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Oakridge city council meeting 2/1/24: Air quality plan endorsed | U of O students may take load off staff

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Oakridge City Hall Herald photo

By ANDREW GRIFFIN/for The Herald  —  On Feb. 1. at 6 pm, the Oakridge City Council held an information-rich meeting. Multiple topics were discussed, but the most crucial points covered concerned the progress of city projects as well as the election of several citizens to city boards and committees. 

Oakridge air quality may get some help

Early in the meeting, Mayor Cutchen announced that the Lane County Commissioner has endorsed the Oakridge-Westfir Smoke Safety Plan. The plan aims to help improve the air quality in Oakridge and Westfir during smoke season. 

According to the University of Oregon, Oakridge is ranked within the top 20 communities with the worst air quality in the United States, caused primarily by wood stove burning and wildfires. Now that the Smoke Safety Plan has been endorsed, it will be sent to the DEQ in Salem to be set in place.

City to apply for OIP infrastructure grant

Later, the council passed a motion granting permission for City Administrator James Cleavenger to apply for a grant to improve infrastructure related to the Oakridge industrial park. This includes permission to apply for a semiconductor industrial land loan program, known as SILL, which is a state funded program that would potentially provide Oakridge with $2.5 million to improve the park. 

Improvements made to the park would include the electrical and sewer systems, as well as paving the park’s roads. “It’s only for infrastructure to make the industrial park more attractive, which makes the rent more valuable,” said Cleavenger.

U of O students may help city with projects

The council also passed a motion to explore a partnership with the University of Oregon through the institution’s Sustainable City Year program. The program would allow the university to use students to help Oakridge with working on city projects and influence changes related to economic and policy concerns. If the partnership is passed, it could potentially start this summer, or at least in September at the start of the university’s fall term.

A major portion of the meeting was dedicated to the appointments of several Oakridge citizens to city committees and boards. Among these include Tom Lyons, appointed seat six on the Parks and Community Services committee, Jerry Reeds and Chris Winchester, appointed seats five and six respectively on the Administrative Advisory Committee, and Marty Scott, appointed seat five on the Public Safety Committee.

Committee appointment passed then rescinded in favor of another

One appointment in particular, Dylan Sample to seat five on the Parks and Community Services Committee, was passed before having his appointment rescinded in favor of Jason Neehmer. The motion was made after Councilor Christina Hollett requested to have her vote for Sample rescinded, feeling that the position should have gone to Neehmer. 

 “I just can’t ignore how badly I feel that Jason Neehmer was not appointed. He was the committee member of the year that we awarded last year” said Hollett. “I apologize, I know that is unorthodox, but I feel it’s the right thing to do.” The council then voted to rescind Sample’s appointment and voted again to appoint Neehmers, with both passing.

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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