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City Council Meeting results in a passed budget, discussion of FB comment violations

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Oakridge City Hall Herald photo

By ANDREW GRIFFIN/for The Herald  —  On June 20, the Oakridge City Council held a meeting in which they discussed motions related to the city’s budget, planned for what will come next with cuts to balance the budget, and heard comments from citizens.

Citizen claims call for emergency medical assistance results in a no-show for broken hip

The meeting opened with comments from a citizen expressing dissatisfaction with recent actions and comments of Councilor Christina Hollett. One speaker, Glennis Burke, claimed a situation in which her mother requested an ambulance after a fall and reportedly could not stand or walk. Hollett, who, according to Burke, responded to the situation, reportedly refused to take her to the hospital and, according to Burke, Hollett said “she’s not that bad.”

“Well, that ‘not so bad’ ends up being a broken hip,” said Burke. “It’s absolutely unacceptable, and I think she needs to lose her job.” In response, Mayor Brian Cutchen suggested that Burke should officially put the situation in writing for City Administrator James Cleavenger, and that Cleavenger should do an investigation into the complaint.

Afterwards, the Council spent the majority of the meeting discussing motions suggested by Cleavenger, Oakridge Chief of Fire Department and Emergency Services Scott Hollett and Oakridge Chief of Police Kevin Martin. Though eight motions in total were proposed, only four of them passed.

Cuts to the budget

Two of the passed motions will result in cuts being made to the Oakridge Fire and Emergency Services budget. Overtime wages and Line 113 of the budget of the vehicle reserve fund were cut, resulting in $19,778 in appropriations to the city’s General Fund being reduced

These decisions come after the June 17 City Budget Meeting, in which the Council passed a motion that resulted in the city’s Public Safety Fee, which charged $22 to all residents with water meters, being removed from the FY 2024-25 budget. 

Certain services are required for receiving state revenues

“Since the revenue lost with the expiration of the public safety fee was all allocated to the EMS Fund and Police Department, it made sense to me to make the reductions in those areas,” wrote Cutchen in an email to the Herald. “The city has several other services it is required to provide in order to receive state shared revenues and maintain its incorporated status. To take funds from those areas would place our ability to provide those services at risk. The ambulance service, while critical, is not one of those services.”

The additional passed motions will result in the elimination of a half-time city Planning position and a reduction of the city’s Parks budget for seasonal workers, which will result in $53,445 in appropriations to the city’s General Fund being reduced.

Councilor Kinyon sees General Fund, not public safety as the budget problem

Councilor Dawn Kinyon made comments about how the city’s shortfall should not be blamed solely on public safety services, and how the General Fund as a whole should be viewed as the source of it. 

“The truth is that the city’s General Fund is the main source of the shortfall, and the Police and Fire are both supported by the General Fund, but so is Administration, Planning, Library, the WAC, Parks and the Municipal Court,” said Kinyon. “I believe that this city should focus on the full problem instead of the fear mongering about Public Safety. We should be prioritizing our Police and Fire above all these other things that are all draining our budget… it just plain costs more than we make to run this city, and our budgets and audits prove it.”

Cleavenger to make additional cuts

The Council then passed a motion to officially pass the FY 2024-25 budget for Oakridge with the aforementioned cuts made and decided to allow Cleavenger to make additional cuts to city funds and departments to further balance the budget as necessary. “I will make my decision by Monday and have that information out in the Council Packet,” wrote Cleavenger in an email to the Herald. “If any cuts are made to Police and Fire, they will be equal.”

Council quorum on Facebook

Afterwards, the Council discussed a possible violation of open meeting laws that occurred when enough councilors responded to a Facebook post on the Oakridge chat forum for the comments to be considered a serial meeting. This is a potential ethics violation because, technically, not all members of Oakridge may have access to this forum. The council decided to disseminate the Facebook comments in a PDF that will be posted to the city’s website so that they may be made available to anyone.

“We were hearing this weeks ago, the exact same violation of open meetings law,” said Cutchen. “We need to get off social media when we’re talking about city business.”

Andrew Griffin is a fourth-year student at the U of O School of Journalism and Communications. Andrew has experience as a freelance writer, having published work for the Clackamas Print, Daily Emerald, and Pamplin Media. Andrew also has experience in graphic design/web design.

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