Sweet Home’s Mayor Fentiman gets ‘vote of confidence’

The Sweet Home City Council unanimously elected Craig Fentiman to serve a third consecutive term as mayor during its regular meeting on Jan. 13.

Former Mayor Jim Gourley was appointed to continue serving as president pro tem, serving as mayor in Fentiman’s absence.

The council swore in new councilor Laure Fowler, who was elected in November and replaces Rich Rowley. Also sworn in were incumbent councilors Eric Markell, Jim Gourley and Jim Bean.

Fentiman has been on the council since 1988 and has previously served three two-year terms as mayor.

“Thanks for the vote of confidence and the trust,” Fentiman said.

“The last two years have gone really well,” he told The New Era. But “it’s not been without its trials. It’s not without its problems.”

The most pressing issue for the city has been and will be water and sewer issues, he said. The city is facing an October 2010 deadline for reducing inflow and infiltration, which is a problem caused by water leaking into the sewer system through cracks in deteriorating pipes and cross connections to storm drains.

During heavy rain, I&I can overload the wastewater treatment plant, causing bypasses of untreated wastewater, which is mostly storm water at that point.

The city is constructing a new water treatment plant for a total cost of nearly $12 million.

These projects threaten to increase water and sewer rates higher and higher as they continue, and Fentiman, along with the council and city staff, are looking for ways to keep those costs as low as possible for rate payers.

“That’s one of the things we’re busy looking for €“ ways to fund these improvements with the least impact to the consumer,” Fentiman said. The city is looking at ways it can get some of the proposed federal stimulus money, which will fund infrastructure repairs, maintenance and improvements with the goal of creating jobs.

Through the League of Oregon Cities, Sweet Home is pushing the Oregon Legislature to use some of the money it gets, typically used as loans, as grants for infrastructure, he said.

According to city officials, every $1 million spent on these infrastructure projects increases bills by an average of $1 per month.

The city also will continue supporting the Sweet Home Area Revitalization Effort’s work in economic development, and this year, the city will join the state in celebrating its 150th anniversary.

Present at the meeting were Greg Mahler, Markell, Gourley, Fentiman, McKee, Fowler and Bean.

In other business, the council:

– Presented Finance Director Pat Gray her fifth award from the Government Finance Officers Association for her user-friendly budget document.

– Presented a 10-year safety certificate to Library Director Leona McCann and a five-year certificate to Police Chief Bob Burford for working without injury.

– Approved the declaration as surplus of a 2001 Ford Crown Victoria patrol car and four Mossberg Model 590 shotguns, which have been replaced in patrol cars by rifles.

– Appointed outgoing council member Rich Rowley to a four-year term on the Budget Committee.

– Appointed Ken Loree, Alice Smith and Bill Marshall to four-year terms on the Tree Commission.

– Adopted an ordinance vacating an undeveloped portion of Grape Street west of 12th Avenue. The council voted 6-0. Bean abstained because of a potential conflict of interest.