Irrigon City Council Meeting
February 16, 2016 – 6:00 PM
Irrigon City Hall – 500 NE Main Avenue
- Call to Order/Pledge/Roll Call – 6:05 pm
Council members present: Sam Heath, Michelle Hagen, Martin Brown, Daren Strong, Margaret Anderson. Ken Matlack had an excused absence.
Staff present: City Manager Aaron Palmquist, City Clerk Jessi Hoffman and Public Works Director Keith White.
Audience: Janet Pace, Pastor Rick Yardley, George Plaven with the East Oregonian, Kenneth Proctor, Samie Griffin, Stan Anderson, Linda Anderson, Derek Harrington, and Julie Dick.
- Mayor’s Comments
Mayor Heath stated that with the donations generously given last month for Christine Sorenson, a pen set was engraved and will be given to Andy Sorenson to honor her service to the Council.
Heath said that she attended the LOC Small City Meeting in Athena on January 20th, and heard from DEQ and IFA representatives in regards to their willingness to help small Cities with Grants. This came after the City of Irrigon was denied a grant for a Facility Plan for the 40% of the homes needing to switch to the conventional system.
On February 4, 2016 City Manager and I met with IFA, JUB Engineering, and Scott Fairly with Regional Solutions from the Pendleton Office. This was held in follow-up to our Facility Plan Grant denial. The meeting helped us understand their acceptance criteria and why we did not qualify.
Heath explained the Chamber had asked her to give a brief summary of things happening with the City, and the City Council, at their meeting last week. Each Councilor was introduced and then a recap on fiscal challenges, opportunities, and day to day operations was given.
On February 11, 2016, Heath and two other Chamber Members from Irrigon attended the Umatilla Electric Cooperative new operations center open house in Boardman. Heath said that it will serve the area well.
On February 15, 2016, there was a Town Hall Meeting at the Sage Center with Senator Ron Wyden also recognizing Terry Tallman for his service to Morrow County as Judge. The Senator answered questions concerning the Hammond situation, bringing land to local and state control, education, the Canadian Water Treaty, fixing Medicare, voter apathy, the spotted owl and sage grouse, the Dream Act, Hanford, John Day, and the second amendment. Heath said she also learned that the Federal Government owns 53% of our state.
- *Consent Agenda
a. Approval of Minutes – January 19, 2016 and February 4, 2016
b. City Manager Report and Staff Updates
c. Accounts Payable
d. Morrow County Sheriff Report
Councilor Hagen made the motion to approve the Consent Agenda as is. Councilor Brown seconded the motion. Motion passed unanimously.
- Public Comment – Maximum 3 minutes/person. Maximum 30 Minutes allotted time for public comments.
Mayor Heath called for Janet Pace, and Janet stated she was just here visiting.
Heath called for Rick Yardley, and Rick stated that he was here to listen.
Heath called for Kenneth Proctor, and Ken stated he was here to listen.
Heath called for Samie Griffin. Samie Griffin of 315 NE Fifth St. stated that she had a couple questions for the Council. Griffin asked the Council when the last time any of you drove down Fifth St.? She said that Fifth is the worst road in town. There are three pot holes measuring 28×25 and 3 inches deep, 29×27 and 3 inches deep and 25×14 are the biggest. The sides of the street are bad, crumbling, or just missing as well as the rest of the road. Griffin stated that you want growth for this town? As a perspective buyer this is what they would say, “Good there is three schools, churches, post office, library, and city water and sewer. City water and sewer is high priced. Next the prospective buyers would start to drive the streets they would think that this is a nice little town, but the roads are in pretty bad shape and quite a few residents with old cars by the road and some places need a good clean up.” She stated that it would be a big decision for prospective buyers after touring the town. Second, Griffin asked when her street was going to be repaired, and she does not mean pot hole repair she means the whole street needs to be completely re-done.
The Public Works Director Keith White responded to Samie’s question with “I agree with you 100%, but to answer the question of “when is your road going to get done” right know it is Council policy to not pave streets until conventional water and sewer are installed under that street.” He also explained that way, the street only has to be torn up once. The City does not have money in the budget to even consider paving a street.
Griffin stated that there are at least two home owners on her street that are the longest tax payers in this City. Samie asked what would happen if we all decided not to pay taxes? Someone would be after us then wouldn’t they?
Manager Palmquist stated that the taxes that you pay do not cover for the streets totally. How street funds come in is from gas taxes through the State and it’s very limited. The City transfers property taxes from the general fund to the streets so we can do the minimum that is done now. He stated that two weeks ago there was a public hearing looking at a street user fee. This is about $3.00 a month so the City can build up reserves so we can begin to move forward. He explained that the Council has taken a policy to wait on streets until the sewer and water are done. Otherwise what happens is you put down a road, then cut it up, and they go bad a lot faster. The cost is approximately $75,000.00 to pave one City block. He also stated that the City historically has not been visionary to look down the road to set money aside in reserves. He asked how do we bring more balance? One way would be to tighten up and we don’t borrow any more money, but we have to turn this around. It’s not going to happen overnight cause the problem was not made overnight
Griffin stated that you have some old lady like her that maintains all sides of her property and you have someone step in one of those pot holes and they break a leg, it is going to be a big law suit to the City.
Rick Yardley asked to speak, and stated that he just looked up his tax forms and under general government under Irrigon he states that he is paying $290.91 a year and bonds to Irrigon he is paying $346.00 a year. Rick said that is $636.91that he is paying a year. If you divide it by 12 that is $53.07 a month that he is paying. Rick asked what does that go towards every month?
Palmquist stated that the Bonds are for water and sewer loans. The money that you pay for bonds is dedicated for that it cannot go for anything else. Palmquist said the other get spread out between General fund, Streets, and Parks.
Yardley stated so part of my taxes is for streets.
Palmquist stated that it is for repairs on streets such as pot holes which do not last. Even if you took a 100% of your 290.91 it will not even do your frontage.
Yardley stated that he understands that we have some dark corner streets and stuff like that, and the City is trying to find a way to light them. Yardley asked if there was a problem with taking the Disneyland Street (Columbia Street) and capping off a couple of those lights and putting them other places where the City needs them.
Palmquist stated that the problem is that they are LED and there really cheap but they are on a meter. To put just one street light in it is $2,000.00 and to maintain that light it is $15.00 dollars a month.
Yardley asked if it would be $2000.00 to move some of the lights on Columbia Street.
Palmquist stated you can’t move those lights. The big street lights are ran by UEC and they are directly wired in.
Yardley stated that six million dollars was paid for that road way and street lights and no one lives on it.
Palmquist stated that the City did not pay for that, it was paid by Stimulus.
Yardley stated that six million dollars would have paved every road in Irrigon.
Palmquist stated that he completely agrees with Yardley. He also said for the record that the money was supposed to initially go for the Division Street project and ODOT shot it down and wanted First Street and Columbia Street done.
Yardley stated that the other thing he wanted to talk about was getting notice out to the public. He said that he understands that postage costs a lot, but someone gave him an idea for the City to come out with a monthly newsletter and when public works is out reading meters ever month, why not have them tape a newsletter to everyone’s door. It would not cost the City a lot of money just to print it.
Palmquist stated that it is a lot more than just paying for it to be printed. Palmquist said that this is something he is looking in to, but it takes up a lot of time to do a newsletter and time is money.
Councilor Hagen stated that several years ago she was doing a newsletter and the reason it stopped is because of the expense of the printing.
Yardley interjected Councilor Hagen and asked wouldn’t it be adventitious for the Council to hear from the entire home owners rather than just a handful of people?
Councilor Hagen stated that yes, of course. She also said she was disappointed when the newsletter was cancelled.
Yardley interjected Councilor Hagen and stated that the prices just keep going up and up, and you’re going to get a whole house of people that are really upset. He stated that the Council needs to get the word out to the people.
Julie Dick from the Irrigon Chamber of Commerce gave a suggestion of a newsletter that is sent out by email. She stated that this is how the Chamber started out and it did not cost them a dime to do it that way.
Councilor Hagen stated that it was a great idea but in the past she had tried that and found that a lot of people did not have email so Hagen was unable to pursue the newsletter by email.
Mayor Heath stated that a reader board would be nice.
Stan Anderson of 1250 E. California Ave stated that he and his wife have lived in Irrigon for about 10 years now and finally bought a home here as well. He said it’s a lovely little home, but the street is still gravel and we still have a septic tank. The road is usually pretty nice except in the summer when it is dusty. The problem he has is when public works grades the road they are leaving a big hump at the end of his driveway. He said it is like driving over a speed bump in to your own driveway. He has spoken to both the public works and the City Manager regarding this problem. He also said that he has been in construction for over 30 years and the road is not being graded correctly and something needs to be done.
Linda Anderson of 1250 E. California Ave stated that from California to Division and all the way up to Thomas does not have sewer. She said they have septic and they don’t have paved roads nor do they have street lights and they live at the far end of California. She also said that for the past three nights someone has been messing around their place and they have had their alarm go off and they have had to go outside with their gun and see what’s going on. Anderson said that street lights would be really nice. We pay the same taxes as everyone else and we don’t have sewer or lights. So why are we going to have to keep paying for it if we don’t have those services?
Mayor Heath stated that she pays the bond fees and she is not on the conventional sewer, but I know it is helping that goal for the future because she wants to live in the City and she wants to have those services. Heath asked where everyone was on the February 4, 2016 when the Public Hearing for all this was going on.
- Mayor Pro Tem Election-Irrigon City Charter, Chapter II, Section 9
Mayor Heath stated what the responsibilities are for Mayor Pro Tem.
Heath asked the Council for any nominations.
Councilor Anderson nominated Michelle Hagen for Pro Tem.
Councilor Brown nominated Daren Strong for Pro Tem.
City Manager Palmquist gave out ballots to each Council member. Council Members gave ballots back and Palmquist took a tally and Daren Strong had 3 votes and Michelle Hagen had 1.
Mayor Heath said thank you and the New Pro Tem can be sworn in.
City Manager Palmquist sworn in Daren Strong as the new Pro Tem.
6. Police Patrol Services Contract
Mayor Heath stated that she had City Manager Palmquist put this on the agenda as we near the time to begin negotiating. Heath would like Council to appoint Margaret Anderson, Michelle Hagen, and herself to serve as a committee to help with this before it’s final pass before Council. Heath said that she would have Palmquist set up a time that works best for each of them and then proceed. Also in your packet you will notice some information on what is currently in place and what is being proposed. Heath asked the Council if you see anything on the draft that you would like to address to please make note of it and turn it in no later than February 29, 2016 to the City Manager.
*Sewer Facility Plan Financing Option (s)
Heath stated that Manager Palmquist is asking for the Council’s direction on seeking other avenues to fund a facility plan. Heath reminded the Council that the City was turned down for the IFA Grant.
Palmquist spoke about what was in the packet to the Council and that he is trying to find other options to fund the sewer projects. He stated to do projects you have to have a plan to do them. Previous projects have not had a plan in place to say how to move and what are the right place to do things, and a plan that looks into the future from a financial stand point. He explained that you also need a plan to get funding. He said there are two ways to get funding. You can either get a grant or you can borrow. Historically the City has borrowed. Palmquist stated that he is currently looking for free money.
Palmquist said as of 2014 the City of Irrigon became block grant eligible for a three and half million dollar grant. To get that the City has to have a plan in place. Once we have a plan we want to move on with some more conversions.
Yardley asked who makes this road map that Palmquist talked about, and who puts it together?
Palmquist responded that a certified public engineer does the work.
Yardley asked if the engineer lives in Irrigon.
Palmquist stated that there is not an engineer around here. The City’s engineer comes out of La Grande.
Heath stated that we were just looking at a motion to allow the City Manager to seek an alternative route to fund a facility plan.
Councilor Hagen made the motion to allow the City Manager to gather further information for possible Facility Plan funding with DEQ and bring back at a future Council meeting for decision-making. Councilor Strong seconded the motion.
Councilor Strong asked if each of the options provide the same outcome. Is there one that will do less than the other? Strong also asked what are the risks with any of these options if any?
Palmquist responded that the risk is you continue to prolong the problem that the City has. Another potential problem if DEQ won’t forgive, but they say they will extend. That just extends a note. Palmquist said that ever grant dollar is better than borrowed dollar.
Councilor Brown stated so what we are looking at is $175,000.00 is that what you are saying?
Palmquist responded that it is $150,000.00. He said what could be done is borrow $130,000.00 and then I would go back to IFA and get that $20,000.00 in grant money. So the plan would be a $150,000.00 with an inner fund loan of $130,000.00.
Councilor Brown stated that if it is done on the existing loan and it is extended 5 years saying that DEQ is not going to forgive the 5 years it makes a 20 year loan in to a 25 year loan which would be based on $950,000.00 rather that $800,000.00. Which means you’re going to pay a lot more in interest rather than just getting a loan for $150,000.00?
Palmquist said to get that loan right now at $130,000.00 that’s raising peoples rate another $15.00 a month. He said they are already paying for it now it would just extend it longer.
Yardley asked if there were any projects that the City is planning on doing in the next couple of years.
Palmquist stated not at this time.
Yardley asked if the City was stopping all projects trying to let the funds build up a little bit? He stated that when he talked about it a couple of years ago the City still had to pay a couple hundred thousand dollars to get the free money.
Palmquist responded that the City is not going to do that. So as an example this last year under the enhancement money we spent about $13,000.00 on the walk path that was extended in front of AC Houghton. That did not cost the City anything the money was from CREZ.
Yardley stated that he just wanted to say that he understands that the City is in a real financial bind. He said that he was in to see Palmquist to talk to him earlier today, and he asked for a copy of a notice that was sent out regarding renewal of dog licenses. Yardley stated that he does not recall if the rate change was included in the renewal letter that he received, but when he asked for a copy of the letter the receptionist stated that there was not one in his file. He said it is not that his dog’s license went from $10.00 to $20.00. That is a 100% rate increase from one year to the next. Yardley stated that he was told it hadn’t been raised in years, but you know if the City is going to go after the people with these rate increases on all kinds of different things. He said he’s got to be honest with you, you’re going to make a lot of people upset if you do not let them know ahead of time of the changes being made.
Mayor Heath stated that with no further discussion will Manager Palmquist take a vote. Vote passed unanimously.
Mayor Heath stated that everyone should have seen the City Manager’s note on the Christmas Lights in his report. Last year’s selection was too costly and what you have before you are on sale and within a reasonable range.
Councilor Strong made the motion to authorize staff to purchase the best available ornaments, and while remaining in the designated dollar amount. Councilor Hagen seconded the motion.
Councilor Strong asked where the money for the ornaments is coming from.
Palmquist stated that the money is coming from the CREZ enhancement fund. Public works will be researching size because of safety.
Mayor Heath asked Palmquist to take a vote if there was no further discussion. Vote passed unanimously.
9. *Irrigon Enhancement Money Set-Aside
Mayor Heath stated that she moves to set aside $50,000.00 of the CREZ II provided enhancement dollars to be used for Community wide enhancement on approved properties across the 97844 zip code area as discussed. Heath said that Staff will develop policy and procedures to be brought back for City Council decision-making.
Manager Palmquist said that there is an amended motion and an amended agenda for the public. On Friday the CREZ board gave an additional $50,000.00 for our housing program. He said that the City had requested $140,000.00 trying to think of how we are going to do this charting new territory. The CREZ board said that they are going to authorize a $140,000.00 for the Irrigon zip code. He said so before the Council tonight is a proposal to take $50,000.00 of that money and create a public enhancement across are whole City. He said there has to be some policy and procedure on that, and in your packets there is a list A and a list B.
Palmquist said list A for example up to a $1000.00 with no match for nuisance abatement. The B list for example would be up to $2000.00 with a 25% match so that if someone wanted $2000.00 they would have to have $500.00 to do some TLC on their property and look at how they can improve their yards and paint there house to be able to enhance the community.
Yardley asked what it would do to enhance the home owner’s projects to apply the $50,000.00 to people’s water bill to green up there yards. Yardley said he is talking about the people that are on fixed income who can’t afford high water bills.
Palmquist stated that this is not how this money is supposed to be used. The CREZ board sets a parameter on how the money is to be used.
Julie Dick asked about signage coming to the City such as the City has had two State championships.
Palmquist stated that Staff is looking into that and researching that option.
Linda Anderson asked when there was going to be sidewalks put in on Division Street, since a lot of the kids walk down that street.
Palmquist responded that the City has made application for that and it’s for the year 2021. The City has been through the screen list and has made the 150 % list.
Councilor Anderson asked when does Staff think the $50,000.00 will be available.
Palmquist said the $50,000.00 will be available after the April Council meeting.
10. Items for Future Council Meetings
- User Fees Update – April 2016
- If I were Mayor Presentation – April 2016
- Enhancement Applications – TBD
Councilor Hagen motioned to adjourn meeting.
The meeting was adjourned at 7:12 p.m.
Adjournment Next Regular Meeting Date – March 15, 2016