Infrastructure a legislative priority for Wilsonville
Infrastructure placed high on the list as the Wilsonville City Council determined during its meeting Monday, July 16, six legislative issues it would like the League of Oregon Cities — a governmental entity in which cities coordinate and organize to further their goals — to prioritize at the next legislative session.
After discussion, the council agreed that it would recommend prioritizing a carbon cap and invest program, infrastructure financing and resilience, oppossing legislation that would prevent cities from establishing rates for the use of rights-of-way, mental health investment, mercury wastewater discharge limits and public water systems improvements. The recommendations are part of a survey LOC put out to local cities so that it can develop priorities for next January's Oregon Legislative Assembly.
The survey included 29 potential legislative priorities and cities were allowed to add two objectives to the list. Wilsonville chose to include altering mercury wastewater discharge limits and public water systems improvements as additional priorities. The former preference would ease mercury discharging requirements for liquid waste or sewage. According to city staff, the current rules are not achievable with available technology.
One of the focus areas included in the LOC survey concerns establishing a water testing site in Oregon, along with standardized communications protocols and crediting cities for ozonation.
Wilsonville Community Development Director Nancy Kraushaar explained why the idea of crediting for ozonation would benefit Wilsonville: "One of the things that will allow us to expand our plant in a much smarter way and cheaper way is if we get credits for the ozone treatment we do before filtration."
City staff initially recommended the council recommend legislation that would allow cities use the money generated from lodging taxes more broadly. However, the council agreed to replace the issue with mental health investment in its list of priorities for LOC. The mental health imperative would advocate that the funding the state Legislature allocated in 2015 — allowing the mentally ill to receive rental and housing assistance and police to get training to properly assist those facing mental health crises — be continued, according to LOC's legislative priority survey.
"We don't have the homeless problem that other cities do, yet they're all around us. I don't think we're exempt from them," Wilsonville Mayor Tim Knapp said.
"They (the police) deal with those issues here more than they do in most communities because of our mental health housing," Councilor Charlotte Lehan said.
The carbon cap and invest program would establish a statewide cap on carbon emissions and "regulated entities" would be incentivised to reduce emissions.
"It's coming no matter what and so LOC would like to be at the table rather than have us on the menu," Wilsonville Public Affairs Director Mark Ottenad said. "So their thought is by being proactive and actively engaged they could better defend cities' interests collectively."
The infrastructure financing and resilience priority would increase the funding sources cities have at their disposal for infrastructure investment and the right-of-way objective would be to oppose legislation that would create a statewide right-of-way access and compensation system.
"I think funding through
a program that can help
cities do infrastructure (improvements) are important. There don't seem to be a lot of other fund sources. I would favor us continuing that," Knapp said.