Vernonia City News

Council Hires Mitchell for City Administrator

The City of Vernonia has hired Josette Mitchell to be the new City Administrator.

Mitchell was offered the City Administrators position following the September 8, 2015 City Council meeting.

“We’re pleased to have Josette Mitchell as our new City Administrator,” said Mayor Randy Parrow. “We look forward to having someone in this position who is familiar with our community and has a solid working knowledge of the City’s current goals and projects.”

Mitchell was elected as Mayor three times in 2010, 2012, and 2014 before stepping down to take the position of City Recorder/Assistant to the City Administrator this past March.  Mitchell has previously served as Interim City Administrator on two separate occasions.  She replaces former City Administrator Gian Paolo Mammone who was relieved of his duties on August 12.

There had been some speculation that Mitchell would again be named Interim City Administrator  following Mammone’s dismissal.  But instead the City Council chose to offer her the full position and forego any further search or interview any additional candidates.

“Josette has shown her commitment to the City of Vernonia over the last several years,” said Mayor Parrow.  “She has earned this opportunity and we look forward to working with her and helping her succeed in moving the City forward.”

Terms of Mitchell’s contract were not made public.

City of Vernonia, USDA Break Ground on Wastewater System Improvement Project

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Join the City of Vernonia, USDA Rural Development, elected officials, and residents to celebrate the groundbreaking for a wastewater system improvement project nearly 20 years in the making. Funded by Rural Development, this project will improve water quality for the local community and native fish species while also upgrading the town’s infrastructure and safeguarding it against flooding.

Who:         The groundbreaking ceremony will be attended by City of Vernonia Mayor Randall J. Parrow; USDA Rural Development State Director Vicki Walker; representatives from the Offices of Senator Ron Wyden, Senator Jeff Merkley, and Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici; staff from both the City of Vernonia and USDA; and representatives from the construction company Tetra Tech. Also invited are representatives from the State of Oregon, local officials, and the public.

What:        A groundbreaking ceremony for the City of Vernonia’s wastewater treatment system improvement project.

When:       Tuesday, August 25, 2015,  11:00 AM  Read More

Council Eases Water Restrictions for Food Gardens

The Vernonia City Council voted to ease water curtailment restrictions by removing language that included vegetable and fruit gardens from an established Ordinance.  

Council adopted Ordinance 907 at their August 17 meeting, which amends Section 4 of  Ordinance 796, and prohibits the nonessential use of water.  Ordinance 796, signed in 2003, sets in place water curtailment provisions and declares a water shortage emergency of drought water levels in Rock Creek. The newly adopted language removes wording that placed restrictions on “gardens, vegetables”  and adds the language “Direct hand watering of food producing plants (herbs, fruit, and vegetables) shall be permitted,” during Third Level of Concern in a water shortage situation.

Vernonia Water Curtailment Measures include four Levels of Concern based on flow levels of Rock Creek where the City water system intake is located,  and establishes progressively more strict water use reduction steps.

The City is currently in the Third Level of Concern based on flows in Rock Creek decreasing to 10 cubic feet per second (cfs).

Ordinance 907 retains the original ordinance language that restricts watering of shrubbery, trees lawns, grass, ground covers, plants, vines, flowers or other vegetation.

Any citizen who does not comply with water restrictions can have their service disconnected by the City after one warning and be subject to fees to reconnect the service. Read More

Vernonia Council Fires City Administrator

The Vernonia City Council voted unanimously late on Tuesday,  August 11, 2015 to terminate the contract  of City Administrator Gian Paolo Mammone without cause.

The vote followed an Executive Session scheduled by the Council to perform an annual job performance review for Mammone.

Terms of the contract separation were not immediately available.

Mammone was hired as the City Administrator in August 2014.

Council has not named a successor, but will discuss the situation at their August 17, 2015 meeting.

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.   Read More

City Department Updates April 13 – May 1, 2015

Administration/Utility Billing

• As of May 1, 2015 the outstanding balances on active accounts are as follows: 90 days $39.55, 60 days $292.64, 30 days $1,859.75

•  Late fees will be applied and shut off notices will go out May 18, 2015. Shut offs will be on May 30,2015

•  Utilities clerk added 7 new water/sewer accounts to our billing system.

•  3 Mechanical permits were issued.

 

Police Department-VPD

• April 9th, 2015 – April 15th, 2015 – The total number of Calls for Service and Officer initiated activity was 50.

• April 16th, 2015 – April 29th, 2015 –The total number of Calls for Service and Officer initiated activity was 87.

• All VPD staff attended “Crisis Intervention training.” This training was free and a majority of Columbia County Law Enforcement agencies attended. The training provided some additional tools/ways to successfully deal with people in crisis or mentally ill.

• VPD has focused on identifying nuisance violations. Several residence took advantage of the “Vernonia Clean Up” weekend and corrected some of the violations. VPD is still working with several residences to correct other problems.

Finance 

• The first budget meeting was held. The Budget Committee received the proposed budget and heard the Budget Message from the City Administrator. Brett Costley was elected to chair the committee with Susan Wagner as Vice Chair. For a copy of the proposed budget  contact Angie at financial@vernonia-or.gov or stop by City Hall.

• The advertisement for bids for the WWTP project has finally been published and contractors are already responding to the ad. We are scheduled to open bids by the end of May.  Read More

New Computer and Internet Use Policy at the Library

On Monday, March 16, 2015, City Council approved the Computer and Internet Use Policy now in effect at the library.  The policy was drafted by the Library Director, Shannon Romtvedt, based on policies used at other libraries and a great deal of input and research from the Library Board.

One rule that is a significant change from the previous policy is stated here:

“Children under 10 years of age must be directly supervised by a parent/legal guardian or adult caregiver when using the computer.  Parents/legal guardians who wish to restrict computer access for a minor (age 17 or younger) may do so at any time by requesting a Minor Internet Access Restriction form.”

The previous policy required written parental permission for minors to use the computer.  Children under the age of 13 needed direct parental supervision to use the Internet.  Reasoning for the change is as follows:

1) Many libraries are revising their Internet Policy and are no longer requiring parental permission for minors. Sandy Public Library made the change in November 2014, stating that “A lot of libraries made the decision (to require formal parent permission) when the Internet was very new.” Read More

City Council Discusses Marijuana Dispensaries

At their April 6, 2015 City Council meeting, the City Council held a lengthy and comprehensive discussion about how they might regulate already legal medical marijuana dispensaries as well as recreational retail establishments that will become legal in the next calendar year.

One  year ago the Vernonia City Council placed a one year moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries as a precautionary move since the state was getting ready to vote on Measure 91 which would legalize the recreational use of marijuana in Oregon. Numerous other cities around the state took similar action to protect themselves against the unknown ramifications a yes vote might have for the state and local governments. The City also voted to tax recreational marijuana if it did become legal.

The city moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries is set to expire on May 1st and Council felt the need to discuss how they might  move forward. Their conversation lasted about an hour and included Ruben Cleaveland, their legal advisor, on the phone to give them advice.

Oregon citizens approved Measure 91 and recreational use of marijuana becomes legal July 1st, 2015 which means a citizen can legally possess marijuana, smoke it in private settings, and even grow a few plants for personal use. The OLCC will not begin taking applications for retail sales establishments until January of 2016 and is still discussing the details of how they intend to regulate grow operations as well as retail establishments.

Councilor Kim Tierney said she sees the benefits of medical marijuana and since the people voted to approve legalizing  recreational use, she didn’t see why the City should oppose that. Councilor Jill Hult said she agreed with Tierney.  Councilor Mike Seager said he was absolutely opposed to the sale of marijuana in the city of Vernonia in any way. Mayor Randy Parrow said that although he didn’t like the idea of marijuana being sold legally in Vernonia, the people voted to legalize it and he represents the people.  Read More

City Department Updates: March 30 – April 10, 2015

Administration / Utility Billing

• Ordinance No. 898 that changed the City’s policy on Past Due Utility Accounts was passed by City Council on December 15th, 2014.  The following were the outstanding balances as of January 2015: 90 days: $2,108.36, 60 days: $8,306.14, 30 days: $27,715.92

As of April 2015 the outstanding balances are as follows: 90 days: $ 0.00, 60 days: $313.77, 30 days: $1,363.36

• Reminder: Shut off letters will be mailed and Late Fees will be applied on 4/17/2015. Shut offs will be on 4/27/2015

• Issued 3 electrical permits.

• Issued 2 building permits for 2 new homes.

Police Department – VPD

• Vernonia Homicide Investigation: The Vernonia Police Department has received several questions regarding the shooting incident that occurred on Riverside Drive on March 26th, 2015. At this time, only very basic details are available for public release. These types of investigations take an extraordinary amount of time and are very tasking on Law Enforcement personnel. The Vernonia Police Department will provide updates when more information comes available. However, in order to protect the integrity of the investigation we will only release very basic details.

• March 11th, 2015 – March 31st, 2015 – The total number of calls for service and Officer Initiated activity was 150.

• Statistics: The total number of calls for service and officer initiated activity in March 2015 was 230.

• April 1st, 2015 – April 8th, 2015 – The total number of Calls for Service and Officer Initiated activity was 74.

• Nuisance Violations: VPD is working on 21 properties that have violations. Details of the violations along with an area map will be provided during the next regular council meeting.

Finance

• An ad for Park Host opening at Anderson Park was posted on the City website and on two sites recommended to us by State Parks in order to find a replacement host. The current hosts have agreed to remain at the park until June. The posting closes on May 15th.

• Beginning April 6th, James McMahon will be stepping into a new role as Parks Superintendent. He will be in charge of overseeing all of the City’s parks. He will be a great asset to the City and we would like to congratulate him on his new position.

• Finance Director met with City Administrator to go over the different funds that make up the City’s budget and to go over some history of the City budget in order to begin preparing the budget message.  Final budget preparations continued. Read More

City News

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.  Read More