Vernonia City News

City to Save Money with Wastewater Project Financing

The City of Vernonia is close to completing an agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) for funding to complete construction of the Wastewater Treatment Upgrade Project.  The funding package includes a large grant award and refinancing of current debt at a lower interest rate.

City of Vernonia Finance Administrator Angie Handegard confirmed that the USDA funding package the City has negotiated includes a grant for $2,230,704.  The funding package also includes a loan in the amount of $5,577,000 of which $2.8 million will go towards project construction and $2.7 million will be used to refinance existing debt.

“This funding package will allow the City to finish the Wastewater Upgrade Project without having much, if any, effect on current sewer rates,” said Handegard.

According to Handegard, by securing financing through the USDA’s Rural Development Program at a 1.13% rate, the city will see a reduction in current debt service in the sewer account of approximately 20%, lowering annual payments from $465,000 to $390,000.

The City is refinancing part of the debt they owe to DEQ that was incurred during initial construction of Phase I of the project, construction of the headworks, the flume upgrade, and project design.  The interest rate on the DEQ debt was 2.93% plus a .5% annual fee.

The total funding package from USDA totals $7,807,704, including the $2.23 million dollar grant.  “The grant portion of the funding package is a huge bonus for the City,” said Handegard.  “We don’t have to pay for almost half of the new construction.” Read More

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. Read More

Vernonia City News

At the November 17, 2014 City Council Meeting:

Council Appoints and Accepts Resignation for Committees- Based on a recommendation from the Airport Committee and with consensus from Council, Mayor Josette Mitchell appointed Georgeanna Seager to the Airport Committee, beginning January 1, 2015.

Council also accepted the resignation of Barbara Ward from the Library Committee.

Topics From the Floor- Bill Sword explained some of the history of the road through his property and told Council he is tired of the City telling him what he can do with regards to traveling through City owned Anderson Park.

Sword also complained about the garbage containers on Bridge Street at the corners which block drivers view and should be moved to the middle of the block.

Paula Hanson updated Council on her “Walk Your Wheels” project and told them the Lions Club has agreed to pay for  eight signs at a cost of $414.72.  Hanson said she has an agreement with four businesses, Black Iron Grill, All In Pub, Vernonia Florist and Galorist and True Value Hardware to place signs on their buildings.  Hanson is working with city staff  to place the other signs.

Council Discusses Inter Governmental Agreement (IGA) Amendment- Council discussed an amendment to the IGA between the City of Vernonia and the Vernonia School District for the construction of Spencer Park.  Through the construction process several agreements were made for changes to the original agreement, but were not officially documented.  The amendment to the IGA updates the final work and documents the District’s compliance with the park construction.  Council agreed with the amendment and asked that it be sent to School Superintendent  Aaron Miller for approval.  The School District and City are attempting to close out the project and have final funds (approximately $500,000) for the construction released from escrow. Read More

City Department Updates: October 17- 31


• 102 shut off notices were mailed out. Shut offs were scheduled for Wednesday the 22nd. Out of the 102 accounts still on the shut off list on Monday, 96 made payments, 12 called to say they would pay on Friday. Only six customers were shut off.

• As of 10/23/2014 the outstanding balances were as follows:

30 days past due: $ 8,382.64

60 days past due: $ 2,791.33

90 days past due: $ 1,452.06

• 896 utility bills were mailed  for a total of $124,104.78 billed.

• While reviewing multi-unit dwelling accounts, staff noticed some inconsistencies in some accounts. These inconsistencies occurred when the new billing software was implemented. Staff is in the process of verifying the correct billing for these accounts. Findings will be presented to Council for information with the intent to have corrections made in time for the next billing cycle.

• City Hall has been receiving many calls about burn permits: For information please call the Vernonia Fire Department 503-429-8252.

• As a reminder to our citizens: Waste Management Transfer Station is open the 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month: 8am -2pm except Holidays. The location is off California Avenue.



• October 10th, 2014 – October 16, 2014 – The Vernonia Police Department responded to (45) calls for service.

• October 17th, 2014 – October 24, 2014 – The Vernonia Police Department responded to (61) calls for service.

• VPD will have high school student ride along/s over the next few weeks. One is an exchange student that is doing a report about government and the other is doing the ride along for a Senior Project. The student doing the Senior Project will need a minimum of 20 hours ride time.

• One resident in the 400 block of A St. has failed to correct Nuisance Violations and has been issued a citation. The property will be rechecked as we get closer to the court date. As of 10/24/2014 the resident that had not corrected the problem/s has made some progress, but all violations have not yet been corrected. Read More

City Council Approves Zone Change for Lincoln School Property

The Vernonia City Council voted in favor of changing the zone designation on the Lincoln School property from Residential R to General Commercial GC at their October 20, 2014 City Council meeting.

Council voted 3-0 to approve the requested change.  The application for the change came from property owners Bud and Sharla Dow.  The Dow’s intend to sell the property and were hoping to change the zone designation prior to initiating a sale agreement.

The parcel of land is located at 1462 Bridge Street and is 1.14 acres.  The two story wood and brick building was built in 1923 and is estimated to be 10,000 square feet with  large front and back yard space.  The parcel abuts fourteen neighboring properties.


Mayor Josette Mitchel along with Councilors Randy Parrow and Bruce McNair all voted in favor of the zone change.  Councilors Donna Webb and Kim Tierney were both absent from the meeting.

“I just think we have a unique opportunity and we have a unique building,” said Councilor Parrow during the Council’s deliberations.

Mayor Josette Mitchell noted that the City is limited in where they can create commercial development in the future because of flood zone restrictions.  “We’re going to have to have spot zoning in the future because there really is no other place for these types of businesses to go.”

Council’s approval included a stipulation that the addition of a “building preservation agreement” be drafted and added.  It also included a trip cap of 1,000 average daily trips as well as a deed restriction prohibiting adult entertainment. Council will have to approve a resolution which will prescribe all the details of the zone change.  Read More

A Few Helpful Tips as Flood Season is Fast Approaching

•  Floodvents must allow floodwaters to flow freely. Screens, louvers, or other covers that allow flood waters to flow freely into the enclosed area may be placed over the openings to keep out vermin and weather.  But solid covers that do not allow flood waters to flow freely are in violation and may affect you and the city from receiving Flood Insurance.  Remove solid covers, styrofoam or other materials from vents.

•  Lowest Elevation of Machinery or Equipment Service equipment for a building that is below the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) has to be elevated or designed to prevent water from entering or accumulating within the components during conditions of flooding.  This includes equipment such as, but not limited to, furnaces, hot water heaters, washers, dryers, air conditioners, etc.

•  A Flood Plain Development Permit is required by the FEMA Code of Federal Regulations for such activities as new construction, reconstruction, rebuilding, placement of manufactured homes, placement of small outbuildings, fences, clearing of trees and other vegetation, placement of driveway culverts or bridges, long term storage of equipment and materials or any man-made change to improved or unimproved real estate such as dredging, drilling, excavation, filling, grading, logging, mining, or paving.  The Flood Plain Development Permit requirement is intended to allow the City of Vernonia to monitor activities located in Flood Plain Management Area. Application for a Flood Plain Development Permit is a SEPARATE process from the building permit application process.

•  If you are not elevated: BUY FLOOD INSURANCE!

•  Avoid storing these products in areas likely to flood:

• Fiberglass or Cellulose insulation

• Cork, or corkboard

• Gasoline, motor oil, weed killer,

pesticide, lye, drain cleaners

• Linoleum, particle board plywood,

chipboard, fiberboard, paperboard,

strawboard, masonite paneling

• Wallboard, drywall, gypsum,


•  It’s never too early to prepare!

Prepare a 72 hour Preparedness Kit for your home and car.  Visit the Take 5 to Survive website at for additional information including a step-by-step plan to put your emergency kit together.

City News

At the October 20, 2014 City Council Meeting: 

Council Approves Zone Change-Council approved an application from Bud and Sharla Dow to change the zone designation for the Lincoln School property from Residential R to General Commercial GC.  (See full story on front page)

Topics From the Floor – Council heard an update on activities at Vernonia Schools from Summer Snow and Alexis Baska representing the Vernonia High School Leadership Class.

Council Approves Marijuana Tax – Council held a public hearing to consider adoption of Ordinance 896 establishing a tax on the sale of marijuana and marijuana-infused products in the City of Vernonia.  Measure 91, which was voted on in Oregon on November 4 would legalize marijuana in the state.  Council’s legal advisor Ruban Cleaveland advised Council that there is no current law that prohibits local governments from taxing marijuana, but the passage of Measure 91 could restrict local governments from instituting taxes.  Cleaveland advised Council that many cities in Oregon are considering establishing taxes ahead of the possible passage of Measure 91.  Council approved the first reading of Ordinance 896 which taxes up to 20%, of  the gross receipts of sales of marijuana, medical marijuana and marijuana infused products.

Council Receives Quarterly Financial Report – City Finance Director Angie Handegard provided Council with a quarterly financial report.  Handegard reported that the city looks to be on track financially with several funds doing better than expected.

Council Amends Water Ordinance – Council adopted Ordinance 897, which amends Ordinance 895 to clarify the rules and regulations for the conduct and management of the Water Department.  City staff had requested this amendment because some the language and changes of policy in Ordinance 895 were not clear.  The amendment to Section 4  adds subsections 4.1 and 4.2  and explains how accounts considered “inactive”  or “Temporary Vacancy/Stand By” should be charged.   Read More

City Department Updates

Administration/Utility Billing 

• 4 new sewer/water accounts for the month of September and 2 new water/sewer service accounts for the week of the 6th of October.

• Pertaining to the Water/Sewer bills issued on September 27, (and that were due on October 10th) a Late Fee will be added (as per City policy) on Tuesday, October 14th. Subsequently, should the bills still remain outstanding, PW crew will proceed with Shut offs on October 22nd.

• A letter was sent out with the utility bills to residents that in the past have left town in the winter and have been charged a monthly fee of $5. The City Council adopted Ordinance 825 implementing new options for “snow birds.” The letter explained that the resident can either have their water turned off while they are away paying $35, and $35 to have it turned back on. Also, they can simply leave the water on and pay the regular base rate of $131.00.

• Staff is in the process of reviewing the Utilities (Water) Ordinance. Staff review is focusing on sections relevant to “Billing and Collection,” “Payment Arrangements” and “Temporary Vacancies.” Once the study is completed, recommendation for potential language change will be presented to City Council for review, discussion and adoption.

• Community Action Team has issued a new Columbia County Resource Guide. This reference book has been prepared to better acquaint Columbia County residents with available resources and services. Community Action Team’s programs include: Energy Services; Housing Solutions; Affordable Housing & Community Development; Housing Rehabilitation & Weatherization; Self-Help Housing; Senior Services; Veterans Services; Healthy Families; Head Start; Parenting Education & Support Services.  For any questions please call 503.397.3511 or visit the website at Read More

City Postpones Hearing on Lincoln School Zone Change

The Vernonia City Council postponed a Public Hearing scheduled for October 6, 2014.

The Council was scheduled to hear a request by Bud and Sharla Dow to change the zoning designation for the Lincoln School parcel of land on Bridge Street owned by the Dows, from Residential R to General Commercial GC.  The announcement that the hearing was being postponed was made at the start of the regular City Council meeting on October 6, at the same meeting the hearing was scheduled to occur.

At the start of the City Council meeting Mayor Josette Mitchell told the audience, which included the Dows and their legal representative Ross Day,  that the hearing would be postponed because the City had received new information from the Dow’s attorney on Friday, October 3 at noon.  Mitchell stated that the City had not received advice from their own legal Counsel about how the City should respond to Day’s correspondence.

Day’s letter to the City provided history of the Dow’s purchase of the property in 2007, history of the Conditional Use Permit they applied for and received from the City in 2007, and history of their current application to change the zoning for the property.

The correspondence then raised several objections to the way City Planner Carole Connell handled the zone change request when it was brought before the Planning Commission during their hearing in September.  Day claimed that City Planning staff made a mistake  when they  suggested that the Planning Commission consider the option of the Planned Development PD designation. Read More

Vernonia City Departments Report

Gian Paolo Mammone is the new Vernonia City Administrator.  Mammone has said one of his goals is to help the City be transparent with their business and make information available to the public.  Mammone says he will make a report on City activities available  to the public every week. The following is a summary of a recent report.


Utility Billing 

• This September we sent out 65 shut off notices out of 885 accounts. Actual shut offs were scheduled for the 22nd of September. Last month we had five shut offs.

• This month we sent 8 water/sewer accounts to collections.

• In August we had 6 new accounts open; in September we had 4 new accounts.

• The Utility Billing Clerk updated 153 Business Licenses


Police Department 

• Between 09/01/2014 and 09/18/2014 at 1pm, the Vernonia Police Department (VPD) responded to 163 calls for service. Included in those service calls were (3) Arrests and (3) Traffic Citations. We currently have several ongoing investigations that will likely lead to more arrests.

• VPD will soon take delivery of two new/used fully equipped Chevrolet Tahoe patrol vehicles. We are in the process of finalizing the purchase with the Scappoose Police Department. The vehicles are used but have very low miles. We were able to purchase the vehicle’s for $40,000 for both. This is a substantial savings to the city. The last fully equipped patrol vehicle purchased by the City cost approx. $60,000.  We will have to do some exterior work to the vehicles prior to putting them in service. (IE: Vernonia Stickers)

• The newest member of the Vernonia Police Department, Eva Leininger, attended a (Law Enforcement Data Systems Training) in Salem at the beginning of the month. She has advised me that it was very informative and she learned a lot about LE records security regulation. Although we have been in compliance, Eva is working on tightening everything up a bit more.

• VPD has been advertising for Reserve Police Officers for nearly a month now. As of 09/19/2014 we have received two applications. I am going to accept applications through the end of the month.

• VPD has been working on a rebuild of our webpage for about the last month and is nearing completion. Upon launch, we will offer a variety of online forms that can be filled out from home, such as: Security Checks, Ride Along Request, Cold Crime Reporting, and Nuisance Complaints. It is my hope that the new design will allow for more open communication with the public and provide a portal to provide the most up to date information.  Read More