Wilsonville staff members provide information on storm recovery
This story was updated from its original version
Wilsonville government staffers gave the City Council an update on continued efforts to respond to the recent winter storm and calamitous damage it left in its wake during a meeting Thursday, Feb. 18.
First, City Operations Manager Martin Montalvo explained that the power outages caused by the storm occurred mostly in Charbonneau, but also were seen in Old Town and in other scattered pockets. He added that one reason it hit Wilsonville so forcefully was because ice came down there whereas Sherwood, for instance, was covered mostly with snow.
He further explained that city employees underwent winter storm training prior to the event and placed materials in strategic places throughout town in preparation. They started working around the clock starting Wednesday, Feb.10, before the storm.
"We knew the event was coming. We knew it was going to be bad but didn't know the full extent of how troublesome it would be for the community," he said.
Once the weather turned to ice, Montalvo said trees began to crash around staffers Friday evening, Feb. 12, and nearly hit an employee in one instance.
"When it turned to ice we took the approach of: Protect the public and put out barricades and cones whenever possible. The tools we have to fight ice are very limited. It's not just us but throughout the region," he said.
In terms of clearing trees and branches from streets during the event, Montalvo said staff focused on opening up the east-west corridor to allow people access to the interstate before moving to the north-south roads.
City crews also were in the process of clearing local parks this week and are using Murase Plaza as a chipper site for debris. Residents also can drop off their own debris at Wilsonville Transit Center and the city is hosting a community cleanup day Sunday, Feb. 21.
Montalvo added that the city's wastewater treatment plant and one of the pump stations that feeds water to the northern portion of town faced outages. The city used emergency generators to keep that infrastructure running.
Overall, Montalvo said the government is spending over $8,400 a day on labor costs and over $3,600 a day on equipment to go along with $18,500 on tree crews and $18,400 on its debris site to date. However, Montalvo said the city is hoping to receive reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The tree crews had been working mostly in Charbonneau but were almost done with their work and could move into other areas by Feb. 19, Montalvo added.
Next, Wilsonville Planning Director Miranda Bateschell said the department is assessing the impact the storm had on the city's urban forest. She advised citizens
of neighborhoods with many felled trees to submit removal permit applications together to improve efficiency. However, Bateschell noted that not all trees need to be removed and that residents should consult their local arborist to help determine that. She added that the city is waiving most tree permitting fees and has received about 40 inquiries from citizens about emergency tree removals. Along with the removals, residents also are required to have trees replanted.
"If we can save the tree, it makes it easier and cheaper for the resident and is better for the tree canopy in the long run," she said.
As for damaged buildings, city building official Dan Carlson emphasized that people whose homes had cosmetic damages do not need to apply for a permit to complete repairs but that fixing structural damage like a roof collapsing requires a permit.
"We're going to do everything we can do to issue permits over the counter or in a couple days max," Carlson said.
During the meeting, Wilsonville councilors expressed appreciation for the leadership of City Manager Bryan Cosgrove and the efforts of city staff through another emergency event while Cosgrove emphasized the personal sacrifices his staff made to work overtime shifts to respond to the storm even when their own communities were experiencing similar effects.
"We're super blessed to have you guys taking care of us," Councilor Ben West said.
Council backs vehicle registration fee
The Wilsonville City Council voted 4-1 to send a letter to the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners expressing support for the continuation of the $30 vehicle registration fee implemented in 2019 to pay for local road maintenance and improvements.
The letter the city drafted states that the money would be important for upgrades at the Boeckman Road "dip" and Brown Road and also goes to improving roads in unincorporated Clackamas County. Cosgrove said the city has received $120,000 for road upgrades this fiscal year for road maintenance via the fee.
Clackamas County Chair Tootie Smith recently suggested that the board repeal the fee. She said doing so could help sell voters on a potential 12-cent increase to a public safety levy, which currently collects up to 24.8 cents per $1,000 of a home's assessed value.
"I feel like if this mechanism goes away we're going to be left with a gigantic hole," Mayor Julie Fitzgerald said.
Multnomah and Washington County also impose the fee to pay for maintenance.
"The ability to maintain all those roadways is a huge challenge for the county and you can tell when you leave Wilsonville and go into Clackamas County roads," Councilor Charlotte Lehan added.
Councilor Kristin Akervall added that keeping roads maintained is important for the local business community to thrive.
West, however, voted against the resolution despite supporting the fee in 2019. He said local residents he's talked to are not happy about the fee, noted the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic to many families who have to pay the $30, and felt that the money hasn't been put to good use.
City fined for high toxin levels
The Department of Environmental Quality recently issued a $6,600 fine to the city of Wilsonville after an inspection of the city's Waste Water Treatment Plant found excessive levels of biological oxygen demand, total suspended solids and E. coli during the months of May, June and July 2020. Exceedances ranged from 1,495% to 4%.
"Pollutant limits are set at levels to protect the beneficial uses of state waters. By exceeding those levels, you risked impairing beneficial uses of the Willamette River," A DEQ letter to the city reads.
City Attorney Barbara Jacobson said this took place while Jacobs Engineering Group, which runs the plant, was trying to complete improvements.
The council decided not to appeal the fine.
"They (Jacobs) acknowledged this happened. It happened as they were trying to improve the system. They agreed the fine is reasonable," Jacobson said.
Water from the plant is dumped into the Willamette River following treatment. City Public Works Director Delora Kerber said that, to her knowledge, the materials detected did not cause harm.
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