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Sandy city councilors, staff discuss additional aid outside of lowered fees

PMG PHOTO - Sandy City Council and department heads met publicly virtually on Monday, March 23. The COVID-19 pandemic was the main topic at the March 23 virtual meeting of the Sandy City Council. That, and how as a city government it can help small businesses and families during this public health and economy crisis.

Sandy Area Metro transit has already suspended its fares on its commuter route from Sandy to Gresham, and the Sandy Public Library has extended due dates on books currently checked out through April 30 and temporarily suspended fines.

For those who use city utilities during this crisis, Public Works Director Mike Walker said customers won't have services shut off for the inability to pay.

While city hall is closed to the public and most staff are working remotely, Finance Director Tyler Deems stressed that people can still call the city with questions about services, billing or permitting.

"It's important citizens continue to work with us and we'll continue to work with them," Deems said.

The city relies on dollars from utility fees to pay for maintenance of services like wastewater and internet, however, staff also recognizes that with this pandemic has come a quick and extensive wave of unemployment.

Mayor Stan Pulliam floated the idea of compiling some kind of economic relief fund for businesses, similar to that created by Gresham and Hillsboro.

"Hillsboro and Gresham — big budgets," he said. "Sandy, not big budget. (But) people are struggling out there right now and I'd just like to see our community do our part."

Pulliam's initial proposal was to pull $50,000-$100,000 from city funds to allocate for business relief. Many councilors and staff members voiced concerns about the city's already low contingency fund, and also the challenge of equitably aiding businesses.

"No matter which bucket of funds we ultimately pull money from there's only a finite amount of money right now … we're only a week in," Deems noted. "It may be prudent to wait and see what the state and federal governments can come up before we start writing checks, to make sure we don't shoot ourselves in the foot by acting too quickly and getting money to some businesses that need it now but then what about the businesses that need it in three or four weeks."

City Manager Jordan Wheeler added that if the city does create a fund it might be best to "start small" and expanded where needed and possible later.

Council directed staff to explore funding options more and will revisit the topic at a later meeting.


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