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Oakridge city budget meeting #4: What happens without the public safety fee?

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By GARY CARL/for The Herald  —  The 4th Budget Meeting was called to order by the Chair Mayor Hollett on June 14th, 2022.  The usual Budget Committee members declared their potential conflicts of interest: Hollett, Bjarnson, Allen, and Chrisman. The meeting then got underway.

During the opportunity for “Public Comment”, Gary Carl asked the Budget Committee what did they think might happen if the current public safety fee were to be eliminated?  Carl pointed out that the fee is projected to provide about $240,000. Annually.  $120,000 for the Police Department & $120,000. for the Fire Department.

And while there seems to be some community disapproval of this fee, Carl asked what did the Committee intend to do if those funds were no longer available? * Counselor Kinyon responded saying the matter had not come up for discussion yet and therefore no response was possible.

Budget Committee member Lisa Samuelson pointed out the “Total Contingency” Line 88 of the Water Fund is $818,735.   And, In the Wastewater Fund Line 81, the amount budgeted for “Contingency” is $510,988.  Samuelson asked why these budgeted amounts were so high?  Kevin Martin, Temporary City Administrator, was unsure and told Samuelson that he would look into the matter and get back to her.

In discussing the Storm Water Fund,  Robeart Chrisman of the Public Works Department, explained that the amount budgeted for Storm Water Service (Line 4 – $29,050) might be inadequate.  Chrisman explained that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) & the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will soon be requiring Oakridge to treat its stormwater before it runs into the Willamette River.  This will not be optional according to Chrisman and there will be substantial penalties for non-compliance.

Thus, Chrisman warned that doubling, or even tripling the budgeted amount would be prudent.  Martin explained to the Budget Committee and Council members this area is highly technical in nature and beyond his expertise.

Martin said he would recommend to the council that the next City Administrator be encouraged to retain an expert to consult with the City Administrator on this matter.

In other areas of the budget discussion, allocations for “Fuel” were considered too low given the dramatic increase of fuel prices.  Counselor Spliethof asked whether more could be done to allocate fuel usage more accurately among departmental users.  Both Martin, Police Chief, and Chrisman, head of Public Works said it would be unworkable as a practical matter.

The Budget Meeting concluded.  This was the last regular meeting of the Budget Committee and Martin told the Committee that he and the Finance Director, Colleen Shirley, will make all necessary revisions and provide the corrected and revised Budget to all.

 

*It should be remembered that both Martin & Shirley told the Budget Committee that the Public Safety Fee was necessary to balance the Budget.

Gary Carl is a retired judge of the Lane County Justice Court. He currently lives with his partner, Lynda Kamerrer & their cat, Lucy. gary can be reached at [email protected] Gary Carl photo

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