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Council approves budget for 2018-19 among other actions on busy evening


July 4, 2018

The City Council approved a $17,878,561 budget for the fiscal year 2018-19, which began July 1, at its meeting Tuesday evening, June 26.

City Finance Director Brandon Neish told council members that though the Budget Committee approved the budget document over the course of three meetings in May, there were a couple of errors that had been corrected in the final version before the council.

Budget Committee Chair Dave Holley pointed out to the council that a police officer position has been added this year to the Police Department budget “primarily due to an increase in building construction” that has boosted city revenue.

Also, he said, “based on frugality with the library budget over the past few years, we’ve been able to make some improvements at the library. Also, he said, it includes funding for some “planned” road projects.

The budget also provides financing for the new City Hall.

“My opinion and probably the opinion of the rest of the Budget Committee is that this needs to be taken care of this year,” Holley said.

Councilors voiced some concerns about the document.

Dave Trask said he wanted to make sure money left over for parks projects from the 2017-18 budget would be carried over “so it doesn’t go into the General Fund, so we don’t have to pull it out of the General Fund.”

Lisa Gourley said she didn’t like language in the summary of approved budget changes relating to a portion of the Police Chief’s salary that was moved from what appeared to be, she stated, the General Fund to the Police Operating Levy.

Neish said that the budget document itself clearly establishes what happened, but he said Gourley’s request for clearer language explaining what was happening would be noted.

Gourley also complained about an entry indicating that $2,000 had been added to the Youth Advisory Council budget, for which she is the council’s representative, when in reality, Gourley said, it had only increased by $1,000.

“This whole page drives me crazy,” Gourley said.

Neish said that state law requires expenditures and income to be balanced in a budget and it was discovered after the Budget Committee’s final approval of the document that a line item in the Building Fund was $3,500 out of balance on the expenditures side.

“We had more expenditures than expected income,” he said. “We made that adjustment due to state law. It did not go through the Budget Committee because it was caught later. We did not arbitrarily make that change.”

The biggest issue was a $62,581 line item for a maintenance position in the streets budget that Neish said was inadvertently left out.

After some discussion of whether it was permissible for the council to approve the budget with that line item added, Community and Economic Development Director Jerry Sorte, who was sitting in for City Manager Ray Towry, who was on vacation, said that it’s not uncommon for municipalities to wait until the City Council approval stage to fix things.

Holley spoke up, objecting that the matter came up after public testimony was closed during the hearing before the council.

“I’ve never seen it happen like this in all the years I’ve been associated with the process,” said Holley, who served on the City Council and as mayor before joining the Budget Committee.

“It’s pretty hard for me to accept that we forgot to add somebody. It’s your council, but it’s not a very good way to do business.”

Mayor Greg Mahler said Holley was “technically” correct, but said he would leave it up to the council to decide what to do. A majority of council members indicated they would approve it as it stood.

“It’s definitely been a more difficult process this year,” Councilor Dave Trask said. “This position is understandable. It was an oversight. I don’t want to see it happen again.”

Holley exited the meeting and the council unanimously approved the budget document.

In other action, the council:

n Unanimously approved text amendments to the city’s Municipal Code Zoning Ordinance to include new standards for accessory dwellings per Senate Bill 1051.

In 2017, the state legislature approved SB 1051, which allows homeowners to build a small accessory structure for use as a residence. It requires cities to allow one accessory dwelling for each detached single-family dwelling on a property. An accessory dwelling includes an interior, detached or unattached residential structure.

The law took effect July 1.

Sorte said that a wide variety of changes were implemented in the city’s Zoning Ordinance to accommodate the new state law, primarily new standards for accessory dwellings in zones that permit single-family dwellings, as well as changes to the time requirement to process certain affordable housing applications.

Also, the Zoning Ordinance has been changed to redefine “Church Use” to allow “case-by-case” approval of accessory dwellings by the Planning Commission on church property.

Following the approval by the council, Sorte said he would have the new wording converted to “ordinance format” and ready for reading by the council’s July 10 meeting.

n Approved temporary elimination of library fines on children’s and teen materials and out-of-city library card fees during the summer months.

Approval was unanimous with the exception of Councilor Diane Gerson, who abstained because she sits on the Library Board.

Library Director Rose Peda said she was asking for the relaxation of fines and fees because they present a barrier to participation by local children in library activities.

“‘I’ve heard a lot of parents say to their children in the library, ‘You’re not checking that out because you don’t return it on time,’” Peda said, calling the fine system “punitive.”

“Children don’t have control over when their parents bring them to the library. They are the ones really being punished for this.”

Gourley said she thought the proposal was “a great idea,” but asked “what do you do for a child who never brings back books?”

Peda said the library contacts parents by phone and sends letters, usually with positive results.

“Quite often, the first letter is enough of a nudge and reminder.”

“If you have stuff overdue, you can’t check out stuff,” Gerson added.

n Voted 6-1, with Goble opposing, to re-designate the Sweet Home Enterprise Zone.

Sorte said that, based on direction from the council in April, the staff has proceeded to renew the zone, which includes all of Sweet Home as well as properties south of Brownsville and east of Halsey.

Sorte said the enterprise zone would essentially consist of the same locations it has in the past.

Companies locating within the zone, constructing new buildings or additions, or purchasing new equipment, can have taxes abated for up to five consecutive years, based on pre-set conditions.

n Discussed use of city fire hydrants by local tank truck operators.

Mahler said he had been contacted by concerned citizens who reported seeing “a lot of water loss” as tankers were being filled. He said he had witnessed it himself.

“There was a tremendous amount of water going into the ground,” he said, adding that it was “a geyser.”

Gerson asked whether the hydrant where Mahler witnessed water being wasted had a meter on it.

Mahler said he didn’t think so.

“We need accountability,” he said. “If we’re going to charge citizens for that water, (truck operators) need to pay too.”

Public Works Director Greg Springman said that trucks typically are only allowed to fill up at the hydrants at 24th Avenue and 49th Avenue, both on Long Street, and at the Pleasant Valley Bridge. He noted that the 24th Avenue hydrant has “failed.”

Mahler said he’d been told that usage hasn’t been limited to the two working hydrants Springman mentioned.

Springman acknowledged that truck operators may be using other hydrants.

“We don’t want them going to every hydrant throughout the community,” he said.

He said he plans to have gate valves installed on the hydrants used to fill tankers.

n Learned that their meeting location will be changed, to the Sweet Home Police Department Community Room, at 1950 Main St., as of July 10.


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