Opinion: St. Helens City Council has work to do
The June 19 St. Helens City Council meeting seemed relatively calm — until a few small details are examined.
Hidden in the Parks and Trails Commission report is a comment by Council President Doug Morten that one councilor — that would be me — was very outspoken about the recommendation of the Godfrey Park new design because it excluded kids from using the canyon. Further on in his remarks he indicated that my point of view did not matter.
It's an indication, again, that only some members of the council are important and others are not.
In another session of the council meeting, two series of questions were asked of Matt Brown, the city's finance director, which were avoided — one having to do with the recorded costs of the water reservoir repair and the other with the sales date and sales notification of the marijuana facility on a portion of the former paper mill property, now owned by the city. Mayor Rick Scholl then spoke and said that I should be aware of the grow facility's sales information. I indicated to the mayor that I did know the sales information, but wanted this information stated publicly so that the general community could be kept informed. That action was not very well received.
Why the questions?
When double-checking on a project, it is very helpful to examine it from different perspectives — the department's progress and the financial costs. If certain costs do not appear in a financial report, more than likely the work was not done. As an example, if a water reservoir inspector was paid and the project still fails, he did not do the job correctly, and if the water reservoir repair contractor was paid, the department should have ensured the completed work was acceptable.
The financial data indicate the inspector's time on the job, and the data needed to double-check on the project can now be found in financial records.
A similar double-check on the proper sale of the marijuana property can be done by checking public data, including the number of public notices announcing the sale of the public property and a public description of the property. The public description should be found in Columbia County records and in the surveyor's office. At this time, there is no recorded description filed with the county.
Mayor Scholl made the comment that if Al Petersen had not sued the city over the marijuana operation at the former mill site, then there would be no problems with the sale. The sale was enacted by the city and the lawsuit questioned the legality of the sale. If the lawsuit had not been filed, the city would have illegally disposed of public property with its planned course of action.
On another note, there is a missing piece of information about me on the city's website. When you visit the city's website you can find bios on all of the councilors — except me. The information for my bio was given to the city after I was elected and prior to being sworn in in January, but it has yet to be published on the city's website. Much about me can be found by conducting a Google search for "Stephen R. Topaz."
Conclusion: The St. Helens City Council still has some work to do before it can effectively move the city forward.