Scappoose postpones decision on federal funds
The Scappoose City Council will meet with the city's budget committee and members of the public next month to continue discussions on how to use nearly $1.68 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds.
Scappoose appears likely to use $750,000 for water meter replacements, but the plans for the remaining $929,000 are less certain.
The latest recommendations from city staff still leave $217,000 unallocated.
City councilors and staff say there is no need to rush through the process, as far as spending deadlines are concerned.
"There are a lot of moving parts of this particular deal," Councilor Joel Haugen said. "I highly encourage council to move this forward to start with a robust, thoughtful community work session. And then we can really do this right and spend the money the way we should spend it."
Numerous council meeting attendees noted the need for increased childcare availability and affordability.
Scappoose resident Marisa Jacobs urged the City Council to take their time before making any final decisions on funding.
"There's an opportunity that we have to make an investment in our community that could actually benefit our families," Jacobs said. "We could actually use some of this money, just as one example I'm sharing tonight, to help put in place another childcare facility in Scappoose. That would be extremely helpful for families in our community to help them get back to work."
"Childcare was complicated before the pandemic — it's even more complicated now," Columbia Economic Team Executive Director Paul Vogel said. "There probably isn't a bigger issue still affecting businesses and employees than childcare."
But how exactly to support childcare availability is unclear to city leaders in Scappoose.
Childcare assistance is "potentially possible," a staff report presented to the Scappoose City Council states, but giving cash payments to third parties would require additional reporting.
Councilor Josh Poling voiced support for a grant program to cover the system development charges that developers have to pay to offset increased demand on water and road systems. SDCs for a daycare center would easily surpass $40,000.
Scappoose's original ARPA spending proposal allocated all $1,679,000. But without the Smith Road pump station funding, if the city opts for $2,500 bonuses instead of $5,000 bonuses, there will be almost $217,000 unallocated.
City staff had recommended $129,000 to replace a wastewater pump station on Smith Road in their initial recommendations to the Scappoose City Council in August, but that request was cut from an updated staff report in September. Huell Whitehaus, assistant to the public works director, said the Oregon Legislature will pay for that work instead.
The unallocated portion is available even after setting aside money for the water meter, staff bonuses, premium pay for police, and two requests from outside agencies: $25,000 for Columbia Economic Team to establish a small business development center and $200,000 for the Scappoose Fire District to purchase an ambulance.
In the initial spending proposal provided to the Scappoose City Council in August, city staff had recommended $5,000 bonuses for each city employee "for working through the pandemic."
Some city councilors took issue with the optics of city staff recommending their own bonuses, but city attorney Peter Watts, who is a contractor for the city and wouldn't receive a bonus, said the extra pay was his idea.
City staff amended the bonus recommendation at a Sept. 22 meeting.
Only employees who have worked in-office or at a worksite would be eligible for bonuses from ARPA funds, treasury guidance said, according to the city staff's report. All city employees have worked in-person, with a few exceptions in the first month of the pandemic, Whitehaus said.
Sweet Home, a city in Linn County with a population comparable to Scappoose, used ARPA funds to give employees bonuses equal to 5% of their salaries over the first 16 months of the pandemic. The average bonus was $2,500, according to the Scappoose staff report.
Oregon gave pandemic hazard payments of $1,050 to employees who worked at least 480 non-remote hours between March 2020 and June 2021, which is roughly one-quarter of the working hours in a year of full-time work. Employees who worked more could receive up to $2,125 total.
Scappoose is also recommending premium pay for most police department staff, increasing wages for patrol positions roughly 20% for two years.
The City Council will meet with the budget committee in a work session on Oct. 18.
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