Just as cold and wet winter weather settle into the region, the Woodburn City Council approved the city's entry into a two-year agreement with various partners, including Ray of Hope Today!, to support a Severe Weather Center.
The agreement, which ensures up to $5,000 of reimbursable funds annually, provides for an inclement weather shelter on Hardcastle Avenue, near Highway 99E, for area residents who find themselves in a position where they need to seek shelter from the natural elements, such as extreme cold or heat conditions.
The council approved a similar agreement with Love INC in January 2020.
"This is similar to a prior agreement that's existed before for a similar type of service," City Administrator Scott Derickson said. "I know that during our ice-storm event and during our severe heat weather event that we had last June, the city was in communication with Ray of Hope Today! and the operators of Neighbors Serving Under-sheltered Neighbors to try to ensure that people who had no other way to escape those weather events had a place to go."
According to a city staff report, earlier discussions with community stakeholders, including the Woodburn Fire District, the city's planning and building departments, Woodburn Police, Love INC and Derickson, a consensus agreement emerged for the operation of a city-funded center for the sake of public safety during severe weather.
"The city's collaboration … under this proposed agreement would be to reimburse some expenses toward the operation of this, during the times that it is opened," Derickson said, noting the parameters surrounding the agreement. "This has been a valuable resource for us in the past, and for the dollars that we are putting into it, it gives us another tool to try to provide a space for people who might otherwise be impacted because of weather events that we are starting to see more often, unfortunately."
Curt Jones from Ray of Hope Today! told the council that the shelter would be activated at 37 degrees, especially in situations where severe rain and/or wind also is involved, and at 100-degrees during extreme summer conditions.
Jones also noted that previous shelters had been held at rotating locations, but this agreement provides for a fixed location.
Residents expressed concerns in the past about the rotating locations for fear that it could attract problems to neighborhoods where a temporary location was established.
Jones said the fixed location is preferred by Ray of Hope Today! and the operators as well.
"Many of the homeless population are used to going to this location for resources, so the fact that it would be open in severe weather circumstances makes perfect sense," he said.
During the discussion of the agreement, in which Mayor Eric Swenson and Councilor Ali Swanson recused themselves, Council President Rob Carney asked about any liability for which the city could be held accountable should something, such as a felony crime, happen at the shelter during operations.
Assistant City Attorney McKenzie Granum said the agreement comes with insurance provisions that protect the city of liability.
"In this agreement, specifically, we do require that the nonprofit holds insurance that covers a general liability up to, I believe, a million dollars per occurrence," Granum said. "That covers all activity under the agreement."
The scope of insurance includes vehicle insurance in a case where there is transportation to and from the facility.
The council approved the agreement unanimously, except for those recused.
"I think the shelter is something that the city of Woodburn certainly needs in times of severe weather," Councilor Sharon Schaub said. "I think all of us on the council agree that we want to protect our public."
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