Mayor addresses concerns about tree removal
Trees will once again line the historic business section of Willamette Falls Drive, but not until project construction is done.
West Linn Mayor Russ Axelrod made this assurance during the Jan. 13 City Council meeting, where he also discussed filling the void left when Eileen Stein's contract as city manager was terminated Jan. 6.
At Monday's meeting, the council approved a construction management contract for the Willamette streetscape project.
Tree removal for this project has already begun, and caused concern for many West Linn residents.
"Some of the trees were problematic and they had to be removed to accommodate the new design. I've heard comments all over the board from people who are real sad and even heard people say they like it because they can see the buildings," the mayor said. "Rest assured, when the project moves forward, we're going to have a landscaping plan. There will be trees coming back. There will be new vegetation."
According to the contract approved by council, the City will pay $139,606 for construction oversight and administration from Harper Houf Peterson Righellis.
Public Works Director and City Engineer Lance Calvert told the council that the cost for these services was less than initially anticipated. Calvert explained that the cost of this contract will be covered by GO Bond, Street, Street SDC, Bike/Ped SDC, Storm, and Water Funds.
While most of the day-to-day construction oversight will be done by public works and city engineering staff, Calvert said that HHPR's work will be focused more on the details on design. City staff will still engage with the community regarding the project.
During Monday's meeting, the council also discussed how it would like to approach replacing City Manager Eileen Stein, whose contract the council terminated Jan. 6.
Axelrod suggested the council consider promoting Deputy City Manager John Williams, who has served as interim city manager since Stein left.
The mayor said Williams has all the qualities they would like to see in a city manager: good technical and managerial skills and good relationships with City staff, the community and regional partners.
Williams said he was interested in the opportunity to become city manager and Councilor Jules Walters said she was supportive of the idea of Williams as city manager.
"Frankly, I don't think we're ready to be having this kind of a discussion or promoting of personal ideas at this point," Council President Teri Cummings said in response to Axelrod's idea.
Cummings also expressed concern about Williams serving as interim city manager while also applying for the permanent position, but an associate of City Attorney Tim Ramis clarified that there were ways to avoid this sort of conflict of interest with Williams still fulfilling the city manager's duties in the interim.
Williams was hired as the City's community development director in 2016, and promoted to deputy city manager in 2017.
The council decided to have further discussion on the matter at a later date.
As Monday's meeting was the first business meeting of the new year, the council was due to elect a new president.
After a nomination by Councilor Rich Sakelik to allow Cummings to serve another year as president, the council voted 3-1-1 for her to remain in her position. Walters voted no, while Axelrod abstained, saying he would prefer someone new in the role.
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