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Warrenton Puts Safety, Garbage And Levees On Agenda

Daily Astorian | March 3, 2013 3:36 p.m. | Updated: March 3, 2013 11:36 p.m.

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CHELSEA GORROW

WARRENTON — Levee certification and urban renewal will likely carry over to the 2013 list of Warrenton City Commission goals, while the importance of public safety and expanding the city’s garbage system to commercial service were discussed as possibilities for the coming year.

A few topics, most of which were addressed in 2012, were put on the table Tuesday during an hour-long work session with the city commission. A list of goals was not finalized and will be discussed further during the next work session at 5:30 p.m. March 12.

Some topics, although discussed, will be given as direction to staff and will not be added to the goal list.

“Anything we’ve had on this list for the last year, I feel fairly comfortable saying, ‘wipe it all clean, let’s start with something new,’” Commissioner Mark Baldwin said. “Because I feel like I trust in the staff that we have. We’ve asked them to look into something and we get it.”

Other topics will remain.

Levees

The levee certification process remains high on the city’s list of goals and will likely stay a goal for several years to come, Mayor Mark Kujala said. A federal requirement, the certification will take place in phases over the next several years. It was goal No. 1 of nine goals last year.

To complete it, the city is working with the United States Army Corps of Engineers to complete Phase 1 of the work program. Phase 2A could cost more than $370,000.

“This is obviously a large issue,” City Manager Kurt Fritsch said.

Warrenton is also consulting with other communities faced with the same challenge – to bring the levees up to standard – including Multnomah County.

Multnomah County is investigating the possibility of seeking legal counsel, according to Fritsch, to discuss whether they, and other communities, are truly responsible for the levees.

Fritsch said an option to consider is partnering with Multnomah County to explore that option.

It would, “give us a little more muscle,” Fritsch said, to have a large agency on the city’s side.

The Corps has also agreed to look into a possibly revising the cost of Phase 2A.

For more on this topic, see next week’s article in The Daily Astorian.

Urban renewal

Urban Renewal is another topic that is likely to remain on the list for an additional year. The Urban Renewal Advisory Committee and the Urban Renewal Agency have worked with city staff in the past year to reprioritize projects and put some of them in motion.

“I think it’s made a lot of good progress,” Fritsch said. “It’s just waiting to see what we actually accomplish now, both in the downtown area where they’re going to be making some minor decisions coming up next month, and quite a plan that we’re working on at the marina.

“I think this is one that can stay on for another year as we really get off the ground on some of these projects.”

The commission agreed.

“Yes, Urban Renewal is supposed to be for the renewal of downtown. It’s supposed to be taking areas and making them improved,” Mayor Mark Kujala said.

Public Safety

Newest commissioners Henry Balensifer and Tom Dyer are participating in their first round of goal setting sessions. Both spoke on behalf of increasing public safety and raising its priority. Dyer works for the Oregon State Police; Balensifer said his family has become victim to recent crime.

But other commissioners appeared to struggle over whether prioritizing public safety and increasing the number of officers for Warrenton’s department was something Police Chief Mathew Workman should bring to the budget committee during the budget process or something the commission should tell the department to do.

“I personally feel that we need to make it a priority to find a detective or some sort of person who can start doing some investigations,” Balensifer said. “A lot of people have complained to me, and my family has been the victim of two or three instances where we don’t have the resources to really complete investigations into property crimes and to houses being broken into. I think it’s a serious issue that’s only going to grow as our city grows.”

Balensifer brought the idea up to the commission, voicing his concerns over what he feels is the lack of adequate public safety for the city of Warrenton.

Although the police department is on a schedule for regular vehicle replacements and has upgraded to iPads – although they only have three – manpower is low.

Dyer added that a detective could be useful.

“I can tell you, from being in law enforcement, it would be awfully nice for Warrenton to have a detective that’s dedicated to detective work,” Dyer said. “To take someone off the road to do an investigation, he’s not doing it day in and day out. … Once you do it for long enough, you get real good at it, more efficient, and you solve a lot more things when you have someone that’s doing it day in and day out.

“But we’re in a situation where we only have so much money, and you have to prioritize what you’re going to do. But with the drug problems we have, it would be awful nice to have a detective.”

Kujala said he was torn on the issue because one of Workman’s jobs is to give the city manager recommendations for what he needs for his department.

“At budget time, those are the decisions that are made and I don’t think I am qualified to tell him what to do and exactly what he needs,” Kujala said. “I’d like to hear from Chief Workman what he needs and what recommendations he has to improve the department.”

Baldwin added, “I think that’s what we have our department heads for and I think they do a real good job. Quite frankly, squeaky wheel gets the grease. Chief, and I have been shocked at times, other than police cars, he has never really come and asked for anything. Does he need it? That’s for him to tell me. Like Mark said, I have no authority or knowledge to go to him and say, ‘You need to get new pistols, chief. And we need different tires on the cars.’ That’s his job.”

Chief Workman, who was in attendance at Tuesday’s goal setting session, was asked to weigh in by the mayor. He said he agreed that a lot of the policing needs are dealt with through the budget process and it is something police struggle with because of the city’s numerous priorities. However, there are cases, he said, that aren’t getting the amount of time they should be getting because, “when we only have one or two officers on and they are answering calls, we tend to be very reactive and not very proactive.”

Workman says he also worries about officer safety because when only one officer is on duty, the closest backup could be at minimum five minutes away, when every second counts.

Some members of the commission agreed the topic still needs city attention.

“Public safety has to be addressed eventually and maybe this is the year,” Warrenton City Commissioner Dick Hellberg said during the discussion. Hellberg suggested keeping this in mind when the budget cycle comes around to see if the city can find the money.

Expanding

commercial garbage service

The city commission discussed Tuesday the lucrative effects expanding the city’s commercial garbage service would have. Currently, the city serves commercial dumpsters up to three yards.

A roll-up truck would have to be purchased in order to handle the larger dumpsters, but more financial benefits could come from the enlarged sanitation service.

“Like any other business, if you don’t expand it, then it’s going to fold,” Hellberg said. “And there’s room for expansion in it.”

Kujala added that like any other business entity, the city also needs to conduct a review.

A city run transfer station to garner the most profit, Public Works Director Don Snyder said, is also something to think about, the commission discussed.

“I don’t know if that’s really where you wanted to go with this,” Fritsch said. “That’s a possibility.”

Snyder added, “I would personally support a city-owned transfer station in order to milk the most profit. We pay about $600,000 a year to (Western Oregon Waste) for tipping fees and transfer station fees. That’s all profit that we could potentially realize by an expansion.”

Fritsch asked if that was worth being a city goal to which the commission began discussing goals vs. staff direction. The expansion of the transfer station possibilities, it was decided, will likely become a staff direction but may be discussed again in two weeks at the next work session.

This story originally appeared in Daily Astorian.

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