Tag Archives: City of Vernonia

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

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

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.

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 and Ridge Riders Heading for Trial Over Lease

The question of whether there is a valid  lease for use of the horse arena at Anderson Park  between the City of Vernonia and the Vernonia Ridge Riders equestrian group looks like it may be  heading to a court trial.

A recent decision by Judge Ted Grove on October 24, 2014 granted a motion by the Ridge Riders to set aside a previously entered judgment in favor of the City which ruled the lease invalid. According to City Attorney Ruben Cleaveland, this order did not provide any ruling or opinion of the court as to the validity of the lease, but is a small procedural decision that allows the Vernonia Ridge Riders the opportunity to move forward with litigation  regarding the validity of the lease.

A motion to award  attorney fees to the Ridge Riders was denied as part of the same order by Judge Grove.

There are numerous questions concerning the lease which governs the use and maintenance of the Anderson Park Horse Arena.  The dispute between the City of Vernonia, who owns the property, and the Ridge Riders, which has leased the arena and significantly improved the property, dates back to 2010.  At that time the City told the Ridge Riders that the written lease between the parties was not valid.  The two parties have been unable to resolve the dispute since that time.  The Ridge Riders have sued the City and the City has counter sued the Ridge Riders.  Following Judge Grove’s ruling, the issue remains unresolved. RidgeRidersArena-Color-web

In the latest chapter of the ongoing dispute, the Vernonia City Council met in an Executive Session on April 7, 2014, and upon returning to regular session, revealed that a court judgement had been handed down in favor of the City determining that the lease the Ridge Riders have been operating under was not valid.

Ridge Rider President Rick Gardner says the decision in April was made without any input from the Ridge Riders legal counsel.

Judge Grove’s decision on October 24, overturned that prior decision, setting the stage for a either a trial or some kind of mutual agreement between the two parties.

Judge Grove granted a ninety-day period, until February 2, 2015  for the parties to conduct discovery regarding the validity of the lease.  Following the ninety days the parties are scheduled to appear in court at a pre-trial conference to determine trial readiness and hear any motions filed in the case.  At that point, according to City Attorney Cleavelend, the court will begin the process of settling whether the Ridge Riders have a valid lease. Read More

City Department Updates: October 17- 31

ADMINISTRATION / UTILITY BILLING 

• 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.

 

POLICE DEPARTMENT – VPD 

• 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.

ZoneChangeLincolnSchool-web

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,

wallpaper

•  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 http://www.take5tosurvive.com/ for additional information including a step-by-step plan to put your emergency kit together.

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

Kay Lawsuit Dismissed

A lawsuit filed by former Vernonia police officer Michael Kay has been dismissed.

The lawsuit, filed in Oregon District Court, claimed Civil Rights violations and Employment Discrimination.

In a letter received by the City of Vernonia dated August 26, 2014, the City was informed that   Presiding Judge Paul Papek had granted all motions for summary judgment and dismissed the case before it went to trial.  According to the letter, Kay did not file any objections to the Findings and Recommendations.

The suit named as defendants: the City of Vernonia; current Vernonia Police Chief Michael Conner; former Vernonia City Administrator William Haack; Teresa King,  an investigator with Oregon’s Department of Public Safety Standards and Training; Dian Rubanoff, a lawyer with Rubanoff & Hatfield PC who was hired by the City of Vernonia to investigate Kay;  former Vernonia Police Chief Matthew Workman;  and Columbia County Justice of the Peace Wallace Thompson.

Michael Kay was employed by the City of Vernonia for nine years as a police officer, Sergeant, acting Chief and Captain.  He was terminated by the City in 2011 following several investigations into his conduct.  He was later decertified by DPSST for ethics violations.  In 2013 he lost an employment arbitration hearing that reviewed his termination. Read More