Council puts LID on hold after protests

Benny Westcott

Local citizens expressed resistance to a proposal that would include street, sidewalk, curb, gutter and storm drain improvements in the Willow Street neighborhood during a City Council meeting Tuesday, Feb. 23.

The Local Improvement District proposal would also improve the neighborhood’s water system and includes placing fire hydrants in the area, because firefighters currently have to lay long hoses to reach certain house fires in the neighborhood, delaying efforts to put out fires.

The LID would allow residents to access the city’s credit and share the financial burden of the improvements, while paying them off over the course of 10 to 30 years.

The plan was originally proposed after more than 50% of Willow Street neighborhood residents signed a petition requesting that the city act to make the stated improvements in the neighborhood.

The proposal was made to the council in the form of a Viewers’ Report, in which the viewers were Dave Holley, Charlene Adams, Tim McQueary and Nancy Patton (Alternate Viewer). The request for council action on the plan was submitted by City Attorney Robert Snyder and approved by City Manager Ray Towry.

“When this first came about a year ago or so and everyone in the neighborhood was talking about it, everyone was under the impression that it would be like with any other city in the fine state of Ore-gon, where the city would be taking the majority burden of it,” said Chad Kimbrell, whose daughter lives on 2009 Willow St. “And everyone would pay $2,000, $3,000, $5,000, $10,000. Even $15,000 or $20,000.”

But if the proposal as it stands were to go into effect, the citizens would have to pay much more than those sums to complete the improvement projects, according to their protestations of the plan.

Carmen Espinoza, of 2099 18th Ave., said she would have to pay $46,000. Kimbrell said his daughter would have to pay $48,000. Kari White of 1803 Yucca St. said she would pay $117,000 under the plan. Payment from each resident would differ based on the size of the property they own, with larger properties having to put in more money than smaller ones.

“We have a very decent well and a very decent septic system and we really do not want it,” said White. “It is going to put us in a major financial burden because of the size of our property. Our property taxes are already pretty high, and we’d just like to be left out of it if possible, completely.”

David Jones, of the same household, said, “I’m looking at $115,000 that I’m going to be stuck with whether I want this or not. I don’t have any desire for this water or sewage, but I’m still going to be carrying a lion’s share of everybody else’s stuff. I don’t quite understand how I can be expected to do that. Unless it was going to raise the value of my area, which I’m not seeing happening.”

Espinoza said, “I’m not quite happy with this. I understand that a lot of people need this, but I didn’t ask for this, and I’m going to be billed $46,000. I appreciate the fact that we need the fire hydrants, and I appreciate the fact that it will make it easier for people to walk when they put sidewalks in. My concern is, I didn’t ask for this, so why am I expected to pay for it?”

Kimbrell stated, “I own 31 homes across Willamette Valley. I’ve dealt with this before, in Salem, Corvallis and just a year and a half ago in Albany. My rental property that I own there, on a corner house, large property, the city did the exact same thing. I don’t believe that they put in fire hydrants, but they did everything else. You know what the bill was, or the portion that they charged everyone along that street? Our property was charged $5,000.”

“What you want to charge my daughter for her property is $48,000 and change. She just bought that property after saving up for a long time. She paid $32,000 cash for it. It would be an extreme burden.”

“I walked up and down Willow Street today,” he went on. “I knocked on every door in Willow. Only three houses did not answer. Out of every person that answered, everyone said they were firmly against this.”

After hearing the public’s remarks, the council voted 5-2 to go back and do “fact finding” to see what alterations property owners in the affected areas would want to make to the proposed plan. The dissenting votes were made by Councilors Dylan Richards and Angelita Sanchez.

In other action, the council:

– Observed a moment of silence was held for former Mayor and City Councilor Tim McQueary – who served on the LID Viewers Report team, who died Feb. 17. He served as mayor from 1999-2000, and 2003.

“He was a huge asset to this community, and it is a huge loss,” said Mayor Greg Mahler.

– Voted unanimously to approve a resolution for the appointment of a city council member as a liaison to the Library Board of Trustees.

– Took no action on a resolution that would increase water rates for 2021 and beyond based on meter size and overall consumption was not passed by the council. The increases were previously adopted by the City Council during their meeting on April 14, 2020, but were rescinded in June, essentially freezing the water rates at their 2020 level.

Councilor Dave Trask made a motion to adopt the resolution, but the resolution died for lack of a second.

– Voted unanimously on a motion to release a utility easement between private real properties near First Avenue and Nandina Street that was once used by the city as a sewer easement but is no longer used for the sewer or any other utilities, nor will it be in the future since the city utilities are now in the streets.

A property owner wants to construct a greenhouse in the easement area and needed the city to release and terminate the easement so that the construction can take place.

– Heard a financial status update from Finance Director Brandon Neish for the second quarter of fiscal year 2021. The following are some of the contents of his memorandum.

Property tax revenues rebounded significantly during the second quarter and now indicate that the collection of property taxes will exceed the budgeted figures. Originally budgeted at $4,164,469, the city now anticipates it will collect $4,543,807, which includes both current property taxes and delinquent payments from prior years. The second quarter is generally the most significant for property taxes as the city typically receives approximately 90% of the total property tax receipts for the year.

Through December, service fee revenues are down 6.6% from the prior year. Service fees include franchise fees from utility companies, library fees, utility connections, court fees and planning fees. Neish said in his report that “this is a direct result of coronavirus restrictions that have left the city struggling to adapt where the standard practice is direct, in-person service at various city locations.” Additionally, more folks are opting to refinance property loans instead of moving as housing prices have continued to climb more than 7% since this time last year, resulting in less connection fee revenue.

Utility revenues in the second quarter of this year are up 4.6% from the second quarter of last year. The pandemic has increased consumption for individuals who are home more, driving the increased revenue, as there were no increases in utility fees for the current fiscal year.