Vernonia City News

City News

At the January 20, 2015 City Council Meeting:

Council Approves Budget Calendar, Appoints Budget Officer-Council approved the Budget Calendar presented by Finance Director Angie Handegard.  The first Budget Committee meeting is scheduled for April 28, with additional meetings scheduled for May 5, 12, and 19.  The Council also appointed City Administrator Gian Paolo Mammone as the Budget Officer.  Mayor Josette Mitchell appointed former City Councilor Bruce McNair to serve as a citizen member of the Budget Committee.  The Budget Committee is still looking for additional citizens to serve.

Council Agrees to Forgive Part of Water Bill-City Administrator Mammone presented Council with a report on the water leak issue that was brought before Council by resident Victoria McAdams at the January 5, 2015 City Council meeting.  Mammone reported that after two months of increasingly high water usage, City staff visited the property, saw no indication of a leak and replaced the water meter at McAdams’ rental where she lives.  The following month the reading still showed an unusual increase in usage (82,000) gallons.  In December City staff met with McAdams and the landlord and was informed there was a leak in a toilet, which is the responsibility of the owner/renter.  Mammone told Council that City policy is clear, a leak on private property is not the responsibility of the City.  The outstanding balance still due for usage during the time of the issue (not including the monthly base rate and  loans payments) totals  $485.26.  Council agreed to forgive half the usage fees and instructed city staff to send a bill for the balance to both McAdams and the landlord so they can work out payment arrangements.  Mayor Mitchell said McAdams will not be subject to any shutoff procedure if the balance of payment is late.

Council Approves Senior Center Lease-Council authorized the City Administrator to sign a revised lease agreement between the City and the Senior Center for use of the Vernonia Community Learning Center (VCLC) as a Thrift Store.  The proposed lease includes the VCLC building, the courtyard attached to the building and the parking area in back of the building.  Rent is $12 per year and the tenant would pay $200 for the cost of administrating, drafting and executing the lease.  The tenant will sublease one office space to the Vernonia Friends of the Library.  During the discussion of the lease terms several items were brought forward by Jim Tierney of Community Action Team, who is assisting the Senior Center with the negotiation.  Questions included: the length of the lease – either two or three years, permitted uses, and responsibility for maintenance and repairs.  City legal counsel was involved in part of the discussion by phone and was asked to prepare a revised version of the lease.  Council gave the City Administrator authorization to sign the lease with revisions,  if approved by the Senior Center. The lease was later signed. Read More

Meet New Library Director Shannon Romtvedt

MeetLibrarianShannonRomtvedt-webShannon Romtvedt is the new Director at the Vernonia Library.  Romtvedt was a highly qualified candidate who was selected for the position by City staff in November.

Romtvedt, who lives outside Vernonia off Keasey Road with her young family, brings a professional education and experience in several other library systems.  She says she is excited by the opportunity to work in her own hometown.

“One of my favorite things to hear as a librarian is:  ‘I didn’t know where to start with this question, so I came to the library,’” said Romtvedt.

Romtvedt says she was interested in working in libraries from a young age.  She grew up in West Salem, OR and enjoyed spending time at the local branch of her local library.  “It was not much  bigger than this Vernonia Library and I spent a lot of time there,” remembers Romtvedt.  “As a kid I envisioned being the Librarian there.”

Romtvedt did end up volunteering at her local library as a high school student, and enjoyed straightening the children’s area and creating displays.  “I had a lot of fun with that,” she says.

Romtvedt attended George Fox University, majoring in Writing and Literature, graduating in 2005.  While at George Fox Romtvedt did a work/study program at the university library.  She also met her soon to be husband Brady Romtvedt at George Fox.  Following graduation they moved together to Texas where Brady worked on a Master’s Degree in Philosophy from Baylor University. Read More

City Department Updates: January 1-9, 2015

 Administration / Utility Billing 

• Utility clerk sent out bills on 12/24/2014 to 958 customers for a total amount of $158,372.12 .  As of 1/9/2015 the outstanding balances were as follows:

90 day 2,108.36

60 day 8,306.14

30 day 27,715.92

• Utilities shut offs will be on 1/22/2015


Police Department – VPD 

• January 1st , 2015 – January 8th, 2015 – The total number of Calls for Service and Officer initiated activity was 69.

• Reserve Officer Update: Pending results of Medical & Psychological Evaluations.

• Surplus Patrol Vehicles: VPD will be accepting sealed bids on two patrol vehicles through February 13, 2015



• The Finance Director spent most of the week going through old files, sorting and reorganizing. This is a tedious project as all files must be reviewed to determine retention requirements and it hasn’t been done for many years.

• Staff is still working to resolve the Library computer issues. Staff will present the latest proposal to Council at the next meeting.

• The server upgrade project is completed and the final cost was just under the estimate given by our IT provider. The upgrade will be good for at least three years. The upgrades must be done in order to ensure that all software updates and security is up to date.

• The Finance Director continues to work on the Waste Water Treatment Plan project documents. A meeting of all agencies involved with the project is scheduled for next week. There has been a change of staffing at Tetra Tech (the consulting engineering group) and there is a new project manager assigned to the project. He has over 20 years experience and we are confident that he will do a good job for the City.

• The City’s insurance provider has awarded the City $7,500 through their risk management incentive grant program to help pay for a security fence at “pump station #1” near the transfer station. This will eliminate the possibility of someone getting hurt on the property and deter vandalism that has occurred in the past.  Read More

City News

At the January 5, 2015 City Council Meeting:

Mayor and New Councilors Sworn In- Mayor Josette Mitchell and new City Councilors Jill Hult and Mike Seager took the oath of office following their election in November 2014.  Mitchell returns as Mayor for her third term; this is the first term for Seager and Hult.

City Recorder Joann Glass administers the oath of office to Josette Mitchell who is serving her third term as mayor of  Vernonia.

City Recorder Joann Glass administers the oath of office to Josette Mitchell who is serving her third term as mayor of Vernonia.

Council Names President and Committee Liaisons-City Councilor Randy Parrow was elected City Council President by the rest of the Council.  New Councilor Jill Hult will act as Council liaison to the Airport Committee, Mike Seager will act as liaison to the Public Works Committee.  Councilor Parrow, who is already liaison to the Parks Committee, will also serve as liaison to the Library Board. Mayor Josette Mitchell will continue to serve as liaison to the Cemetery Committee and Councilor Kim Tierney will continue to serve as liaison to the Emergency Preparedness Committee.

Mayor Appoints  Roberts to Parks Committee- Mayor Josette Mitchell, with approval from Council, appointed Brittanie Roberts to the Parks Committee.

Topics From the Floor- Paula Hanson told Council that the signs for the “Walk Your Wheels” Campaign are being installed at downtown businesses and thanked Council for their support and how easily the project came together.  The “Walk Your Wheels” safety project was initiated by Hanson to encourage users of bicycles, skateboards and scooters to follow local ordinance 764, which prohibits riding on sidewalks in downtown, and to encourage local law enforcement to enforce the ordinance.  Council later gave permission for a “Walk Your Wheels” sign to be installed on the Vernonia Community Learning Center by City staff.

Scott Laird told Council that he has been researching the “Walk Your Wheels” project and noted that he had learned after speaking with Vernonia Police Chief Mike Conner, that the area covered in the ordinance that prohibits riding on sidewalks extends from Weed Avenue all the way to California Avenue.  Laird suggested that Council consider reviewing the ordinance and shorten the zone.

Sally Harrison spoke on behalf of the Ridge Riders equestrian club and told Council that the Ridge Riders are in the process of  withdrawing their litigation against the City and Harrison encouraged the City to schedule and meet with the Ridge Riders to resolve their differences concerning the lease agreement for the use of the Anderson Park Horse Arena.

Brett Costley told Council that, since the State of Oregon has approved the legalization of marijuana,  he encouraged Council to not waste City resources in any attempt to create any special ordinance to zone out any retail establishment.

Victoria McAdams discussed with Council a water billing issue.  McAdams told Council she discovered in September that she had an unusually large water usage at the rental where she lives.  The City replaced her water meter. Her high usage continued and in November McAdams was facing a shut off  by the City.  It was then discovered that the meter was not the problem, but that there was a leak.  McAdams said she has paid a portion of her bill but still has an outstanding balance of $500.  She asked Council to forgive some of the bill because she was led to believe by the City that the meter was the problem.  Council later authorized the City Administrator to negotiate with McAdams to settle her outstanding balance and forgive the extra usage.  Council also instructed the City Administrator to send copies of billing accounts that are behind to landlords.   Read More

 Administration / Utility Billing 

• This month when the utility bills were processed there was a hiccup in the system and the water consumption portion of the bill was doubled for every account. The problem was not discovered until after all of the bills were mailed out. The problem was corrected and all accounts are now showing the correct charges. City staff would like to thank everyone for their patience and understanding.

• As of 12/12/2014 the outstanding balances were as follows:

90 day $1,915.62

60 day $7,993.80

30 day $2,4307.68

• Utilities shut-offs will be on 12/22/2014

• We would like to remind all utility customers that they can now register their account online. You can login and view your account information, current balance, and payment history. You can also pay your bill online through a third party merchant. Check the bottom portion of your bill for registration information. Please, feel free to call City Hall (503.429.5291) for any assistance.

Police Department – VPD 

• November 2014 Statistics: The total number of calls for service and Officer initiated activity was 212.

• December 01, – December 05, 2014: The total number of calls for service and Officer initiated activity was 38.

• December 06 – December 12, 2014: The total number of calls for service and Officer initiated activity was 74.

• Both of the recently purchased patrol vehicles are now in service.

• We have begun the background process for four Reserve Officer applicants. Upon completion, the selected applicants will be scheduled for medical evaluations.


• Finance Director is continuing to work with Public Works Foreman to assess the staffing needs of the Public Works Department. A report is being drafted that will show all tasks that should be done on a regular schedule. Preventative maintenance is the area most neglected due to lack of staff.

• Finance Director is working with the Senior Center’s insurance agent and the City’s insurance agent to ensure both parties are properly covered in preparation of the possible move of Senior Center into the Vernonia Community Learning Center next year.  Read More

Vernonia City News

At the December 15, 2014 City Council Meeting

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Gives Presentation About Lake- Council heard a presentation from Robert Bradley, a fish biologist with ODFW, concerning the potential for improvements at Vernonia Lake.  Bradley has been working with a group of interested local citizens to address concerns about consistent water levels, bank access and controlling weed growth.  Council asked Bradley to work with the Parks Committee and return with  proposed solutions.

Scout Project Update- Brad Ely gave the Council an update on his Eagle Scout Project.  Ely repaired and replaced eighteen interpretive signs at Vernonia Lake and along the Linear Trail.  Ely told the Council the project is mostly complete.

Council Authorizes Spending for Tractor Repair-Council approved expenditures  to rebuild the engine and fuel injector pump on a tractor/mower used at the Vernonia Cemetery.  The mower broke down two years ago.  Staff presented Council with an estimate of almost $8,000 for new parts.  Council directed staff to look for other estimates and search for used parts on-line.  If no better option is found by March 1, staff is authorized to move forward with the current bid.

Council to Explore Selling Cemetery House- Council heard a presentation from Casey Mitchell of Community Action Team about their Self Help Acquisition Rehab program.  Council is considering selling the house the City owns which is next to the cemetery and formerly served as the cemetery caretaker’s house.  The house is in disrepair.  Mitchell told Council his program helps working class families become owners through USDA funding and sweat equity.  Two citizens, Sally Harrison and Shirlee Daughtry spoke against selling the house.  Council instructed staff to explore the potential of selling the house through CAT’s program.   Read More





Please note that this is a prediction from the National Weather Service based on scientific research, not a foregone conclusion. Updates on weather watches and warning will be posted to our online networks.

The National Weather Service has issued a High Wind Warning for Vernonia and Columbia County. The current forecast has this event beginning today, Thursday, December 11, 2014, and tomorrow, Friday, December 12, 2014, with winds potentially gusting 75-80 mph for the interior portions of our County and 50-60 mph for areas adjacent to the Columbia River.

These gusts could be hurricane force winds and should they appear, can be expected to cause widespread damage.

Winds over the interior valleys will increase rapidly from light east or southeast…to strong south winds this afternoon. Do not be lulled into a sense of security by the light winds this morning.


• Tree damage is likely, with the possibility of some toppled trees

• Minor damage to structures

• Power outages likely throughout Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington

• Winds will cause difficult driving conditions, especially for high profile vehicles. Bridges can be especially susceptible to high winds


Citizens are encouraged to call 911 to report emergencies, or to call City Hall: 503.429.5291 

For more information, please visit: 

Update on the Waste Water Treatment Plant Project

The long awaited Waste Water Treatment Plant Project is ready to be advertised for construction bids. Of course, as with all the good things, the preparation for this step did not come easy.

The project, which will bring great relief to our waste water system, and that will bring Vernonia into compliance with state and federal standards can be broken down into three major components:

1. Raising the dikes

2. Construction of the building and treatment units

3. Installation of the subsurface discharge (on the Banks-Vernonia Trail)

Recently City representatives have been meeting with Engineering Companies and USDA to establish a draft schedule for the upcoming Wastewater Treatment Plant Improvement Project.  The Request for Proposal (RFP) 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.

There has been some recent discussion of the length of the construction contract with a potential preferred option of sixteen months over an eight month schedule. There are two concerns with the proposed eight month construction schedule. The first concern is that poor weather could prevent the contractor from completing the work in the proposed time. The second concern has to do with the amount of resources that a contractor needs to have to complete the project in eight months.

Also, by selecting an eight month construction schedule the City would be favoring larger contractors that have the resources to manage the three construction components simultaneously. Smaller, local contractors would not have the experience or resources to complete this type of project in eight months.   Read More

Vernonia City News

At the December 1, 2014 City Council Meeting:

Mayor Appoints Planning Commissioner- Mayor Josette Mitchell, with approval from the Council,  reappointed Jeff Goodman to the Planning Commission.

Council Discusses VCLC Lease with Senior Center-Council discussed a memorandum from Community Action Team (CAT) concerning a potential lease agreement between the City and the Vernonia Senior Center for use of the Vernonia Community Learning Center (VCLC).  The memo from CAT, written by Jim Tierney and presented by Casey Mitchell, outlined proposed terms of the agreement.  The suggested lease would be for two years at $1/year with the Senior Center responsible for all utilities.  The agreement would allow the Friends of the Library to continue to use one office space for book storage.  Council discussed storage space and furniture currently in the building.  Council agreed with the terms and instructed staff to work with the City Attorney to finalize a lease.

Council Accepts General Election Abstract- Council voted to accept the official abstract of votes from the Columbia County Clerk’s office for the General Election held on November 4, 2014.  The acceptance of the abstract makes official the election of Josette Mitchell as Mayor and Jill Hult and Mike Seager as City Councilors.

Police Identify Owner of House- Police Chief Mike Conner told Council  that he has identified a bank which is the owner of an abandoned property in Vernonia.  The City has received complaints that the property is being used by squatters and has become a nuisance.   Read More

City Utility Bill Mistake Has Been Corrected

The City of Vernonia has reported that there was a mistake in the last Water Bill mailed out to customers  before the Thanksgiving holiday. According to the City the charges for water consumption had been calculated twice. As of Monday morning (December 1st) the error has been corrected and call the accounts have been charged correctly.

For those of you who have already paid the bill in full, the extra water charges will be credited in the next bill. If you have not yet paid the bill  please call or stop by City Hall for  the correct balance and amount to be paid.

The City of Vernonia  apologizes for the inconvenience.  Please feel free to call City Hall at 503-429-5291 if you have any question or concerns.