’s Voice, communicate the policy change with the School District through School Library staff, and continuing to inform patrons with children of the policy change.
Council Approves Participation Protocol – Based on a request from the Public Works Committee, Council approved a protocol allowing Public Works Committee representatives to participate in the Waste Water Treatment Upgrade Project by visiting the project site and participating in Weekly Project Meetings.
Council Discusses Marijuana Dispensaries – Council held a lengthy discussion about medical marijuana dispensaries and recreational marijuana retail establishments. A year ago Council placed a one year moratorium on Medical Marijuana dispensaries; it expires May 1 and Council needed to discuss how to move forward when recreational use of marijuana becomes legal on July 1, 2015. The Council asked staff to begin the process of creating maps that would show where in the commercial zone a recreational retail business could go if they put in place different types of restrictions. Council decided to do nothing on the medical marijuana moratorium they have in place and believe they are protected under the Federal rules that classify marijuana as a controlled substance. The City already has written into their business license ordinance a rule which prohibits activities in violation of federal law.
City Administrator Presents Streetscape Options for Downtown- City Administrator Gian Paolo Mammone made a presentation to Council and the audience about possible changes to the streetscape of the downtown corridor. Council had previously asked Mammone to research options after business owners complained about the trees along Bridge Street blocking business signage and damaging sidewalks. Mammone presented several options. The general agreement was that the trees need to be removed and replaced with trees in containers. Council asked Mammone to return at the May 5, 2015 meeting with a more detailed plan that includes a parking plan and cost analysis for the project, including relaying all the pavers along the streetscape.
Council Requests Information on LNG Projects – At the request of Councilor Kim Tierney, Council directed staff to invite a member of Columbia Riverkeepers and a Columbia County Commissioner to the April 20 City Council meeting to discuss the proposed Oregon LNG and Oregon Pipeline projects.
Mayor Appoints Cole to Planning Commission – Mayor Randy Parrow, with consent from the Council and a recommendation from the Planning Commission, appointed Brian Cole to the Planning Commission.
Council Hears Recommendation from Planning Commission – Council heard a recommendation from the Planning Commission, urging the City Administrator to expedite the hiring of a new City Planner. The previous Planner, Carole Connell, resigned but has agreed to extend her contract until June. When asked, City Administrator Gian Paolo Mammone said he is working on the issue. Council took no additional action.
Topics From the Floor – Jeff Harrison told Council that he discovered a major water leak at his residence when his meter was last read. Harrison said he fixed the leak immediately and was asking Council to forgive the excess water use. Council referred the issue to staff to be handled as they have with other similar issues.
Jack Harvey, President of the Senior Center Board, raised concerns about electrical boxes in the sidewalk in front of the new Senior Center, and said they posed a safety risk. Council asked staff to look into the issue.