Clackamas officials ask state to resolve Damascus situation
As the newly reconvened Damascus City Council met to discuss city budget plans Thursday evening, May 23, the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners asked legislators to resolve confusion surrounding the reborn municipality.
The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled earlier this month that the former city did not legally disincorporate in 2016, leading several in the community to believe it reverted Damascus to incorporated status.
"Our relationships with Clackamas County and Happy Valley is a sizeable issue for this council and all of Damascus," said Damascus Mayor James De Young during the meeting.
Since the appellate court decision, former Damascus councilors have commenced city meetings and named De Young mayor. The council most recently appointed members to a budget committee and discussed hiring a part-time city manager, finding a regular meeting location and securing state revenue.
"The question is how do we get going again," De Young said. "The challenges are great, but we begin by creating a budget."
In a letter sent to 21 local state legislators earlier in the day, however, the Board of County Commissioners raised concerns about reincorporating Damascus.
After disincorporating, approximately $8.4 million in city funds was transferred to the county for a variety of purposes including paying Damascus employees and continuing law enforcement services, road maintenance and related services.
In January, the Clackamas County assessor distributed about $3.4 million in remaining assets to eligible residents, effectively completing the disincorporation process regarding county requirements.
"As a result of these actions, it is not possible to restore the city to its pre-disincorporation status," the letter states. "The Court of Appeals ruling has led to general confusion among our public and uncertainty among our local and regional partners such as the city of Happy Valley, which has annexed more than 1,000 acres of the former (Damascus) into its boundaries."
The county said several elected officials are working on legislation to address the issues involving Damascus. Clackamas County did not take a position on disincorporation in 2016.
"Clackamas County is hopeful this can be accomplished soon, so that residents have closure," wrote Tim Heider, spokesman for the county.