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Oakridge City Council meeting 11/3: Warming center approved, Mayor blames chaos for illegally signing $10k contract

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Oakridge City Hall Herald photo

By GEORGE CUSTER/Editor  —  The attendance at city council meetings by our elected officials is growing, if slowly. Mayor Hollett, councilors Kinyon, Hooker, and Whitney were present. Councilors Spliethof, Bjornson, and Coker Zoomed in.

During her comments, Mayor Hollett gave thanks to the new HIV Alliance’s presence in Oakridge.

Minutes from the previous council session were not available so the consent agenda and approval of those minutes were not voted on.

Committees gain more members

Four citizens applied for three separate committees: Karin Thompson for Public Safety Committee, Linda Dunham for the Budget Committee and WAC subcommittee, and Jill Mardin applied for the Library Board. All were accepted to their chosen committees. Trudy Hammond was reappointed to the Public Safety and Admin committees and was accepted to the WAC subcommittee.

The City’s auditors have released their report for the fiscal year 2020-2021. Council will be reviewing the results and then will send questions regarding any issues to the city’s staff for comments. Issues resulting from the report will be placed on the December 1st meeting’s agenda to be discussed at that time.

Warming center approved for GWP community building

Armed with additional research, Kathy Holston, Susan Hardy, and Ken Wright  reported that the Greenwaters Park community building appeared to be the only possible location for the warming center for this winter. The storage building at the softball field behind the condemned Willamette Activity Center (WAC) was deemed unacceptable. There were a number of reasons,  including code violations that prevented the building from being used.

Upon discussion by the Council, it was approved to allow the warming center to be at the Greenwaters (GWP) park community building. The warming center will commence operation on December 1st and anticipates to run through the end of February, dependent on weather conditions at that time. The warming center committee have scheduled their next meeting for next Wednesday, November 9th at 6:30 pm at the GWP community building. All are welcome to attend. Volunteers are needed.

All new holiday lights to be purchased

Next, discussion was to approve funds for the purchase of holiday lights for City Hall, the fire station, and the tree that is located adjacent to the Art Works building on First Street. Anticipated cost is $2,770. The lights will be color changing and programmable. City Administrator Cleavenger received a quote from Harbor Freight Tools for the lights. The request was approved by vote of the council.

No decision on the Hills Street turn around

The next forty-five minutes was consumed with the renewal of the controversy surrounding the “turnaround” issue at the end of Hills Street. Again, arguments were made for several options, only to be countered by technical issues that would negate them. City Planner Rick Zylstra Zoomed into the meeting to offer his professional opinions on the issue. After a long debate, Councilor Whitney pleaded that the discussion was just “going down rabbit holes”. Again it was stated that council is not equipped to analyze and pass judgement, as councilmembers are not engineers. It appeared that the issue was passed back to staff, once again, for deliberation.

RAIN contract signed without Council approval

The renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Regional Accelerator & Innovation Network (RAIN) was next. The MOU had been “inadvertently” signed by Mayor Hollett back in June of this year. A recent Facebook post was brought to the public’s attention that the MOU, in the amount of $10,000, had been signed by her without Council’s approval. The exposure required that the issue be explained in open session.

The MOU is a two-year agreement; $10k each year. This represents a 33% increase from the previous contracts with the city. The RAIN representative in attendance said that the contract could be severed after one year. Mayor Hollett said that she has attended RAIN meetings in Oakridge and spoke glowingly of their efforts. She apologized for signing the contract without first going through the City Council. The motion and vote to spend the money for the signed contract was passed.

Fishes on storm drain covers

Crosswalks and storm drains are to be painted with colorful reminders that whatever goes into the storm drains ends up in our river. Crosswalks will be whimsical and the mayor believes this will increase tourism. The Uptown Business & Revitalization Association (UBRA) will work in coordination with the Public Works Department on the project. Councilor Spliethof was concerned about the cost to maintain the paint year to year.

There were two public comments. Both were against the renewal of the RAIN contract. Neither of the two, Sissy Cutchen nor Trudy Hammond, have had good results working with RAIN. Also, Sissy Cutchen said that the funds could be better used to keep the library going. She also asked that the Oakridge Arts Council be included in painting of the storm drains and crosswalks.






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