Corvallis Budget Challenge: Should Federal Funds Be Spent on Facilities or Roaming? | Local

A fire engine with no bay to cover it. Homeless people with no roof over their heads.

What should the Town of Corvallis spend its $ 13 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds on?

This was the poignant question posed at the Corvallis City Council meeting on Monday night by resident Tim Roach, who has worked tirelessly on homelessness in the community comment section in recent council sessions. .

Roach was joined by Reverend Jennifer Butler of the First United Congregational Church of Christ of Corvallis, Aleita Hass-Holcombe of the Corvallis Daytime Drop-in Center and shelter volunteer Jim Swinyard, former Benton County Sheriff, s’ voicing on behalf of more safety net funding.

All four urged the council to devote 30% of ARPA’s money to social services and poverty alleviation in the city. The four residents are increasing the stake on a request made by Helen Higgins of the Boys & Girls Club of Corvallis and Ben Danley of Community Outreach to spend 20% of federal funds on social services. Higgins and Danley’s campaign, published as a guest opinion in this newspaper on October 22, sparked a community conversation, with several letters to the editor following the original submission.

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Timing has become critical. The city’s budget committee will meet on Wednesday to take stock of whether it still recommends councilors use as much of the $ 13 million to help pay for facility upgrades as is legally possible. Commissioners urged council to take this step during budget deliberations last spring.

Ryan Seidl, the city’s chief financial officer, in his staff report on the committee meeting, noted that due to the city’s general revenue losses fueled by the pandemic, the city may, if it wishes , spend the entire $ 13 million on facilities.

The facilities project, meanwhile, was also on Monday’s agenda, with advisers receiving an update from project officials. Virtually all of the town’s facilities are on the list for possible upgrades, including town hall, park maintenance and operations at Avery Park, the law enforcement building, public works and various fire stations. The list also includes park and recreation properties, including the Library, Osborn Aquatic Center, and the Majestic Theater.

A “Cadillac plan” to modernize all facilities could cost as much as $ 255 million, although project officials and city employees say they don’t expect to spend that much. Officials also said they anticipate that a wide range of potential funding sources will be used and that most projects are years away.

Among the “shovel-ready” projects identified by the Project Tea Party is the work at Fire Station # 3 on Northwest Circle Boulevard. The wishlist includes a new equipment bay that would cover the forest firefighting platform that currently sits outside the parking lot.

Roach and his co-lawyers, meanwhile, say they would rather see rooftops over the heads of the homeless than use federal money to pull the truck out of the elements.

Side discussions – the budget committee spoke about ARPA on Wednesday and facilities planners returning to council in January – have left Ward 5 councilor Charlyn Ellis dissatisfied.

“I am frustrated with the process,” she said. “We’re still trying to understand the big picture here. We have yet to discuss our facility priorities. And at the same time, we’re talking about putting all the ARPA money into facilities. I think we need to involve a lot more of a community conversation here. “

City manager Mark Shepard, who led the charge to resolve the city’s facilities issues, noted that the Budget Committee “may change its mind. What would $ 13 million in facility funding buy for the community? This is the advantage and the challenge of having these conversations at the same time.

• Councilors heard a report from a working group made up of citizen members of the Budget Committee on possible compensation for the mayor and council members at their virtual meeting on Monday evening.

The task force recommends spending about $ 30,000 per year to pay the mayor $ 425 per month, council officers between $ 275 and $ 325 per month, and the remaining seven councilors $ 225 each.

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No votes were taken on the issue, although councilors generally praised the idea. December 6 is the likely date for a decision on the plan.

Mayor Biff Traber currently receives $ 100 per month, with councilors only receiving certain expenses.

“The task force sees an allowance, in part, as recognition and appreciation for all the time, heart, effort and energy that citizen volunteers put into serving as councilors and mayors,” said Curtis Wright, chairman of the task force.

“Most importantly, the task force considers that a stipend removes barriers to service – costs such as childcare, high-speed internet, cafes or luncheons with voters, participation in community events for a good cause, and more. Wright said.

“The recommended allowance, however modest it may be, will allow more citizens to consider becoming a municipal councilor or mayor a little more economically. This is another positive step towards diversity, equity and inclusion. “

Gabe Shepherd of Ward 4 agreed that pay is a matter of fairness and said he hopes the program will lead to a council that represents a larger cross section of the community.

Ellis from Ward 5 said she was not opposed to the idea but preferred the issue to go to voters. Meanwhile, Paul Shaffer of Ward 7 pointed out that the system gives elected officials the power to opt out.

If approved, the system will not come into effect until after the next general election due to state conflict of interest laws.

• Councilors voted 9-0 in favor of a resolution that supports the transgender community and recognizes Saturday as Transgender Day of Remembrance. During the resolution discussion, led by Charles Maughan and Shepherd from Ward 2, a November 5 incident at a Corvallis convenience store in which a suspect was charged with a crime of bias was referenced, although the incident was not named directly in the resolution.

• City judge Larry W. Blake Jr. was on hand to swear Tracey Yee as the new Ward 8 councilor. Yee ran unopposed and won 96% of the vote in the special election on 2 November. Yee, retired human resources administrator at Oregon State University and past chair of the Advisory Council on Community Involvement and Diversity, replaces Ed Junkins.

Junkins resigned from the board on June 21 to take a position at the University of Notre Dame, his alma mater. Junkins’ absence left the board with eight members for nine meetings, from July 5 to November 1.

The special election that raised Yee to the board also included a charter amendment aimed at reducing the time the board is not full. Measure 2-132, which was adopted with more than 60% of the votes, calls for vacant positions to be filled within 60 days via a council vote after neighborhood appointments and a public hearing.

• New tariffs for Republic Services waste and recycling services have been announced. As of Jan. 1, residential rates will increase 3.96%, commercial accounts will increase 3.69%, and industrial customers will see an increase of 3.56%. The rate increase for a 35-gallon garbage cart for a residential customer will increase by 91 cents per month.

According to the franchise agreement between the Republic and the city, councilor approval is only required for rate increases when they exceed 4%. Thus, the Republic had only to notify the council of its intention, and no vote was taken.

• Roberta Smith was elected to the City Planning Commission 5-4 ahead of Mike Steed. Smith will replace Erik Haunold, who was elected to the committee at the November 1 meeting but had to step down for personal reasons. Smith is serving a term that expires June 30, 2022, although she may choose to apply to retain the position on the land use advisory body for another three years.

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