Round-up: Council OKs annexations, approves minor spending, discusses looming budget issues

After a summer of Newberg City Council meetings that often ran late into the night with fervent debate, the council's meeting Sept. 6 was relatively short by comparison.

Aside from approving the once heated issue of the Dutchman Ridge annexation in little more than five minutes, the city spent most of the evening hearing progress reports on minor city initiatives as well as some minor expenditures.

Future budget planning

City staff kicked off the work session — a time for discussion with no council action on the things discussed — with a long-range budget planning discussion.

In other words, City Manager Joe Hannan and Finance Director Matt Zook told the council about a $1.27 million structural deficit that's projected for the 2018-2019 budget year starting next July.

While the city is expected to see some higher than anticipated revenues and funds in some areas, Hannan and Zook gave the council a variety of options they might consider to fill that shortfall.

Hannan stressed that city staff are not recommending any of these options, but they presented a variety of choices for the council to consider, express interest in and ask staff to explore further to get a head start on the difficult budget.

"This is 10 months out, but we think that … we know that it's going to take that long to come up with a solution," Hannan said.

Some of the options included asking voters for a local option levy of 71 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value, increasing the public safety fee on property owners' municipal services bills, increasing some franchise fees, transferring the local police and fire dispatch to the Washington County Consolidated Communications Agency (WCCCA), cutting city positions and increasing employee health contributions — although Hannan pointed out drawbacks to each one.

Council OKs expenditures,

manager evaluation

Moving into the business session, the council quickly acted on the consent agenda — items approved as a package with no discussion — and signed off on a change to the contract with Knife River Corporation Northwest, adding about $201,000 to an $847,000 package of street maintenance projects approved in July.

The council also adopted a brief summary of its evaluation of Hannan, discussed in closed session Aug. 24. The summary indicates that "the council rated performance as meeting expectations," although the city has not released further evaluation documents.

Later, the council also signed off on the city purchasing a new hypochlorite generation system for the water treatment plant for about $277,000. Staff noted that the new system is more reliable than the current machine, which they have been keeping together for about 12 years, roughly double its life expectancy.

Northside annexations approved

In addition to giving final approval for the Dutchman Ridge development annexation near Chehalem Drive and North Valley Road, the City Council also signed off on another northside annexation to bring North Valley Friends Church and the new location of Veritas School within city limits.

The city heard a staff report and held a brief, noncontroversial public hearing on the annexation of about 25 acres along North Valley and Bell roads before approving the annexation unanimously.

The school has already moved its modular buildings onto the property to hold this school year there, although it's unclear when construction might begin on the permanent multi-use building eventually planned for the site.

The council closed the meeting with staff with progress reports on several city initiatives including plans to make the city more accessible to bicyclists, pedestrians and handicapped persons, the master plan for the cultural district surrounding the Chehalem Cultural Center and how the city is updating its communications policies.

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