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Molalla problems with late or non-payment of utility bills nearly worked out on paper

The Molalla City Council has been discussing the question of unpaid or late utility bills for at least several months. At the July 11 meeting it appeared council members will use part of their next meeting looking at four different solutions to determine which will work best.

Most members at the most recent meeting did not like the installment plan that would allow residents to make up their payments over time. They worried about the cost of the program, staff resources and hints of favorability. Several also worried that leaving the decision to Dan Huff, city manager would put him in the position of a "bad guy."

As they discussed the situation, councilors also talked about customer service. Mayor Jimmy Thompson talked about receiving a call from a resident who was out of town attending a funeral when his bill came due. Staff, Thompson said, can't deal with customer service issues. He suggested that such people should be given one exemption for the year, "because we shouldn't add to their grief."

"Some people struggle to pay or eat, we need to give them flexibility," added DeLise Palumbo.

Recording secretary Kelly Richardson noted that the city had 14 shut offs on July 10, "but no one was angry, people accepted what is going on," she told the council.

Another option could be a one-time emergency, let a customer know they have a one-time option to use now or at a future time, most, several suggested, will try to work it out.

Finally they all agreed to work on it at next the next meeting. Richardson will give them four different colored paper solutions and they can pick and choose what they want.

Several of the staff presented reports including Diana Hadley, Molalla's library director, who noted that the July 11 program featuring the Reptile Man. Somewhere between 725 and 750 people attended. "It was our largest turnout ever except for last year's solar eclipse," Hadley said. The programs this summer are for all ages, she added, noting they are designed for teens and adults too.

Public Works continues to make progress, said Gerald Fischer, announcing dates and times for Master Plan readings. He said he hopes DEQ will respond to the Waste Water Master Plan by Aug. 15, depending on the DEQ, the recycled water plan may need to be modified. The Transportation Plan will be presented on Sept. 5.

Fisher also noted the DEQ's public hearing on waste water had a good turnout with a good number of questions and answers. DEQ will be taking comments through July 17. They will submit them to the city, which will provide answers to the DEQ who then can make their decisions.

ODOT has finished the traffic study on Highway 211 for a cross walk and Fisher thinks they've began analyzing the data, but hasn't had a reply yet.

Glen Boreth brought up the vacant position left by Cindy Dragowsky, but Thompson said they have to determine the time needed for people to apply.

Both Elizabeth Klein and Boreth noted that all of the Buckeroo's events went very well and thanked the community for their kindness to tourists. While Thompson noted he'd probably never do a donkey race again.

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