Communities, Front Page, Oakridge/Westfir

Oakridge city council considers non-profit partnership with hopes of restoring the WAC

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Oakridge City Hall Herald Photo

By ELLA BROWN/Correspondent/The Herald– Oakridge City Council members voted unanimously Thursday night, March 17th, to authorize funding and provide restoration support for the city’s beloved Willamette Activity Center (WAC).

Sarah Altemus-Pope, of South Willamette Solutions, spoke at the meeting and asked the Oakridge City Council to consider partnering with the WAC Funding Committee, in hopes of combining efforts to bring the center back to life.

The budget committee had recommended the city council consider selling the WAC in early 2021 due to lack of funding. However, it was never put on the market. The activity center has struggled to keep its doors open since but is missed by community members and organizations.

“We really do need to keep the WAC facility intact because it’s a great opportunity for our community to co-locate services that we depend on,” said Altemus-Pope.

Councilor Whitney lauds the WAC

“Once you create a good, inviting space where agencies can come in and we can show that they have a space that will work well for them, (it) will make it easier to get those services up here for our community members,” said Councilor Bobbie Whitney.

Councilor Whitney, who offered the motion, spoke fondly of once-upon-a-time when services such as a food bank, Planned Parenthood, Department of Human Services, and Child Welfare were offered at the WAC.  Also, how important a place where those services can call home are to the Oakridge community.

Altemus-Pope said Oakridge was recently awarded a grant of 1.5 million dollars for the restoration of the WAC, and while that money is just a start, South Willamette Solutions can use the money as leverage for state and federal fund matching.

Budget committee report

Interim City Administrator Kevin Cronin reported that the budget committee staff is, “in the middle of developing the proposed city budget, hopefully to be ready for April 18th.” Cronin said the proposed budget calendar is a scheduled list of items that the budget committee must get done during the budget seasons and keeps them accountable with target dates and goals.

Councilor Melissa Bjarnson also suggested that Cronin and the budget committee consider what the budget would look like if the petitioned $22 monthly safety fee that was passed in November were to be repealed.

Safety fee being re-examined

“Since the public safety fee came in at less than what was asked for in the original budget and we never were able to pass a supplemental, I would really like to see if we did what the public was asking us, and repealed it immediately, what would that hole do to our budget,” said Bjarnson.

The council voted unanimously to take a closer look at the public’s request to remove the monthly safety bill which residents started paying in December.

 

Ella Brown is a Junior at the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication

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