Tag Archives: City News

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

Vernonia City News

At the September 15, 2014 City Council Meeting:


City Votes to Forgive School SDC Debt- Council voted 4-1 to forgive the Vernonia School District for the remaining debt of $103,159 owed to the City for System Development Charges (SDC’s) from construction of the new school campus.  Superintendent Aaron Miller, along with State Senator Betsy Johnson, County Commissioner Tony Hyde, and others addressed the Council at their July 7, 2014 meeting and requested the debt be forgiven to enhance fundraising efforts for the school.  The District is trying to retire approximately $5 million in debt from construction.  The original SDC amount was calculated at $261,144; the City gave the District credit for $121,985, leaving a balance of $139,159.  The District had arranged to make annual payments of $36,000 and made one payment in that amount in 2013.  Councilor Donna Webb argued and voted against debt forgiveness for the District, noting concerns about setting a precedence of debt forgiveness, whether this amount will make a difference in the big picture in fundraising for the District, and that she makes decisions based on following rules. Webb suggested additional deferral of the debt instead of forgiveness.  Councilor Bruce McNair expressed concerns about the impact of losing SDC funds would have on the City, but ended up voting in favor of forgiveness.  Mayor Josette Mitchell and Councilor Kim Tierney expressed disappointment that Superintendent Miller was not present to answer questions.  Arguments for debt forgiveness from Councilors Tierney and Randy Parrow included the importance of the schools success to the overall health of the community, that the request came from politicians who have brought a lot of resources to Vernonia, and confidence in the new leadership at the District.


Hearing on Zone Change Delayed- The Planning Commission hearing to consider a zone change from Residential-R to Commercial-C for the old Lincoln School property at 1462 Bridge Street, was continued to September 18.  The Council hearing on the issue, originally scheduled for the September 15 meeting,  has been tentatively rescheduled for October 6, 2014.


Council Adopts Utilities Ordinance-Council adopted Ordinance 895, which rewrites and clarifies the rules and regulations for management of the Water Utilities.  The new ordinance repeals all previous ordinances.


Topics From the Floor- Burdett Robb spoke against the proposed change in zoning  the old Lincoln School property which the Planning Commission is currently considering.  Burdett, a neighbor of the property, raised concerns that a zone change would lead to alcohol consumption and other associated issues and increased traffic in the neighborhood.

Ernie Smith, owner of the All In Pub at 733 Bridge Street, told Council that he and other business owners are concerned about the trees that line Bridge Street.  Smith said the trees have grown too tall and block visibility of businesses and that they are causing damage to the sidewalks.  He suggested something smaller should be planted.  Read More

City News

At the August 18, 2014 City Council Meeting:


CDBG Public Hearing- The City held a Public Hearing to hear testimony about a plan to apply for a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for construction of a new Senior Center and Food Bank facility.    The City of Vernonia is eligible to apply for CDBG funds in 2014.  The funds can be used for public facilities and housing improvements, primarily for persons with low and moderate incomes.  Susan Wagner, representing Community Action Team (CAT) which has been hired as the Project Development Manager for the Senior Center and Food Bank, is preparing the request to apply for funds and explained the process to the Council.  Wagner told Council they would apply for $2 million in CDBG funds and assured the Council that a joint project between the Senior Center and Food Bank was an allowable project under CDBG.  Deadline to request to be considered for an application  is September 30.  Three citizens, Pat Ray, Sandy Welch and Jack Harvey all testified in favor of applying for funds for the Senior Center/Food Bank.  Jim Tierney, Executive Director of CAT, also testified in favor of the project and spoke at length about the process for applying, the timeline for the project, why the project would benefit the senior citizen community and the details of the project.  Tierney told Council that the project plan calls for two projects, a $2.1 million dollar project for construction and  $700,000 to do street improvement and  other ancillary requirements of the development project which are not covered by CDBG funds.  Tierney said additional funds would need to to be raised for the project. Tierney noted that the Senior Center has been losing $10,000 per year but told Council part of the development plan would include setting aside a reserve for operations for the first several years to ensure the entity can function successfully.  No citizen testified against the project.  Three citizens, Tobie Finzel, Brett Costley, and Bill Langmaid,  all testified as neutral, but questioned the business model and financial ability of the Senior Center to remain solvent.  Costley suggested the funds might be put to better use if applied towards the city’s Wastewater Upgrade Project and reduce the debt for the City by $2 million.  Council has already approved requesting to apply and agreed they would take no further action until they have received an approval to officially apply for the funds.


City Moves Forward With Water Meter Checks- Council held a discussion and agreed to continue  having members of the Public Works Committee verify all water meters in the city system.  The hope is to have the project complete by the end of September.  Councilor Donna Webb expressed concern that the volunteers are not receiving enough instruction and direction.  Council agreed to have the Public Works Committee discuss it at their meeting on August 26th and move it forward.  Read More

Vernonia City News

At the July 7, 2014 City Council Meeting:

Council Hears Presentation on School Financial Situation- Council heard a presentation from School Superintendent Aaron Miller, State Senator Betsy Johnson, John Donovan, Mark Ellsworth and County Commissioner Tony Hyde, concerning school debt.  The group asked the Council to consider forgiving over $100,000 in debt the school district owes the City of Vernonia for System Development Charges.  The Council will review the request.  (See full story starting on front page.)

Mayor Reappoints Lloyd- Mayor Josette Mitchell reappointed Neil Lloyd to the Library Committee.

Council Discusses Illegal Transfer Station Dumping- Council discussed an issue of illegal dumping at the Waste Management Transfer Station which occurred several weeks ago.  Mayor Mitchell explained that the Transfer Station was closed due to work being done on the sewer lagoons and that signs were posted.  The Transfer Station gate was left unlocked as it was to be used as a turnaround for the sewer lagoon project.  Multiple people dumped their garbage in the area during the weekend, with Waste Management estimating that at least 5 tons of solid waste were illegally dumped.  Waste Management has billed the City of Vernonia $413.75 for clean up and removal.  Vernonia Police Mike Conner says he has three names of people he believes dumped garbage and is pursuing charges of Criminal Trespass.   Read More

Vernonia City News

At the June 16, 2014 City Council Meeting:

Council Adopts  2014-15 Budget-Following a Public Hearing, City Council voted to adopt the 2014-15 Budget by approving Resolution 13-14.  The Budget calls for total funds of $7,001,971, of which approximately $3 million is for the Wastewater Treatment Project.  There was no public testimony.  Council also approved the levy of property taxes at a rate of $5.8163 per $1,000 of assessed value.  Council also approved Resolution 14-14, accepting State Revenue Sharing Funds of $15,000.

Council Asks for Search for Police Clerk- Council denied a request by Police Chief Mike Conner to directly hire volunteer Iwalani Leininger for a part-time Administrative/Records Clerk.  The position is for up to twenty hours per week.  Council asked that this position be advertised and open for applications before a hire is made and said they need to establish a policy on how the City handles any open paid positions in the future.

Council Approves Cemetery Rules-Council approved Rules and Regulations for the Vernonia Pioneer and Memorial Cemeteries based on discussions by the Vernonia Cemetery Committee.  The adoption of the rules is expected to help diffuse conflict over what is allowed at the cemeteries.

Council Approves Reimbursement-Council approved a claim by Terry LaChapelle for sewer issues at 1992 Bridge Street.  The claim was for a total of $938 to fix the city sewer line into the property. CIS, the City Insurance company will pay half, the City will pay the other half.  Councilor Bruce McNair also requested the City send a letter of apology to the claimant.   Read More

City News

At the April 7, 2014 City Council Meeting:

Council Repeals Substantial Damage Determination-Council voted to repeal the Substantial Damage Determination for property at 658 Madison Avenue.  The property was damaged during the 2007 flood.   The repeal was made at the request of John Graham, who is the new property owner.  

According to Mayor/City Administrator Josette Mitchell the previous owner fraudulently requested and received a Substantial Damage Determination in 2008.  That owner never did the expected repairs after receiving about $12,000 in flood relief funds.  The new owners purchased the property in November of 2013.   Mitchell said this is only the second time that anyone nationwide has asked to repeal the determination.  The repeal allows the new owners to make repairs and return the home to livable standards.


Council Approves Lease Agreement With Health Board-Council unanimously voted to approve the lease agreement between the City of Vernonia and the Vernonia Health Center Board for use of property at the Rose Avenue Project for construction of the new Health Center.


Spencer Park RFP-Mayor/City Administrator Mitchell told Council that the Vernonia School District (VSD) has moved forward and published an RFP to finish construction work at Spencer Park without an approval from the City Council.  Approval of the RFP was on the agenda for the March 17th City Council meeting, but Council did not have a quorum and did not conduct any business at that meeting.  Mitchell told Council she met with VSD Superintendent Dr. Ken Cox and discussed changes that were to be made in the RFP before publication, but that she has not received a final version of the RFP.   Council took no action since they did not have final version to review. Read More

Vernonia City News

At the February 18, 2014 City Council Meeting:


Topics from the Floor-Five members of the Vernonia Health Board, Rachel Langmaid, Wendy Sears, Olin Younger, Brett Costley and Erika Paleck, spoke about concerns that the Council and the Health Board have not reached an agreement on a lease for the property at the Rose Avenue Project where the Health Board  intends to build a new Health Center.  Concerns mostly centered on Council’s intention to charge rent for the property,  even though the Health Board has been told they would only be charged $1.  Health Board members expressed that the Council had not negotiated in good faith and had waited until the last minute to bring up the issue of rent.


Council Discusses Rent for Health Center-Although this item was not on their agenda, Council discussed, during the City Administrator Report portion of the meeting,  the Health Center lease and rent that they should charge all tenants of the Rose Avenue Project.  All Councilors expressed their commitment to the project and the importance of having health care available in our community, but also reiterated that they have an obligation to negotiate on behalf of all citizens of the community.    Council noted that because they are now partners with  Oregon State Parks for  the trail from Anderson Park to the Lake, they have additional maintenance responsibilities for the trail. Through a calculation that took into account trail maintenance and legal fees the City has incurred to obtain the Rose Avenue property, Council reached consensus that they would charge $15 per month for each of the four potential entities at the Rose Avenue Project.  According to Mayor/City Administrator Josette Mitchell, this is the final issue in the negotiations for the lease and that all other issued have been resolved. Read More

Vernonia City News

At the November 18, 2013 City Council Meeting:

Council Discusses Health Clinic Site Development Plan- Council has received an approval from the Planning Commission for the Site Development Permit for the construction of the new Vernonia Health Clinic at Cougar and Weed Streets.  The Permit was approved based on a series of conditions being met.

Council and the Health Board are continuing to work on the legal arrangements which will allow the Health Board to use the property.  Council agreed by consensus to have  Mayor Josette Mitchell send a letter to Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, which originally gave the City use of the property, to get approval to lease the property to the Health Board.

Erika Paleck, representing the Health Board also asked about the timeline for environmental reviews for the site and was told that field testing on the entire site will take place during the week of  November 25.

Council Approves Airport Park/Airport Host Agreement- Based on recommendations from the Parks and Airport Committees, Council approved a revised Airport Park/Airport Host Agreement.  

Council Approves Contract for Wastewater Engineering- Council approved a contract with Tetra Tech Engineering and Architecture Services to provide services for construction administration for the completion of the Wastewater Improvement Project.  The contract is for an amount not to exceed $398, 816.  Council later Passed Resolution 19-13 which allows for the continuation of Engineering Services with Tetra Teach.

Generator Project Completed at City Hall- Police Chief Mike Conner informed Council that the project to wire an emergency generator at City Hall has been completed.  In the event of a power outage, City Hall now has the ability to use phone lines, some lights and some computers.  

Conner Completes Chief Requirements- Council was informed that according to DPSST, Police Chief Mike Conner has met all training and management requirements for the position of Police Chief and  will be issued a certification in early 2014.

Executive Session- Council entered into Executive Session under ORS 192.660(2)(i) Performance Evaluations of the Public Officers and Employees.  Upon returning to Open Session, Council asked City Administrator Bill Haack if he would like to have his Performance Review on December 2, 2103 in an open or closed session.  Haack requested a closed session.

City News

At the October 7, 2013 City Council Meeting:

Council Hears Request to Re-Open Police Contract-Council approved a request by the Vernonia Police Association (VPA) to re-open the “Health and Welfare” section of their contract.  The current contract  became effective July 1, 2012 and was agreed to  based on a newly developing Health Care plan through Kaiser.  All details of the plan were not available at the time of negotiations.  The VPA has since discovered that additional changes were made to the plan and that they would not have chosen the plan if they had known these details.  They asked that police employees be allowed to revert to their original plan which would have negative budget implications of $4,308 annually for the City of Vernonia.  Vernonia Police Chief Mike Conner said he would off-set the cost difference by reducing fuel, overtime and uniform expenses so there would be no budget overage.  Council requested a  chance to review the exact wording of the proposed changes to the contract and have it reviewed by their legal counsel and tabled the request until their October 21 meeting.

Council Approves “Food for Fines” Program-Council approved a recommendation from the Library Board for the “Food for Fines” program.  The program allows Vernonia Library patrons to pay off their fines by donating food items for the Vernonia Cares Food Bank between November 30 and December 16.  Read More

Vernonia City News

At the April 1, 2013 City Council Meeting:

Council Hears Presentation on CC Rider Reductions-Council heard a presentation from Transit Director Janet Wright on service reductions to Columbia County Rider that began April 1st.  According to Wright, the county was forced to make reductions due to a loss of state funding and a mandated reserve fund that needs to be established.  Wright says the County General Fund is is unable to continue to support public transportation at the same level.  Cuts are being made throughout the system.  Bus service in Vernonia has been cut from five to three days a week and the mid-day route has been eliminated; Dial-A-Ride Service has been cut to two days a week. Read More