City to get dog parks, thanks to donations

Benny Westcott

The city is going to get two new dog park facilities and upgrades to two city parks, thanks to donations from the community, City Council members decided at their May 25 meeting.

On April 7, Mayor Greg Mahler submitted a proposal to use donated funds for two dog parks and two small city parks. On April 21, the city Park and Tree Committee held a public meeting to recommend the proposal to council for approval.

Council members unanimously voted to accept the donations and direct staff to plan, design and construct a dog park at Northside Park, a dog park at City Hall, a small playground and flower area at City Hall, and a small playground at Strawberry Park.

A family that wishes to remain anonymous has donated $35,000 to go towards park equipment for a park next to the new City Hall.

The family would like part of the donation to go toward purchasing a Slide Mountain Playground with an in-ground anchor kit, cement to anchor the set in the ground, and a safe barrier around the playground set with playground mulch. The estimated cost of these installations would be $12,479.25.

The family also requests that $5,000 be budgeted for flowers to be located within the park, $10,000 for picnic tables, benches and trash cans, and $5,000 for a pet park area. Additionally, they would like to see $5,000 spent to go towards fencing to enclose the dog park, as well as a gate and a maintenance gate.

The name the family is proposing for the park is “Joleen Park” or “Joleen Memorial Park.” The family has set aside funds for the sign and the look and design of the sign determined by the parks and tree committee.

Another donation, of $5,000, has come from the Hunt family, which they have asked to go towards a pet park. Parks board members have recommended a suitable location would be Northside Park.

If Diane Gerson donates half the amount for the dog park, Parks Board members would like to see the park named after her. If the full donation amount goes towards the pet park, they would like to see the pet park named after William Hunt.

Finally, a third donation was proposed from relatives of the founder of Hoy’s Hardware, Ivan Hoy.

The donation was proposed to be for playground equipment at Clover Park, and the family wants a sign dedicating the playground equipment after Hoy, who was a Sweet Home fire chief for 25 years. The stipulation is that the theme of the playground equipment be a fire engine.

The cost of fire engine-themed playground equipment that Mahler located is around $17,500. The family has also agreed to make sure the equipment is anchored in the ground, and outlined with playground bark mulch for safety.

However, the Park and Tree Committee favored utilizing the donation for a playground at Strawberry Park rather than Clover Park.

The committee was concerned with the lack of parking at Clover. Members also expressed concerns about its proximity to Main Street, which “makes it a place that they were not excited about having children attracted to,” said Community and Economic Development Director Blair Larsen.

Trask suggested that, “if we could talk the donors into going from Clover to Strawberry, I think that would be a better option, mainly because of the parking on that street.”

Coleman said she agreed that Clover Park is not a great place to put a playground.

“Walking in that neighborhood with my daughter, going down to Main Street, people are not going 35 when they come into Sweet Home.”

Sankey Bandstand

to be demolished

Council members voted 6-1 to remove the bandstand at Sankey Park and replace it with a similarly sized structure.

The Sankey Park bandstand was constructed in the late 1930s or early 1940s. It has never been placed on any historic registry.

In early 2018, a tree fell on the structure, causing damage and concerns about the safety of the structure. Stability Engineering, Inc. was hired to conduct a structural review of the bandstand and completed its report in July 2019. The report showed that the structure does not meet current building code and cannot meet snow load requirements for the area. The report also showed that the floor beams are inadequate, the main horizontal structural beams are extremely inadequate, and the footings are significantly undersized.

The Park and Tree Committee discussed the matter and recommended to the council that the structure be removed and replaced with a similarly-sized structure that incorporates architectural elements and/or materials from the original.

City staff presented some of their findings regarding the bandstand to the council at their August 11, 2020 meeting. The council then directed staff to continue investigating options and costs. Since then, staff received a proposal from the city’s engineer of record to evaluate the structure and determine costs to either rehabilitate it or replace it. The cost of such an evaluation would be approximately $22,000.

The city’s engineer of record stated that the structure cannot be brought up to code without dismantling it entirely and rebuilding it with an entirely new supporting structure.

Sanchez was the only councilor who voted to repair the structure rather than replace it.

“I think that because of its uniqueness and what it brings to this town, I think that we have to save it,” she said. “I think that the people of the community want it saved. I understand that it’s not worth it to some other people, but it’s worth it to the majority of the people in this town.”

But Gourley and other councilors voiced their preference for tearing the structure down.

“I love this old building,” Gourley said. “I remember square dancing and having those activities going on this building. Our community was very different when we were children.”

“I love the structure and the design of this, because it’s so warm,” she went on. “You’re not going to find it anywhere else. But does that mean that we can’t recreate that in a form that fits our needs better?”

“I was born here, and I know that wood rots,” she added. “And every wooden structure in this community is eventually going to rot. It’s just the way it is. Black mold is a fact of life here.”

“I am not for retaining a building that is wooden for the sake of the wood that is no longer viable,” she explained. “That might not be popular with people that I care greatly about, but we live in Sweet Home, and it’s wet, and eventually, even if it doesn’t rot from moisture, it’s going to get dry rot.”

Gourley concluded that “I don’t think saving this building is our highest priority. I think looking at having something in the master plan for our parks, down the road, that gives tribute to that heritage, is our best bet.”

Richards agreed with Gourley and said “I don’t really see the benefits in keeping it. Even if we restored it, there’s so much on it that we would have to change, that it wouldn’t even be like it was the original anymore.”

City going it alone

on treatment plants

Council members unanimously voted to authorize the mayor and city manager to end the city’s contract with Jacobs Engineering to manage its water and wastewater treatment facilities, beginning July 1.

That’s when the city will initiate in-house administration and operations of those utilities.

Voting in favor of the request for council action were Councilors Angelita Sanchez, Susan Coleman, Lisa Gourley, Greg Mahler, Diane Gerson, Dave Trask and Dylan Richards.

City staff operated the plants until October of 2006, when the city entered into an agreement with CM2H Hill, which later was acquired by Jacobs.

In September of 2015, the city and Jacobs essentially renewed the agreement for 16 years, commencing on July 1, 2015, and ending on July 30, 2031.

However, in March 2019, the city conducted a condition assessment of the water treatment plant and documented several deficiencies.

“A staff audit of facilities a couple of years ago led us to believe that our facilities maybe were not being kept up to our expectations,” said City Manager Ray Towry.

Since the 2019 audit, city staff has looked into different options to operate the water treatment plant, Towry said.

An outside consultant was hired to figure out what the cost for the city would be if they were to conduct operations internally.

“Council looked at those numbers and decided that it would be best for our community if we brought operations in-house,” Towry said.

The proposed amendment to the contract that the council voted for, along with ending the contract, includes a non-disparagement agreement, a $32,793.24 demobilization fee, and a 3% escalation to the base fee from $1,061,270 to $1,093,108 for the 2020-2021 contract year.

The total city expense is $64,631.24 to demobilize Jacobs.

Throughout April and May, city staff have recruited to fill five operator positions. All five positions have been filled, three internally and two externally. City operators will begin job shadowing Jacobs starting May 20, 2021.

“We think the document is very fair to both parties, in order to end the contract amicably,” Towry said.