New SH mayor looks forward to challenges

Sweet Home Mayor Craig Fentiman said he is looking forward to meeting the challenges that face the City Council and the City of Sweet Home in the next year.

“With the things that the council has coming before it, it’s going to be challenging,” Mayor Fentiman said. The most glaring of those challenges are probably, sewer, water, drainage and land use issues.

In the last couple of years, land use actions have become more controversial with the City Council hearing more appeals and recommendations from the Planning Commission.

“I think part of the reason it’s controversial right now is that they’re (residents) are trying to understand and grasp the laws as they are written,” Mayor Fentiman said. The laws and ordinances governing land use are in place. “All council is doing is abiding by the rules and laws to they have to go by. It’s not always the popular decision, but it’s the decision that has to be made.”

There are elements of growth and anti-development viewpoints at play in Sweet Home, and those positions are driving, Mayor Fentiman said. “I think any time you have change, you’re going to run into some type of opposition.”

Concerns about sewer are prevalent throughout the city, Mayor Fentiman said. He referred to a large inflow and infiltration problem.

Inflow refers to cross connected storm drainage pouring water into the sewer system, and infiltration refers to water that leaks into the sewer system through deteriorating, leaky pipes.

The City Council will need to continue going forward with what it is doing now, Mayor Fentiman said. Right now, the city is under an agreement with the Department of Environmental Quality to repair the system. The city needs to “hammer” at the requirements of that agreement and focus resources on sewer and water.

In the water utility, the City of Sweet Home is planning the replacement of its water treatment plant, which was built in the 1930s and is showing signs of its age, with cracking concrete.

Mayor Fentiman cautioned that the sewer and water issues should not eclipse other city services. The City of Sweet Home could spend all of its resources on sewer and water.

“The danger of that kind of effort,” Mayor Fentiman said. “You can’t afford to let the rest of the city stand still. While you concentrate on this problem. That’s a dangerous mode to get into because it stops other services.”

Ideally, the City of Sweet Home needs to find a balance, fixing the sewer problem but still moving forward.

“You start where we’ve started with the MAO (mutual agreement and order with DEQ),” Mayor Fentiman said. “And continue to work progressively on the problem as best we can. We’ve also got to act on drainage.”

The City of Sweet Home has completed its storm drainage master plan, Mayor Fentiman said. The City Council will be looking at ways to begin funding storm drainage projects listed in the plan this year. That will probably be discussed in more detail in the Council’s goal-setting meeting in late February.

Over the last half of the year, land use, water, sewer and drainage issues are primarily what the Council has been dealing with, Mayor Fentiman said. Beyond that, “youth in the community is another challenge that council needs to address … to continue to provide new opportunities for them. I constantly hear from kids out there that there’s nothing to do here in Sweet Home.”

“One of my biggest goals (personally) is just to keep the Council working together,” Mayor Fentiman said. Beyond that, “I don’t have any individual goals as mayor.”

Mayor Fentiman is proud of the Council’s accomplishments in recent years and would to “continue to do the good things we’ve done in the past.”

He counted last year’s increases in sewer and water rates as a step forward, a way to address the ailing utilities, although it may not be perceived that way. Other accomplishments include the near completion of the new police station.

As the new mayor, Fentiman offered outgoing Mayor Tim McQueary “a big thank you.”

“He did a tremendous job,” Mayor Fentiman said. “I look forward to working with him again.”

Mayor Fentiman is not new to the job. He served as mayor from January 1991 to December 1994. He has been on the City Council since 1988. He is married to Penny Fentiman and has one daughter, Angela, a junior in high school.