West Linn City Council awards over $2 million for city facilities projects
Nearly $1.3 million of 2018 GO bond funds will go towards revitalizing West Linn's historic City Hall; around $720,000 will go to Robinwood station and $25,000 will go to a hazardous materials study of the old Bolton firehall.
West Linn City Council made these allocations during a business meeting Monday, Feb. 10.
The Willamette Falls and Landings Heritage Area Coalition (WFLHAC) has pleaded its case for funding of the historic city hall project a number of times over the past two years, detailing how it wants to turn the 80-year-old building into a community center and "crown jewel" of waterfront development.
Members of the WFLHAC were on hand Monday night, along with Confederated Tribes of the Grande Ronde Tribal Council Secretary Jon George and former West Linn Mayor Larry McIntyre, the latter who served on the city council in the old building, to again share their passion for the revitalization project.
According to WFLHAC Executive Director Siobhan Taylor, the coalition has raised $145,000 in grants for the project but recently hit a roadblock in fundraising when donors told them they would like to see a significant commitment to the project by the City of West Linn before contributing. Taylor told the council that Congress may soon designate Willamette Falls and landings as a national heritage area, for which historic city hall would serve as a welcome center.
In earlier discussions about the project, one issue councilors saw with the plan was the limited parking available in the area. Taylor took a step towards quelling those concerns with a letter from old city hall neighbor, Willamette Falls Paper Co., which said it could share an area with visitor parking.
Councilor Rich Sakelik expressed reservations about this commitment, given that the paper company does not own the property it inhabits, but is owned by Portland General Electric.
The council agreed to the funding for the building with the caveat that a solid parking plan be determined.
The $720,000 going toward Robinwood Station will fund a remodel of the station plus improvements to the water utility building and a new 20KW propane generator.
A study of the hazardous materials at the old Bolton firehall will come at the request of Councilor Bill Relyea, who felt it was prudent to learn more about the building's potential hazards before allocating money and deciding what to do with it. Some members of the community have advocated for turning the surrounding space — which currently serves primarily as a City storage facility— into a community center. Given what the City knows about the building's condition, costs to turn it into a safe community center were estimated at over $1 million.
During Monday's meeting, the council also discussed the process of a limited search for a new city manager, after the firing of former City Manager Eileen Stein last month.
Members of the council asked to shorten the timeframe of the process proposed by Human Resources Director Elissa Preston. Preston's initial proposal had the new city manager starting as late as August.
The council will adopt a "candidate profile" at a coming meeting.
The council encourages citizens to give comment on the city manager recruitment throughout the process.
During public comment, West Linn citizen Karie Oakes expressed concern about council's heavy involvement in the recruitment process, given what she called bias by Mayor Russ Axelrod and Councilor Jules Walters. Oakes said the mayor and Walters have been very biased in city manager discussions since Stein's employment termination, by advocating for the promotion of deputy city manager John Williams.
Since Stein's firing on Jan. 6, Williams has served as interim city manager. The council discussed at the meeting a new contract for Williams to continuein the role for six months or until a permanent city manager is found.
The council stopped short of signing the contract, which was prepared by City Attorney Tim Ramis, to negotiate certain details.
Sakelik said he felt the 40 extra vacation hours offered to Williams in the contract was unnecessary. Council President Teri Cummings agreed. Axelrod and Walters felt comfortable with that amount of vacation given his display of hardwork and commitment to the City thus far. Relyea felt Williams should be offered the same amount of vacation as Stein. Stein was offered 20 vacation days a year.
Ramis told the council that the contract included 40 additional hours of vacation because Williams asked for it, given that he is currently working three positions, as interim city manager, plus his previous roles as deputy city manager and community development director.
Sakelik also had a problem with the contract stating that Williams began serving as interim city manager Jan. 6, when Stein's termination was announced. Sakelik felt Feb. 6 was more appropriate because that was officially Stein's last day of employment with the City. Ramis elaborated, saying the services Willams began to carry out in January fell under his duties as deputy city manager and duties as interim city manager began Feb. 6.
The council will consider approving the contract at a later meeting.
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