Chief: Police stepping it up against speed

Benny Westcott

Sweet Home’s Police Department has placed increased emphasis on traffic enforcement in the first few months of 2021, Police Chief Jeff Lynn told City Council members at their March 23 meeting.

“With our reduced staffing level at this point, we have saved some funds that we can redirect toward traffic enforcement. We’ve actually opened up some overtime slots a couple times a week so that we can focus officers just on traffic enforcement in some priority areas. Lynn said his staff has been focusing on the downtown corridor, particularly 1st Avenue, Holley Road and Main Street.

He also addressed some staffing issues his department has had.

“We have been short-staffed for a significant period of time,” Lynn said. “We still have two open positions that we’re trying to fill.”

Lynn said the Police Department currently has 13 members, but the department is authorized for 15 employees in this budget cycle.

Additionally, Lynn said it would be “extremely beneficial” to change the structure of the department from its current state of a police chief and four sergeants underneath him, to a chief, a captain and two sergeants. This move would reduce the number of supervisory positions in the department by one. Lynn said the move is essentially cost-neutral, because the pay increase for a captain would be offset by removing a sergeant position. Lynn says he would view a captain position as his potential replacement.

Lynn is eligible to retire in slightly over three years.

“My hope and my intent is to retire at that time,” he said. With this in mind, Lynn thinks a restructuring of the supervisory positions in the department could aid in succession planning.

“We haven’t always done the greatest with succession planning here in Sweet Home,” he said.

“I think that this is one way we can really improve on that.

“It would give the council and city manager an opportunity to relate to and judge the merits of the person that could potentially be in that captain spot to see if they’re a fit for when my position opens up.

“Really what we want to do is hire people that are going to outshine us in the end and take our department to a little better place than where we are now,” Lynn said.

In other action, the council:

– Voted to adopt a fee schedule for system development charges that would increase the city’s SDCs over a three-year period. The fee schedule puts forth a plan to raise SDCs on a single-family home from the current rate of $1,839 to $15,000 by July 1, 2023, by increasing the rates in increments, with the first incremental raise being on May 1 of 2021, the second on July 1 of 2022, and the third on July 1 of 2023.

Sweet Home’s current fees are among the lowest in the state and have not changed since 2005. City staff have been working to change Sweet Home’s SDCs since August of 2019.

SDCs are fees assessed on new development to pay for the new development’s use of city infrastructure.

– Learned that the city was recently approached by AMERESCO, an energy services company, with a proposal to review the city’s streetlights and determine whether there would be any cost savings by converting the existing infrastructure to LED lights. An initial evaluation completed by AMERESCO using city electricity bills highlighted the potential for $73,000 in annual cost savings by converting the existing streetlights.

Energy services companies such as AMERESCO enter into contract with organizations to use energy savings to finance efficiency improvements. In this case, the city of Sweet Home and AMERESCO would enter into a contract for AMERESCO to convert the city’s streetlights to LEDS, in exchange for a portion of the savings for a specified period of time.

City staff met with AMERESCO on multiple occasions to flesh out the proposal and ultimately agreed that moving forward would be in the best interest of the city.

If the contract is pursued, the city could reduce energy costs by $73,000 annually, said AMERESCO representatives who presented to the city council at the March 23 meeting. Depending on how many lights are replaced, that could be enough savings to make the project self-funding for the city.

– Heard a report on potential street improvements.

The city has $280,000 budgeted this fiscal year for overlay projects to complete street improvements. There is still $242,327.94 available after the 29th Avenue chip seal project completed last summer.

Another $600,000 in ODOT exchange funds is available, which requires an intergovernmental agreement prior to use. City staff tasked Sweet Home’s Engineer of Record with preparing a bid package for an overlay project based on those funds. Civil West, a subconsultant of West Yost, delivered the bid package.

The bid package was split into two phases.

The first phase would include: An estimated $163,981.83 in planned improvements on Kalmia Street and 45th, 46th and 47th Avenues; an estimated $42,407.50 in improvements on Harding Street from Mountain View Road to 27th Avenue and on the branch of 23rd Avenue that intersects Harding; an estimated $34,195.00 in improvements to Juniper Street from 32nd Court to 35th Avenue, and to 32nd Court; and an estimated $23,554.16 in improvements to Grape Street and Grape Loop; for a total Phase 1 bid estimate total of $264,138.50.

The second phase would include: an estimated $33,117.50 in improvements to 4th Avenue north of Holley Road; an estimated $46,475.00 in improvements to 42nd Avenue south of Long Street; an estimated $11,897.50 in improvements to Locust Street and 54th Avenue; an estimated $36,972.50 in improvements to Larch Street and Locust Street off 49th; an estimated $27,005.00 in improvements to Poplar Street and Osage Street between 52nd and 53rd avenues and to 52nd Avenue; an estimated $21,422,50 in improvements to Vine Street off of 18th; an estimated $6,450.00 in improvements to Poplar Street, west of 9th Avenue; an estimated $17,037.50 in improvements to 13th Avenue and Osage Street; and an estimated $6,375.00 in improvements to Nandina Street between 54th and 56th; for a total Phase 2 bid estimate of $206,752.50.

The council voted unanimously to post the solicitation as presented at the meeting. Bids will be brought to council for awarding the contract.

– Voted unanimously to give city staff authorization to enter into the ODOT Fund Exchange Intergovernmental Agreement to exchange federal transportation funds for state transportation funds.

Local governments receive annual transportation revenue from the Federal Surface Transportation Block Grant (STBG). Sweet Home receives about $100,000 per year of STBG funds, which are held by ODOT on our behalf until we spend it. However, federal funds have extensive requirements (environmental, archaeological, etc.) which can easily exceed the construction cost of local projects, and which make it infeasible for local governments to use STBG funds directly.

To remedy this hurdle for local governments, ODOT provides the Fund Exchange Program. It’s a program where the city gives STBG funds to ODOT, who can use them more efficiently on large projects, and receives state highway funds, which the city can use on local projects.

Sweet Home has participated in the Fund Exchange Program many times to pay for street projects, most recently in 2015. The city’s annual allocations have accrued since 2015 and the city’s current balance is $665,232 of federal STBG funds available to exchange.

There is an exchange rate. The current exchange rate is $0.94 of state funds per $1 of STBG funds.

Staff intend to use the exchange funds for overlay and/or chip seal projects as identified in the city’s capital improvement plan. The term of the IGA is through September 30, 2024.

The IGA is not limited to one specific project as it was in previous years, and now is intended to cover all eligible projects in one agreement. Executing the IGA does not obligate the city to any expenses. It is a mechanism to improve the city’s access to an existing fund source.

– Voted unanimously to adopt an updated policy manual for the Sweet Home Public Library. The library’s advisory board has been working to update the library’s policy manual for several months. The current policy manual was completed in 1993 with the last major update in 2013. The library advisory board reviewed the manual at their last meeting, March 11, and unanimously voted to recommend adoption by the city council.

– Heard a report from City Manager Ray Towry said that the city has received six applications for the role of library services director, which is currently being filled by Towry after Rose Peda retired in January of this year. “I’m told they are a very promising pool of applicants,” he said.