City News

At the April 20, 2015 City Council Meeting:

Council Hears Presentation on Disaster Recovery – Council heard a presentation from Jim Tierney, Executive Director of Community Action Team (CAT), regarding Small Community Disaster Recovery.  Columbia County Flood Relief  and CAT were instrumental in assisting the City of Vernonia and its residents after the Flood of 2007.  Tierney told Council the community was able to secure funding and assistance totaling over $47 million from various sources during the recovery project.  He provided information documenting the recovery effort and said the documents could be used in the event of a future disaster.   Tierney noted that the immediate response by volunteers to gather data from damaged property owners led to 109 homes being lifted or bought out,  four commercial buyouts and one commercial flood-proofing project. The community received $2.5 million in faith group labor and  $250,000 in other volunteer labor.

Council Approves Spencer Park Fencing Plan – Council approved a plan presented by staff, and recommended by the Parks Committee, to install bollard and wire fencing around Spencer Park.  Council approved the estimated $5,000 expense based on the funding being available from the Parks budget.

Council Approves WWTP Funding- Council approved Resolution 05-15, approving  a State Revolving Fund Loan Agreement to fund the Waste Water Treatment Project.

Council Approves Funds Transfer-Council approved Resolution 06-15 for an interfund transfer in the Parks Budget in order to pay for new parks staff, pay for the major repair at Vernonia Lake, and install fencing at Spencer Field.  A total of $25,319 was transferred  from Building Operations and Maintenance, Advertising and Contingency line items to Salaries, FICA, Operational Materials and Contract Services.

Council Directs Lot Line Adjustment-Council directed staff to proceed with a lot line adjustment to establish a standard  lot size for the former cemetery care taker house at the top of Bridge Street.  The City is considering renovating and selling the home.

Council Offers Some Assistance on Water Bill – Council offered Jeff Harrison a 50% reduction on his water usage bill after he experienced a large and unnoticed water leak on his property on Springboard Lane.  Harrison previously told Council he repaired the leak as soon as it was identified but still received a bill for use of 219,900 gallons of water totaling $950.  Based on previous situations, Council offered Harrison a reduction of $457.29 and a payment plan for six months to pay for the water use during the leak.  

Council Approves Jamboree Committee Requests – Council approved requests from the Jamboree Committee for use of City owned areas and street closures during Jamboree Weekend, August 7-9.  Approved use requests included: Shay Park for vendors; Anderson Park Horse arena for Ridge Riders Horse Gaming Show; Hawkins Park for a concert on Friday afternoon/evening as well as the logging show; the former WOEC parking lot; the former Health Center area, the former Senior Center area, portions of the new Spencer Park for the car show, motorcycle show, softball tournament, and other exhibits; and Vernonia Lake for the fishing derby.

Council also approved a request from Cedar Side Inn to host a beer garden during Jamboree at Hawkins Park during the concert on Friday and the logging show on Sunday.

Council Considers Emergency Debris Sites – Based on a request from the Emergency Preparedness Committee, Council discussed potential sites for debris collection in the event of some type of future natural disaster.  Staff identified three private properties and three city owned properties as potential sites.  Council chose two City owned sites, one on each side of the Nehalem River, as the preferred locations.  In addition staff proposed a strategy of  loading debris into dumpsters and removing it immediately instead of piling the debris and then removing it all at one time later.  This would help avoid potential contamination of any site used.

Council Approves Planning Commission Change – Council Approved a recommendation from the Planning Commission to number positions on the Commission in order to better track Commissioner’s terms.  Council adopted Ordinance 902 to institute this change.

Police Apprehend Vandal – Police Chief Mike Conner reported that a minor involved in graffiti vandalism was caught and referred to Columbia County juvenile court.  Conner will seek restitution.

City Administrator Report - City Administrator Gian Paolo Mammone updated Council on Spencer Park and maintenance at Anderson Park, and the hiring of Parks Superintendent James McMahon and Public Works employee Kari Johnson; the City will post for the hiring of a second Public Works position in May.  Mammone also informed Council that he has not yet resolved the vacant City Planner position.

Mayor Appoints Fennell to Library Board – Based on a recommendation from the Library Board and with approval from Council, Mayor Randy Parrow appointed Brandi Fennell to the Library Board.

Topics From the Floor – Terry LaChapelle complained to Council about a continuing sewer problem and asked that the issue be resolved immediately.


At the May 4, 2015 City Council Meeting:

Council Holds Hearing, Approves Conservation Easement – Council held a Public Hearing to take comments on the acquisition of a Conservation Easement on the property at 1462 Bridge Street, the location of the Lincoln School.  Council had previously approved a zone change on the property, from Residential to General Commercial, but attached specific conditions for development, including the Conservation Easement, which would preserve the building on the site.

During the hearing there was no testimony for or against the Conservation Easement.  During neutral testimony, Dennis Chadek, a neighboring property owner, asked to have the Conservation Easement explained.

Later in the meeting Council unanimously approved the Deed of Conservation Easement and the Declaration of Covenants and Restrictions.  Council also adopted Ordinance 903, which re-zones the property, by a vote of 2-1.  Councilor Kim Tierney voted against, stating she was concerned that Council had approved the zone change even though the Planning Commission and city staff recommended against it, that she had concerns about the amount of traffic on the street, and that she considered this spot zoning.  Council had a first and second reading of the Ordinance which will now take effect in thirty days.

Council Hears Presentation on LNG Projects, States Opposition - Council heard a presentation about the Oregon LNG and Oregon Pipeline projects.  Dan Serres of Columbia Riverkeeper, and local citizens Diana Peach and Steve Calhoun all expressed concerns about safety, water contamination, damage to fish habitat, and impacts on Vernonia’s drinking water intake.  Later in the meeting all three Council members present stated their opposition to the project and directed staff to prepare a formal declaration of their opposition for the May 18 Council meeting.

Downtown Trees – Council received a preliminary report from City Administrator Gian Paolo Mammone that included a budget for streetscape improvements in the downtown corridor of  $68,000 for tree removal,  replacement of pavers, replacement of trees in planter containers, and striping of parking spaces.  Council expressed concern that the project was not funded in the budget for next year.  Mammone told Council this was a preliminary estimate of costs.  Council directed staff to return with a more formal plan.

City Administrator Report – City Administrator Mammone reported to Council that an RFP for the Waste Water project has been posted.

Plans to fence Spencer Park are moving forward and staff was able to reduce the proposed budget and find funding in the Parks budget.

Mammone told Council he is still researching the legal aspects of the sewer issue brought to Council by Terry LaChappelle at the last meeting. LaChappelle has experienced sewage backups and has tried to repair the issue.  The blockage appears to be on an adjacent property that has been abandoned by the owner.  Council instructed staff to reimburse LaChappelle for his expenses, to resolve the sewer blockage, and investigate how to charge expenses to the property owner.

The City Administrator asked Council whether they had concerns about two family members serving on the same City Committee.  Council was told there was nothing in the city ordinance prohibiting it and Council took no action.

Staff asked Council how they would like to handle temporary businesses on City property.  Council directed staff to prepare a policy.

Council Hears Student Leadership Report-Council heard an update on Vernonia High School activities from Leadership students Drew Cheney and Zi_xian Chen.