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Oakridge City Budget Meeting 6/17/24: City shutdown looms large with no budget passed

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Oakridge City Hall Herald photo

By GARY CARL/for The Herald  — Mayor Cutchen opened the meeting by receiving public comments and reminding citizens that the primary purpose of this meeting is for citizens to make comments about the proposed budget.

Motions by Counselors Brewer & Kinyon to eliminate the addition of staff to the planning Department and the Parks Department failed with Counselors Brewer, Kinyon and Bjornson voting in favor of the reductions and Counselors Tarman, Coker and Mayor Cutchen voting against.  Counselor Hollett abstained from all voting due to an actual conflict of interest.  Upon a three-to-three vote, the motion to eliminate the staff failed.

Counselor Coker made a motion to eliminate the volunteer stipend at the fire department.  Again, with a three-to-three vote* the Motion failed.

Eliminate the ambulance service and rely on Lane County?

A Motion by Counselor Brewer to reduce the Public Safety Fee to $15 was amended by Counselor Tarman to eliminate the ambulance service.  Mayor Cutchen explained that if we eliminate the ambulance service, Lane County is required to provide Oakridge with ambulance services and must be given 90 days advance notice.  However, there is no way to know whether the County’s ambulance service will be located in Oakridge.  It is possible and even probable that there would be extended wait times for emergency ambulance service to arrive.

The amendment to eliminate the ambulance service in Oakridge failed by a vote of 5 to 1.

The original motion to reduce the Public Safety Fee to $15 per month came to a vote.  The vote was three to three and therefore the motion failed. *

Budget failed to pass

Mayor Cutchen moved to adopt the Fiscal Year 24-25 Budget in the amount of $17,392,972. The proposed budget included the $20 Public Safety Fee. The vote was 2 ayes and 4 nays; therefore, the budget was not adopted.

Counselor Brewer made a motion to remove the Public Safety Fee from the Oakridge Fee Schedule.  The vote was 4 to 2:  Counselors Brewer, Kinyon, Bjornson and Coker voted to remove the Public Safety Fee; Counselor Tarman and Mayor Cutchen voted against, and the motion passed.  Therefore, at this time, there is no Public Safety fee in the 2024-25 budget.  The City Administrator will propose cuts to conform with this vote by reducing services equal to the amount the city would receive with the PSF.

A potential city shutdown

Mayor Cutchen made a motion that in the event a budget is not adopted, to direct the City Administrator to begin planning for the orderly shutdown of the local government with the exception of essential services in accordance with Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) and to bring a brief to the City Council prior to the end of the month of June. This motion passed unanimously.

*The three-to-three split which occurred numerous times throughout the meeting consisted of Counselors Brewer, Bjornson & Kinyon voting in unison and Counselors Tarman, Coker and Mayor Cutchen also voting in unison.  Counselor Hollett abstained from all voting due to an actual conflict of interest.

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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