The Molalla Pioneer recently sent a number of questions to Mayor Jimmy Thompson, City Manager Dan Huff and Public Works Director Gerald Fisher. The following are their answers.

I know the City Council has tried to find money to fix the streets, but the last election quashed that. How else can the city find money to fix the streets?

It can't since the voters decided that they didn't want any maintenance provided above what was budgeted using Gas Tax monies. The city will receive a small amount more from the recent transportation bill that was passed by the legislature. There is potential for the county to pursue a gas tax or a vehicle registration fee increase which would likely be shared with the cities, but would not be enough to make a significant impact on our road maintenance needs. The city could pursue a gas tax, but it would have to be more than Portland's $0.10/gal to make a difference, and that is only if everyone bought all their gas in town.

What can the city do to get ODOT to fix Highways 211 and 213?

Nothing, but the community submitting complaints to ODOT and their elected officials at the state level may have an impact. The city can continue to put pressure on ODOT and the members of the legislature. They have been though. There was even a joint letter sent from the City and the School District which has received little attention. For more action, people need to email and write their legislature as well as ODOT. The more noise we make the more likely we are to see fixes. The state has limited resources as well and most are directed towards areas within Metro.

Is there any way to keep large trucks off Molalla streets like Main Street?

Not off of the state highway (Main Street) but they can on City streets. Options include designating truck routes or banning trucks not hauling to or from a specific industrial or commercial property.

The city is working on building a new sewage treatment plant. What steps has Public Works taken to start the process?

The main task the City has undertaken and completed the difficult process of preparing a 20-year Wastewater Facility Plan. This Plan includes everything from the collection system, pump stations, plant intake, treatment, storage and irrigation. Our current Plan is over 20 years old.

We have updated our Recycled Water Use Plan (RWUP) and we are waiting for DEQ to complete their review. We have submitted our Facility Plan as well.

We are diligently catching up on inflow and infiltration issues and have reduced our ground water intake by 7%. Biosolid removal from our lagoons has been underway this summer and we have removed over 250 dry tons which is significant. Our goal is to continue to raise the bar and spend our scarce dollars wisely.

Where will you find the money to build a new plant?

Long term loans, a combination of paying as we go, bonds, and grants, the exact mix of which has yet to be determined.

What other steps does the Council and Public Works need to take to get the new plant built?

Receive approvals for the requested permit modification and RWUP, get DEQ to approve WWFCSMP, secure funding, complete pre-design and design process and receive DEQ approvals to build the plant.

How long will it take to build? 1-2 years.

Will the city need to build another new one after 20 years?

Depends on growth of City. The plant can be built with expansion needs taken into consideration, but even so, standards are ever increasing, and a new plant will likely be necessary to meet the new standards in the future. Current concerns likely to be addressed by technology include chemicals like pharmaceuticals and other items.

Is there any way to make it last longer?

Slower growth rates or overbuild for a longer period of time which is cost prohibitive. Being dependent upon growth of the city and changes in technology and/or standards, it is difficult to say.

Back to the treatment plant, the city recently asked DEQ to change the class to C on waste water?

No, on treated effluent that is land applied.

Why, and what does this do for the city?

Eliminate the recurring violations with DEQ and eliminate the opportunity for third party lawsuits.

Will help bring the city into compliance with the permit and will match the standards that should have been imposed with the original permit.

How much money has been spent paying fines for wastewater that wasn't class A?

In order to provide this information, we would need to take a look at annual budget and invoice numbers. Currently, we have only accumulated three (3) violations since May 2018.

The issue with violations and fines should be measured collectively in comparison to other wastewater providers. Molalla is not the only city or district being regulated or fined.

Why did the city seek Class A when it's been apparent the plant wasn't equipped to produce it (even though it does)?

Though we don't have all of the information it appears that it was a combination of bad recommendations from an engineering company, poor review of plant capabilities by technical experts within DEQ, lack of recognition by DEQ that ground for irrigation was of a Class C and D standard, lack of forward thinking by DEQ that this may be a problem if the City couldn't meet the strict standards, lack of information by prior staff, and faulty key equipment used for measuring effluent at the WWTP.

PIONEER PHOTO: CAROL ROSEN - Pictured is one of Molalla's empty storefronts.

There are a number of store fronts downtown that register as empty. Why and what can the city do to ensure downtown Molalla becomes more vibrant? How can the council or does the Chamber need to find new, attractive businesses to come in? Who owns these store fronts and what can council members do to get them to attract new business?

The City has been working with the Clackamas County Business and Economic Development program and they have been to Molalla twice in the past few months meeting with the City and Chamber. What we are doing as the City is focusing on our core issues of water, sewer, streets, parks, etc. so that we are ready when the impact arrives.

Ownership is a matter of public record, and there are several owners. In as much as what the city can do, it can dedicate Urban Renewal funds to projects like the Molalla Avenue improvements and tackle tasks like updating the comprehensive plan (done), development code (done), other master plans (done or in progress) and SDCs (done). The city can work to improve the partnership with the Chamber of Commerce, as it has done, and members of Council can speak with business owners as I have done. I have pulled together meetings with several business and property owners to provide them a forum to express their concerns. There is potential for revival of the Main Street program through partnership with the Chamber of Commerce. An Economic Improvement District could also be created if business/property owners were interested, but it would need to be a business/property owner led effort to bring one back.

Carol Rosen
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