Communities, Oakridge/Westfir

Westfir City Council explores fire district

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By JOY KINGSBURY/For The Herald  —  Mayor, Cornelius opened the meeting with comments on the holiday and talked of the many exciting, beneficial events coming up in the New Year for the City of Westfir.

Chrissie Hollett, Oakridge City Council President, appeared before the Westfir City Council this meeting and pleaded the case for a Special Fire District combining Oakridge, Westfir, and Hazeldell. She presented this option previously at an Oakridge City Council meeting November 20th. Hollett told the group that she is well acquainted with Special Fire District’s having had previous experience working with one.

This would be a new entity with Fire and EMS services no longer the responsibility of the City of Oakridge. Currently, the citizens of Oakridge are responsible for the operation of Fire and EMS, and although the service area is wide, only the citizens of Oakridge vote on levy’s, bonds, or other means to support the operation. A Special Fire District is supported through property taxes and served by a Board of

Directors who ask for a levy, bond, or additional costs for services by ballot and a vote of the people. Decisions are made by those who serve on that board. Hollett invited the City of Westfir to form a sub-committee to study the feasibility and the viability of forming a Special Fire District which would be a new entity under the State of Oregon and include Oakridge, Westfir, and Hazeldell.

Oakridge City Council has formed a sub-committee of three Councilors: Hollett, Spliethoff, and Bjarnson. Hollett emphasized that when Hazeldell agrees, and all sub-committees are established, they will meet jointly and include the citizenry in the process.

An expert (such as a retired Fire Chief) would be hired to advise and help with a feasibility Study for a District, and to aid in establishing costs to support the Special District. The expert would cost several thousand dollars and the means to pay that person would be decided by councils. Hollett told Westfir Council that she believes this process could be accomplished rather more quickly than the two or more years other Districts have taken to form, since Oakridge, Westfir, and Hazeldell are already established and working together. She also emphasized there need be no changes in personnel in this process.

Westfir Councilors expressed enthusiasm with the project and appointed two of their Council Members to form a sub-committee to represent the City of Westfir in this endeavor.

Jason Nehmer, representing Oakridge Disc Golf Club, asked Westfir Council for a $7,000 grant from room tax funds for hardware for a Disc Golf Course at the Portal in Westfir. This amount will cover the entire course, and any extras the club will cover with sweat equity. He is researching other grants as well. Councilors D’Lynn and Howard offered their full supporting this endeavor, however there are other events and activities either committed or in the hopper. Nehmer will return to Council in April for an update. Council approved $3,000 toward the project.

Raul Enriquez, resident of Westfir requested a water bill reduction. His Nov bill was 103.00. His December bill is $4,500.00. Normally, they do not have a larger bill than $50.00. Apparently, there was a major underground leak that was undetected under an enormous fir tree. When discovered, the water was turned off and repairs done immediately.

There was some discussion in council about how to charge them. They are long term retired residents, cooperated fully, are never late paying bills, there was no way to know that there was a leak, and it was very difficult to uncover. Moreover, it was pointed out that the water was not lost but went directly into the ground and will seep into the river. There was no sewer involved.

These rare and unusual events are taken on a case-by-case basis by Council and are carefully considered. After much discussion it was determined to charge the applicant $100 and to ask for the full amount of the November bill. A motion was made to forgive $4,486.64. The motion carried.

Council recessed to Executive Session to review and evaluate the job performance of a chief executive officer, other officers, employees and staff.

No further action was taken when Council reconvened, and Meeting was adjourned.

Westfir City Council meets the first Monday of each month at 5:30 PM. currently, meetings are held on Zoom and information to attend is published for each meeting. The Public is welcome

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