Communities, Front Page, Oakridge/Westfir, Uncategorized

Petitioners urge Oakridge City Council to reconsider monthly safety fee

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By DEAN REA/Correspondent/The Herald— The Oakridge City Council was urged Thursday night to reconsider the $22 monthly safety fee in a petition signed by 433 people.

But Kevin Cronin, Oakridge’s new interim city administrator, cautioned council members that it will take “a few months to answer the question,” starting with drafting next fiscal year’s budget.

Voters defeated a three-year public safety fee 2-to-1 in November. The current $22 monthly was then passed by the council. Residents began to pay the fee in December.

“Ordinance 937 is little more than a hastily crafted, ill-conceived solution to resolve a roughly $500,000 of budgetary shortfall created by multiple years of deficit spending,” the petition stated.

“As written, the ordinance would allow exemptions for financially challenged residents and those exemptions would be moot in many cases as the city of Oakridge is not generally a party to landlord-tenant agreements,” the petition continued.

“Those in outside areas such as Westfir that rely on public safety services from the city of Oakridge would be subject to increased costs for intercity agreements.”

Mayor Chrissy Hollett read the petition, which included 21 pages of signatures, thanked petitioners and said councilors “will read the petition and talk a lot about it.”

In a recent budget report by Bryan Cutchen, who resigned Monday as city administrator, he said the costs of providing public safety services continues to be a major financial issue for the city.

He said the issue could be solved, in part, by a public safety levy to help fund EMS and police operations. Other choices were to abandon the EMS operations and convert the fire department to primarily a volunteer basis or to curtail EMS operations.

Jan Hooker will be among councilors who will deal with this and other municipal issues after her appointment to fill a council position for the remainder of the year.

“I can bring a new perspective to the council, and I can listen to both sides and bring them together,” she said while being questioned.

The mayor pointed out that Hooker has been attending council meetings and is a city budget committee member.

Trudy Hammond also applied to fill the position created when Kathy Holston resigned Jan. 6 as mayor and was replaced by then council president Hollett.

Jeri Reed was appointed to the city budget committee for a three-year term. He said in his application that he has served on councils and is familiar with the budgeting process.

Curran McCleod was hired as the city engineer for one year.

The council approved a $5,000 request for Phase 1 of the Banner Park’s development. This includes trees, shrubs and soil. The request was made by the Parks & Community Services Advisory Committee.

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