WashCo mayors weigh in on progress during pandemic
Washington County mayors weighed in Thursday, June 24, about what their cities have done during the long haul of the COVID-19 pandemic and what their plans are for using American Rescue Plan Act funding.
That federal money, often referred to as ARPA in government circles, is earmarked for getting communities back on their feet in the wake of the pandemic.
Mayors gathered via Zoom for the annual Westside Economic Alliance's breakfast meeting moderated by Pam Treece, the alliance's executive director. Each was given three minutes to comment about activities in their respective cities over the past year.
Here are what those mayors had to say:
Tualatin Mayor Frank Bubenik
Bubenik said his city will receive about $6 million in ARPA funds.
"Council and city staff will begin discussions of how to allocate that money in late July," he said, adding that the city might cre
ate some partnerships or form a collaboration to leverage those funds to ensure they don't duplicate efforts. "When we start looking at how we're going to spend the money, then we want to hear from our community, and how they think it should be spent versus what we dream up."
He said past COVID-19 CARES Act relief money, which totaled $1.1 million, has gone to assist 118 Tualatin businesses, 35% of them minority owned, 51% owned by women and 83% of them attached to service industry businesses such as spas, gyms, restaurants, hotels and retail establishments. In addition, the city distributed $38,000 in child care scholarships.
In other activities, Bubenik said the city is looking at creating new urban renewal zones, one in the new manufacture/industrial area of Basalt Creek, the other possibly around the Tualatin Commons area.
Bubenik said Community Partners for Affordable Housing is expected to build a 100-plus-unit facility in the new residential area of Basalt Creek, an 847-acre piece of land between Wilsonville and Tualatin.
He said the city will soon use money from a Tualatin transportation bond to continue needed safety and pedestrian projects that include the eventual reconfiguration of the intersection along Tualatin-Sherwood Road between Fred Meyer and Cabela's in order to get through that intersection an estimated one minute sooner.
While Viva Tualatin, a celebration of Latino, Pacific Islander and Asian Heritage will be back this summer, the Tualatin Crawfish Festival has once again been canceled, Bubenik said.
Beaverton Mayor Lacey Beaty
Beaty said one of the most significant changes for her city over the past year was switching from its strong mayor type of government to hiring its first city manager.
One big accomplishment that occurred, she said, was finding the perfect location for COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Through a partnership with Nike and Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, the city came up with "one of the best public/private partnerships, the governor has ever seen. She told us when she came to view it. We gave out over 40,000 vaccine doses there."
Meanwhile, Beaty said the city created its first climate action task force, which drew more than 100 applicants hoping for a spot on the 16-person group.
Beaty said her city will be getting about $16 million in ARPA funding and has been able to bring in an additional $11 million through state and federal ARPA funding. She said the city hopes to use some of those funds to create an innovative nonprofit incubator to give entrepreneurs places to start out.
Other projects Beaverton is working on is building and operating a round-the-clock homeless shelter and starting a mental health court. The city also plans to complete a loop project in downtown Beaverton that will focus pedestrians.
"I know my council and I are chomping at the bit to figure out how to spend our $16 million, but I've been disciplined in requesting them to let us figure out what our county's doing, what our state is doing, so this money can be a force multiplier," she said.
Hillsboro Mayor Steve Callaway
Callaway said the $18 million in ARPA funding the city is expected to receive would be used to focus on city goals and priorities. Those include using $4 million to $5 million that will be shared with community-based organizations and nonprofits with another $4 million dedicated to homelessness response.
In addition, $1 million to $2 million will go to work force development, $2 million to $3 million will be set aside for small business support, $2 million to $3 million will go to broadband access and $2 million will be saved for other projects.
Callaway said he was pleased to find out that ARPA money can be spent over the course of three years.
"We will be convening stakeholder groups during this time, because we learned during the pandemic that what's essential at the beginning, wasn't necessarily the same needs that were essential and the same response that was essential at the end," he said about spending the funds.
Callaway said what the city has learned during the pandemic is the importance of partnerships.
He also praised City Manager Robby Hammond and his staff for not only doing their regular work but also adding "the pandemic response onto their huge plates," saying city staff has done a great job throughout.
Cornelius Mayor Jeff Dalin
Dalin said his city soon will hold outdoor events that weren't possible at the height of the pandemic. It will kick off in July with Johnny Limbo and the Lugnuts, who will perform their first concert since the pandemic began.
Dalin said with federal CARES Act funding, the city was able to fund 101 small business grants valued at $250,000.
"In addition, we funded nearly $14,000 of fresh vegetables and bread purchases from local farmers and bakers to be added to the food boxes being distributed through Central Cultural, St. Alexander's Catholic Church and Virginia Garcia Medical Center," he said.
Dalin said the pandemic has resulted in many losing their jobs or having to cut back their work hours, which resulted in some residents falling behind on their water bills to the tune of $100,000. He said once the city receives those federal ARPA dollars, it will work with Community Action to pay down some of the delinquent bills.
Also, he said the city has been waiving some fees and offering supportive services to residents to help them get through the pandemic.
In other news, Cornelius is in the development phase of plans to construct a 113-unit affordable housing project near the Cornelius Fred Meyer store.
King City Mayor Ken Gibson
Gibson said it hasn't been a single issue that's been a priority during the pandemic, rather "everything is a priority and that's the way we've been moving forward."
However, the city has been working diligently on a transportation system plan and a master plan for the city's expansion area, he said.
"It's been a whole lot of work, but it's been very rewarding and we are, in fact, making progress on both of those fronts, meeting with a lot of community members who have deep concerns about how we're going to roll all of this out, but I think the communication has been good," he said. "It's been stressful at times but, nevertheless, I think everybody understands that we're in this to try to do it the right way and come out with the best developed master-planned city that we can."
Gibson said he appreciates the formation of a partnership with Wilsonville and Sherwood regarding ARPA funding, saying some of the things they are talking about are related to infrastructure, including trying to take advantage of Sherwood's broadband system, creating a broadband loop that will enhance communications in King City.
Gibson said King City also is working with Clean Water Services to see about using recycled water to irrigate the city's open spaces and community park. He said plans are to use some ARPA funds to help out essential workers in King City, including grocery workers, gas station attendants, restaurant staff and others.
"We really are excited about the possibility of really thanking those people by giving up some funds directly to them," he said.
Banks Mayor Stephanie Jones
Jones said water has been a dominant item of discussion over the past several years and the city's main water pipe, which is 60 years old, is being replaced. She said contractors think they will finish early, "which will be fabulous because part of our water issues have led to a building moratorium."
Jones said part of the city's ARPA money will help fund some of those water issues and be used to build a water line that can be buried instead of attaching it to the underside of a bridge. The line can be larger too, which will benefit the local fire department with a hydrant planned for the other side of a city bridge.
At the same time, Jones said that the City Council has been working on planning code revisions.
In other news, the city soon will have a new entry sign, welcoming residents and travelers.
Jones said it's a partnership with Five Star Builders who is putting up the sign, which will be illuminated so "any time of day as you're driving down Highway 6, you'll be able to see our beautiful entry."
North Plains Mayor Teri Lenahan
Lenahan said her city recently created the Veterans Memorial Park and was pleased with all the sponsors who helped out. She said the park will contain North Plain's first electric vehicle recharging station. At the same time, Lenahan pointed out that City Council meetings have changed drastically over the past year.
"We began in-person meetings this month, but we still maintain the hybrid approach to all of our public meetings. In-person and Zoom links are available to everyone, but it certainly was nice to see everybody at our City Council meeting on Monday," she said.
Lenahan said her city passed a 3-cents-per-gallon gas tax in November with those funds earmarked for sidewalk and road improvements. Also, several months ago, Standard and Poor's, now known as S&P Global Ratings, gave the city a AA rating, it's first ever.
On the urban renewal agency front, Lenahan said the city purchased more than five acres of commercial land along Glencoe Road and several developers have expressed interest in the property.
"We will be looking at spending time with them to try to figure out how to plan that site and work with private and public sectors on development," she said, adding that the north expansion of 500 housing units is underway with those homes likely available in 2022.
In addition, a new elementary school will open in 2021.
"We've been very busy this last year and a half, and while the pandemic forced us all to look at different ways of servicing our communities and servicing the needs of our communities, it hasn't stopped progress in North Plains. So, keeping our bedroom community a secret is becoming increasingly difficult, but it's also been a fun journey" Lenahan said.
Sherwood Mayor Keith Mays
Mays said his city is in the process of searching for a new city manager to replace Joe Gall who left for a job at Clean Water Services.
"We are doing a national search. We received over 35 applications from 13 states, and we've now selected 10 semi finalists," he said. "We hope to offer a job to someone by early August."
In addition, Mays said they are working with Oregon Rep. Courtney Neron, who represents House District 26, to secure state funding to construct a new pedestrian bridge that would span from the Sherwood Family YMCA to the new Sherwood High School crossing Highway 99W and Elwert Road. Ideally, the city will go to bid on the project next year.
Like Gibson, Mays also mentioned the likely partnership of joining with King City and Wilsonville to get state ARPA funds to support businesses, expand fiber broadband and to support programs that help families and individuals in the area.
He said the current industrial development proposals under consideration are the most he's ever seen in Sherwood during his time as mayor.
"We could very well have more than 2 million square feet of industrial development built between 2020 and 2024, with only some of it being distribution/last-mile warehouse type projects," he said.
In addition, Mays said the city is reviewing 1,200 acres of the Sherwood West urban reserve-area plan for inclusion in the urban growth boundary.
"I expect the new plan will have a balance of live and work elements, whereas the plan from five years ago was 100% residential and just didn't make sense from a sustainability standpoint," he said, adding that the plan might be far enough along to submit a midcycle UGB expansion request to Metro before the year is over.
Sherwood will receive $4.4 million in ARPA funding, and "we're still talking about how to spend it," Mays said.
Tigard Mayor Jason Snider
Snider said the city's revised goals include implementing an actionable, person-centric and regional response to homelessness, supporting the community during the COVID-19 pandemic, implementing a bold community resiliency plan and adopting a parks and recreation master plan.
He said for the city's ARPA funding, the council goals are really important to keep in mind, with plans to sustain city services, enhance connectivity and access underserved areas, provide water infrastructure enhancements, implement a resiliency plan and supporting housing and economic security.
"I also am very excited to announce … we had worked with Rep. (Dacia) Grayber, Rep. (Courtney) Neron and our senator, Ginny Burdick, and have secured through work with all of them — Rep. Grayber really led this effort — $4 million to Just Compassion of East Washington County for building a transitional housing and homeless shelter in Tigard," Snider said.
He also applauded "tremendous development" in the Tigard Triangle area, providing a major opportunity for the private sector.
Snider said the city is moving forward with work at River Terrace and hopes to give Metro a midcycle application for two new areas — South River Terrace and West River Terrace – for inclusion in the urban growth boundary with next steps being development.
He also confirmed he will be running for reelection.
Forest Grove Mayor Pete Truax
Truax said the city recently purchased the Forest Grove Inn to use for supportive housing on the border between Forest Grove and Cornelius.
"That's been a huge project for us," he said, adding that funds to purchase the inn came from ARPA money made available through the state.
Meanwhile, the city received roughly $5 million in federal ARPA money, funds that will be used in part for infrastructure and homelessness, Truax said.
He said the city is working on the Council Creek Regional Trail and Corridor Project, asking the U.S. Department of Transportation for $20 million to make improvements.
"I just want to indicate that all our jobs got a boatload tougher in the last 15 months," Truax said. "We were dealing with homelessness. We're dealing with the pandemic. We're dealing with people's inability to pay bills. We're dealing with moratoriums on evictions and on foreclosures."
If that wasn't enough, he said, there's a worry about future forest fires and a shortage of chlorine to treat drinking water, topped off with the fact that searchers are still looking for an icon of the community, former Mayor Ralph Brown.
The bright spot, he said, is that Forest Grove will celebrate its 150th anniversary in October 2022, making it the oldest incorporated city in Washington County.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.