Tag Archives: Vernonia City News

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

City News

At the July 21, 2014 City Council Meeting:


Council Continues Negotiations for City Administrator- Immediately upon convening the regular City Council meeting, Council recessed to Executive Session under ORS 196.660(2)(a) Employment of Public Officers, Employees and Agents. Upon returning to regular session Council instructed staff to make a counter offer to Gian Paolo “Paul” Mammone for the City Administrator position.  Later in the meeting Councilor McNair asked Mayor Josette Mitchell, who has been serving as Interim City Administrator with no pay, whether she would be willing to continue in that capacity until September 1, 2014.  Mitchell declined to answer the request.  McNair later went on record as expressing his disapproval and disappointment with Council’s choice for the new City Administrator.


Council Conducts Business with Just Three Members- Following the Executive Session, Councilor Kim Tierney was excused from the meeting for personal reasons.  Councilor Donna Webb was also absent from the meeting, leaving just three Council members, Mayor Josette Mitchell and Councilors Randy Parrow and Bruce McNair to conduct business for the remainder of the meeting.


Mayor Makes Appointments to Committee and Board- With consensus from Council, Mayor Josette Mitchell reappointed Grant Williams to the Library Board and Quentin Skanes to serve as Student Representative to the Parks Committee.


Council Discusses Crosswalks- Council received a letter from citizen Tim Anderson requesting that the City of Vernonia pursue with the State of Oregon the installation of a crosswalk across Highway 47 at Cougar Street.  The reason for the request is because of safety concerns due to new development in the area.  Council briefly discussed the issue and talked about several options but took no action. Read More

Vernonia City News

At the May 5, 2014 City Council Meeting:

Council Approves Spencer Park Plans- Council approved adjustments to the plans for Spencer Park.  Adjustments included the removal of two pathways, elimination of extra top soil in non-playing areas, and the elimination of two inches of topsoil from the baseball/softball field infield.  Council gave the School District permission to negotiate with the low bidder for the completion of construction of the park. Read More

Vernonia City News

At the April 21, 2014 City Council Meeting:


Council Approves Wastewater Funding Scenario – Council approved a funding scenario for the Wastewater Upgrade Project which would have the City refinance an existing DEQ loan at a lower interest rate and then apply to finance the remaining $5.5 million through a USDA loan at 1.13%.  According to information provided to Council the City could also be eligible for up to a $1 million grant from USDA.  This financing scenario would reduce the total proposed debt for the project by $1.3 million.


Council Approves Two Temporary Public Works Positions – Council approved the hiring of a full-time temporary Public Works employee for five months.  According to information provided to the Council, Public Works Foreman Jeff Burch will be working on the Sewer Rehab Project and his hours will be charged to that line item, freeing up funds in the Water and Sewer Account to cover the cost of the temporary employee.  The temporary employee will fill in for a Public Works employee who is unable to work due to knee surgery.  Council also approved the hiring of a part-time temporary employee to work on streets.  This employee will be paid through a grant the City received for street improvements. Read More

Vernonia City News

At the March 3, 2014 City Council Meeting:


Council Approves Extension of Enterprise Zone Benefits-Council approved Resolution 7-14 and Resolution 8-14 which authorizes the extension of Enterprise Zone Benefits for a fourth and fifth year for Photo Solutions, Inc. and Clean Water Manufacturing Corporation.  Both businesses are part of the South Columbia County Enterprise Zone.  Mayor Josette Mitchell abstained from voting on the extension of benefits for Photo Solutions.


Council Votes to Accept Bio-Solids Removal Bid-Council voted to have staff move forward and engage American Process Group for the bio-solid removal project.  American Process Group was the company that provided the lowest bid on the project.


Council Hears Presentation About Indicator Project-Council heard a presentation by Bill Langmaid and Scott Laird about the recently completed Vital Vernonia Indicator Project Report.  The project was a collaboration between Vernonia citizens, and the Oregon State University Extension Service. The project identified 44 indicators of community vitality in five categories: Livability and Community Engagement, Youth and Education, Economy, Health and Well Being, and Environment and Natural Resources.  The indicators are measures that can be quantified to provide evidence of vitality and provide opportunities for communities to plan, make decisions and act together to realize positive social, environmental and economic outcomes.  Laird and Langmaid explained the methodology of how the data was collected and showed several examples of the goals, targets and assessments the project generated.  A Community Forum is scheduled for April 5th to discuss and explore the results further and look for opportunities for action.


Mayor Appoints  Hunter to Parks Committee-Based on a recommendation from the Parks Committee, and with approval from the Council, Mayor Josette Mitchell appointed Caitlin Hunter to the Parks Committee.


Council Accepts Budget Calendar, Appoints Handegard as Budget Officer-Council approved the proposed Budget Calendar for the Fiscal Year 2014-15.  The first Budget Committee meeting is scheduled for April 15, with a Public Hearing and public comment on April 22 and  subsequent meetings scheduled for each following week through June 10. The Budget is scheduled to be adopted on June 16th.  Council also appointed Finance Officer Angie Handegard as the Budget Officer.  The position of Budget  Officer is usually filled by the City Administrator, but with Josette Mitchell currently serving as Mayor as well as  City Administrator Pro Tem, Council appointed the Finance Officer to fill the position.


City Administrator Report-Acting City Administrator Josette Mitchell briefly updated Council on numerous City projects she is monitoring including the Expansion of California Avenue, the Rose Avenue Project, Realtor warnings for homes that were flooded but have no indication on the listing, the Severance Agreement with the former City Administrator, and the New Spencer Park Construction.

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 January 21, 2014 City Council Meeting:


Mayor Accepts Brown Resignations-With the approval of Council, Mayor Josette Mitchell accepted the resignation of Dan Brown from the Planning Commission and the Emergency Preparedness Committee.


Council Approves Employee Request Forms- Council approved new internal office forms for city employees to use to request overtime pay and to request time off.


Council Discusses Health Board Lease- Council and Brett Costley, representing the Vernonia Health Board, discussed the wording of the pending lease agreement for the construction of the new Health Center.   The Health Board is proposing to build the Health Center on land controlled by the City of Vernonia.  Council and the Health Board discussed several issues which still need to be resolved in order for agreement on the lease details to be finalized, including:  what happens to the land after the city’s fifty year agreement with the state is over; language that states the City Council must approve all subleases to providers working in the facility; and how much insurance the facility will be required to carry.  The parties agreed that they would meet again on Friday, January 24, with both legal councils present, to hopefully finalize an agreement.  Council also proposed a Memorandum of Agreement between the parties.


Council Hears Parks Master Plan Presentation- Council heard a presentation from Jim Sandlin, a landscape architect with MacKay Sposito.  Sandlin presented Council with the final version of the Master Parks and Trails Plan, which includes options for park expansion projects.  Sandlin provided Council with a written report, gave Council some background on the project, and was available to answer questions. Council was scheduled to hear public comments and consider approval of the plan at their February 3, 2014 meeting.


Council Receives Quarterly Financial Report- City Finance Officer Angie Handegard presented Council with a quarterly financial report.  Handegard told Council that the intention in all departments is to try to curtail spending as much as possible without decreasing service levels.


At the February 3, 2014 City Council Meeting:


Council Extends Pro Tem Agreement-Council approved an  extension of their agreement with Mayor Josette Mitchell to have her continue acting as City Administrator Pro Tem.  Council also approved a stipend of $3.91/hour for up to forty hours per week to pay for Mitchell’s childcare expenses while she volunteers to fill the vacant City Administrator position.


Council Changes Enterprise Zone Boundary- Council approved Resolution 3-14 which changes the Enterprise Zone boundary and adds the City of Vernonia as a co-sponsor of the South Columbia County Enterprise Zone.  The Columbia County Board of Commissioners  approved this change of the boundary at their January 22, 2014 meeting.  Inclusion in the Enterprise Zone allows for tax exemptions for new development and could increase employment opportunities, raise local incomes, and attract investment.


Council Approves Parks Master Plan- After hearing a presentation from Jim Sandlin of Mackay Sposito at their January 21 meeting, and opening this meeting to public comment, the Council voted to approve Resolution 4-14, approving the Vernonia Parks and Trails Master Plan.  The plan was established to guide parks development, help develop budgets and priorities for projects, assist in future grant applications, and establishes goals and objectives for properties within the Vernonia park system.


Council Approves Volunteer Policies- Council approved a Volunteer Policy Manual, Acknowledgement Form and Agreement which establishes and explains policies and provides guidance for city staff and volunteers involved in the City Volunteer Program.


Council Discusses Lease with Health Board- Negotiations continued between the Vernonia Health Board and the Council concerning the Ground Lease Agreement for construction of the Health Clinic on property owned by the City.  An agreement was not finalized.


City Declares Library Equipment Surplus- Council approved  the declaration of surplus property for computer equipment at the Vernonia Library.  The property will be disposed of in the appropriate manner.


Mayor Appoints Rose to Emergency Preparedness Committee- With the approval of the Council, Mayor Josette Mitchell appointed Donald Rose to the Emergency Preparedness Committee.  Rose is the Engineer and Operations Manager at WOEC and lives in Troutdale.


School Gravel- Council approved a request from Dr. Ken Cox from the Vernonia School District, asking to use crushed rock and gravel that the City has stored, in the greenhouse construction project.


Council Hears Presentation About Billing Software- Prior to the regular meeting Council heard a presentation  concerning a utility billing software package from John Vergey of MuniBilling.  The proposed package would allow the City to save money and time on utility billing.


Council Moves Forward With Severance Agreement- Council entered into Executive Session under ORS 192.660(2)(b) To consider the dismissal or disciplining of, or to hear complaints or charges brought against, a public officer, employee, staff member.

Upon returning to open session it was the consensus of Council to move forward with the General Release of the Severance Agreement.


City News

At the January 6, 2014 City Council Meeting:


Council Approves RFP for Biosolids Removal-Council approved the release of a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the removal of Biosolids from the Wastewater Lagoons.


Council Approves Change to Fee Schedule-Council voted to approve Resolution 01-14, which amended Resolution 14-08, amending the Master Fee Schedule and reflecting changes suggested by the Public Works Committee for fees associated with the Sewer Loan Payment.  The change raises the Loan Repayment fee from $31.00 to $40.00.


Council Approves Amendment to Utility Billing-Council approved an amendment to Ordinance 871, sections 10 and 11.  The amendment clarifies language concerning billing, collection, and payment arrangements for utility billing.


Council Approves Water Line Extension-Council approved a recommendation from Public Works Foreman, Jeff Burch to extend a water line on Cougar Street between  Rose  and Weed Avenues.  Burch asked to do the extension now before construction begins on the Rose Avenue Project. Burch said he expects the water line extension project to cost less than $4,000 which will come from the Water SDC Fund.


City Accepts OLCC License Renewal Recommendations-Council voted to take no action and accept the favorable recommendation from Police Chief Mike Conner to renew the OLCC Liquor Licenses for the following vendors: All In Pub & Eatery, Blue House Cafe, Bridge Street Mini Mart, Cedar Side Inn, La Cabana Mexican Restaurant, The Black Iron Grill, New Hong Kong Restaurant, and Vernonia Sentry Market.  Conner told Council there had been very few alcohol related problems during the past year.  Based on Conner’s favorable recommendation OLCC will process the applications.


Health Center Update-Brett Costley spoke on behalf of the Vernonia Health Board and updated Council on the current Lease Agreement negotiations.  Costley told Council that the Health Board is reviewing the current draft and will have their suggested changes to Mayor Mitchell in the next few days.  Council agreed to review the Health Board’s changes and meet with them on Monday, January 13 to discuss any discrepancies.  Costley told Council that he didn’t believe there were any major issues that the two sides wouldn’t be able to work out.


Council Decides Not to Show Property-Council denied a request from a real estate agent to show a house and property owned by the City next to the cemetery property.  Council agreed that they were not ready to make any decisions concerning this property at this time.


Council Approves New Sign at Lake-Based on a recommendation from the Parks Committee, Council approved the design and placement plan for a new sign at Vernonia Lake.  The sign was designed by Sally Harrison, who brought the idea forward.  Harrison raised all the money for the sign, which will be installed in the island at the Lake entrance.


Mayor Reappoints Members of Committees-With the approval of the City Council, Mayor Josette Mitchell reappointed Dale Webb, George Tice and Sam Potter to the Public Works Committee, Carole Davis and Jeffery Hoyt to the Cemetery Committee, Grant Williams to the Planning Commission and Scott Laird to the Parks Committee.  Council also accepted the resignation of Jerry Keenon from the Parks Committee.


Open Positions for Mayor and Council-City Recorder Joann Glass notified Council that the Mayor Position and two Council positions will be up for election on November 4, 2014.  The Mayor position, currently held by Josette Mitchell is for a two year term.  The Council positions, currently held by Donna Webb and Bruce McNair are four year positions.  Election packets are available at City Hall from the City Recorder.  Nomination petitions can be filed no earlier than June 4, 2014 and no later than August 22, 2014.


Council Recesses to Executive Session-Council recessed and entered into Executive Session under ORS 192.660 (2)(e) To conduct deliberations with persons designated by the governing body to negotiate real property transactions.  Following their return to open session, Council made no remarks concerning the Executive Session.

Vernonia City News

At the December 16, 2013 City Council Meeting:


Council Approves Sewer Rate Increase- Based on a recommendation from the Public Works Committee,  Council unanimously approved a $9 increase to the sewer loan repayment fee.  The increase will run for the remainder of the 2013/2014 fiscal year to cover budget shortfalls for the year and will raise an estimated $44,450.  A planned restructuring of the  sewer rate and a move to a use based charge was delayed based on inaccurate current information and discrepancies that have been discovered in the current sewer billing system.  Council and the City Finance Director will continue to work to provide accurate data to calculate a proper rate structure for the next fiscal year.


Thompson Leaves VPD- Vernonia Police Chief Mike Conner informed Council that police officer Brent Thompson has taken a position with the St. Helens Police Department.  Thompson is a graduate of Vernonia High School.  Conner told Council that he does not plan to replace Thompson in the immediate future. Read More

An Opinion: It was Time for a Change at City Hall

On Tuesday December 11, 2013 the Vernonia City Council voted to fire City Administrator Bill Haack.  This somewhat surprising news caught most citizens off guard.  While some locals greeted the news  with open arms, others were shocked by this seemingly sudden decision.

Although unexpected, the dismissal of Haack by the Vernonia City Council was not sudden and was the right move for the City.

Haack’s three-and-a-half years as Vernonia City Administrator have certainly been tumultuous.
He has been an enigma in many ways, popular and capable, yet often difficult to understand and work with.  In the end, it was this difficult-to-work-with component of his persona that led to his falling out with the City Council.

I can’t discuss all the details that went into Council’s decision to fire Haack, as this is a private personnel issue.  All of the discussion by Council took place in several closed Executive Sessions.  But it was obvious in recent public meetings that  Council was growing unhappy with Haack’s administrative style.  Trouble was already brewing during the budget process last spring, as Council and Haack grappled over management of  tight finances.  Haack’s manner and communication style were grating on some members of  Council.  It all came to a head when the Council expressed displeasure with the project management on the Wastewater Upgrade Project and decided it was time for a change of direction at City Hall. Read More