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Oakridge City Council work session: Should We Assess the Public Safety Fee?

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Oakridge City Hall Herald photo

By GARY CARL/for The Herald

Should We Assess the Public Safety Fee?

That was the question the city council grappled with at their work session on Thursday evening, June 23rd.  Most of the councilors expressed displeasure with the $22 per month fee but only one counselor, Audy Spliethof, said he did not want the fee at all, asserting that some of his constituent simply could not afford the fee.

It was pointed out that there is a low-income waiver available for “hardship cases”, however some people who can afford the Public Safety Fee simply refuse to pay it.   During public comment, citizen Dan Barclay warned the council that there already exists a contract between the city and water users.  That this contract, if breached by adding an unwanted fee, could result in legal trouble for the city and the council.

Counselor Bobbie Whitney stated she thought it unfair for citizens who can afford the fee to refuse to pay it because we all benefit from the emergency services that are being provided with the fee.  Whitney wanted more enforcement of our Public Safety Fee.

Councilor Kinyon thought there was plenty of money making the fee unnecessary. However, Finance Director Shirley pointed out that the City barely got by this year because of an unexpected infusion of ARPA* funds and these funds were not going to be available next year.

Kevin Martin reminded the council that without sufficient funds, cuts to personnel would need to be made.  That would be the only way to balance our budget, and he anticipated reductions would have to be made to personnel in both the police and fire departments.

Martin recommended that the council wait until the end of our fiscal year when Shirley could complete a fiscal accounting and inform the council of our financial status.

The council agreed and thought having more information would be useful before they made a final decision regarding the perpetuation of the Public Safety Fee.  For now, the fee will remain in effect.

Following the work session, the council announced they would go into “Executive Session” at which point, Gary Carl, reporter for The Highway 58 Herald, requested he be allowed to sit in on the Executive Session.  Carl was denied admission because The Herald had not completed the form that the city’s policies required.  Carl said he wasn’t sure these policies conformed to current law, and he intended to seek competent legal advice regarding the matter.  In response, the council voted unanimously to cancel the executive session.

 

*In March, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) was signed into law.  The bill gives emergency funding for state, local, territorial, and tribal governments to provide relief to support public health response work and equitable economic recovery.  Oakridge was the beneficiary of this Act.

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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