Tag Archives: Vernonia City Council

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 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

Vernonia’s Voice Endorses Mitchell, Hult and Heimuller

On Thursday, October16 Vernonia’s Voice hosted a political forum called “Meet the Candidates.”  We invited candidates for Vernonia Mayor, Vernonia City Council, Columbia County Commissioner, and Circuit Court Judge.  The candidates answered a series of questions allowing audience members a chance to see some of the differences between them.

In the past, Vernonia’s Voice has not made endorsements of political candidates.  But there are several races on the ballot this year that are just too important.

Vernonia’s Voice is pleased to announce our endorsement of Josette Mitchell for Vernonia Mayor, Jill Hult for Vernonia City Council and Henry Heimuller for Columbia County Commissioner.

The following is recap of the “Meet the Candidates” event and our reasons for endorsing these candidates.


Vernonia Mayor

Candidates:  Josette Mitchell, Sally Harrison

Josette Mitchell has served as Vernonia Mayor for the last four years.  Her opponent, Sally Harrison was the previous Mayor; Mitchell defeated Harrison in the 2010 election and than ran unopposed in 2012.

In the time Mitchell has been Mayor she has been extremely active and involved in the day-to-day operations at City Hall.  She has been extremely busy, acting as the interim City Administrator for nine months as well as Mayor this past year.  She has shown the ability to dig in and learn about and deal with the issues facing the City.  As she stated during the forum, she has been involved in moving numerous projects forward and wants the opportunity to complete the work she started as mayor.  She deserves her chance.

Mitchell is a doer.  She has diligently tackled several complicated issues head-on and worked to find solutions.  I believe she has learned that government work can be painstakingly slow, but she has shown  she has the determination and grit and to stick with it and deal with the issues.   Whether or not you’ve agreed with her decisions or methods,  you certainly can’t accuse her of standing pat, giving up,  or letting things slide.  Whether it’s been helping a citizen deal with a drainage issue, or dealing with the conflict between the Ridge Riders and the City, or complaints about maintenance at the cemetery, or making sure the Spencer Park fields were built correctly, Mitchell has jumped in, looked for solutions and followed through.   Read More

City News

At the October 6, 2014 City Council Meeting:

Council Postpones Zone Change Hearing- Mayor Josette Mitchell announced to the audience that a scheduled Public Hearing to consider a request by Bud and Sharla Dow to change the zone designation of the Lincoln School parcel on Bridge Street was being postponed until October 20.

Topics From the Floor- Burdette Robb spoke against the proposed zone change for the Lincoln School property. He would like it to stay Residential.

Council Changes Sewer EDU’s- Council held a long discussion about a request from the Public Works Committee to return sewer Equivalent Dwelling Units (EDU’s) to pre-Muni billing counts.  When the City installed the new Muni billing system, several accounts were unintentionally changed, causing the city to lose revenue each month.  The City has been gathering accurate data and intending to  establish policy to make larger changes to the billing rates in the future and has not adjusted the accounts that were inadvertently adjusted in the interest of only making changes one time.  Council voted to return two sewer account EDU’s to pre-Muni billing immediately.

Council Releases School District Funds- Council voted to release approximately $500,000 in funds to the Vernonia School District that were being  held in escrow pending the completion of Spencer Park.  There are several questions about documentation for changes to the original Intergovernmental Agreement that were agreed upon between the School District and City.  Council has received a letter from Dan Brown, who is responsible for assuring compliance for the project for Columbia County, stating their was no reason  not to release the funds. Council agreed that the District had met all their obligations and agreed to release the funds based on adequate documentation being located and agreement from the National Park Service that the District has met all their obligations.  Council voted 4-0 with Councilor Kim Tierney abstaining. 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 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 September 2, 2014 City Council Meeting:


Council Meets With New City Administrator- Council met officially for the first time with new City Administrator Gian Paulo Mammone in a workshop prior to the regular City Council  meeting.  Council and Mammone reviewed several upcoming and ongoing city projects and identified priorities for him, including the Wastewater Treatment Project, Spencer Park Development, FEMA regulations, sewer and water rate adjustments, California Avenue Development and the Rose Avenue Project.  They also discussed Mammone’s communication methods with Council and the expectations of the Council for him as City Administrator.  During the regular meeting Mayor Josette Mitchell welcomed Mammone and introduced him to the community.


Topics From the Floor- Paula Hansen spoke to Council and expressed her concerns about people riding bicycles, skateboards, and  scooters on sidewalks in downtown.  Hansen  noted that the City Ordinance that states the rules on this issue is confusing.    Hansen suggested better signage instructing people to walk their bicycles while on the sidewalks.  Hansen volunteered to help raise awareness and to help fundraise to purchase signs.  Vernonia Police Chief Mike Conner agreed with Hansen later in the meeting and said he would help develop a signage plan for downtown.


Water Meter Verification- Volunteers from the Public Works Committee will be inspecting water meters over the next several weeks. The City Council wished to inform citizens and property owners that someone could come onto your property to look at your water meter to confirm its functionality as part of this Public Works project.  Volunteers will wear either a Public Works t-shirt or safety vest to help identify them. Read More

Candidates for City Council Announced

Four candidates have filed paperwork to run in the November election for Vernonia City Council.

Current Mayor Josette Mitchell will run again.  She will face a challenge from former Mayor Sally Harrison.  Mitchell defeated Harrison in 2010.

Jill Hult and Mike Seager were the only candidates to file for two open City Council seats.  Current Councilors Donna Webb and Bruce McNair declined to run again.

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

An Opinion: Council Needs to Pull Together

Vernonia has hired a new City Administrator, which is good news. The bad news is they also have a problem on their hands. 

The City has been without a permanent City Administrator for over eight months, since the City Council voted to fire previous Administrator Bill Haack in December of 2013.

Council always has a tough decision when they choose a new City Administrator.  This time the choice was complicated by who was among the candidates.

The new hire, Gian Paolo “Paul” Mammone will arrive on September 1st with an impressive resume and list of credentials.  He is upbeat about his new position and seems in tune and suited to dealing with the needs of the community.  He does come with some baggage as he has held four positions in four communities during the last six years.  Vernonia also does not have a good track record in bringing in “outsiders” to be our City Administrator.  Without going through the long list of recent Administrators who have come and gone, let’s just say this scenario has had mostly mixed results.  So the choice of Mammone does raise some eyebrows and opens the door for some questions.

Since Haack was fired, Mayor Josette Mitchell has unselfishly stepped in to act as Interim City Administrator.  Mitchell also filled in as Interim City Administrator when Haack was previously fired and then brought back to the position in 2011.  During her time filling the dual roles of Mayor and unpaid City Administrator Mitchell has accomplished a lot.  She has organized City Hall and dealt with the day-to-day operations of City business in a way that has not happened in many, many years.  She has managed several difficult projects with success and worked on repairing relationships with several city partners. She has been responsive to public issues as well as to the needs of city staff and the many City Committees which advise the City Council on policy.  She has been a positive force for the City and has been willing to learn when she has not had the background or training to deal with the specifics the position calls for.  Mitchell stepped up and did an excellent job and deserves praise and thanks for  her effort on behalf of the citizens of Vernonia. Read More