July 22, 2020 — The Florence City Council met on Monday, July 20, for both a 10:30 a.m. work session and a scheduled evening meeting at 5:30 p.m. There were a number of substantive issues discussed and decided upon, including infrastructure improvements, sign-code amendments, the future relationship between the Florence Police Department (FPD) and the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians, and an update to the city’s fee structure.
Both meetings were held via teleconference and new upgrades to the city’s technological plat-form — made to allow for more inclusive public input at publicly mandated meetings — were used for the first time to receive live comments from the public since the pandemic struck.
Councilors first heard from Florence Area Chamber of Commerce Chairman of the Board, Neil Ecker, for the organization’s annual recap of the work it has done for the city.
Ecker shared data which showed a marked increase in digital traffic to the Chamber’s website, hosting more than 64,600 new users and 158,000-page views in the past 12 months. Ecker’s report also stated that there were more than 10,000 visitors to the Visitor Center in 2018-19, which was reopened to limited walk-in service on July 7.
The “positive working relationship” between Travel Lane County and the Chamber was extolled by Ecker, as was the job being done by newly designated Chief Executive Officer of the Chamber, Bettina Hannigan.
Ecker pointed to what he called “the exemplary work” done by Hannigan in communications with media outlets in Eugene and Portland.
Two speakers then took advantage of the opportunity to directly address the council during the public comments segment of the evening.
Beverly Sherrill spoke in support of Black Lives Matter and the need for continued local dialogue as part of the discussion taking place across the nation regarding police reform, urging councilors to consider changes in FPD policies to include civilian oversight and greater transparency.
The second public speaker of the evening was Sally Wantz, a candidate for City Council who has voiced concern over what she says has been a lack of opportunity for public input at recent council meetings, took the opportunity to voice support for the communication upgrades now in place.
City Administrative Services Director Anne Baker then presented information reminding the council and members of the community that the Florence City Council acts as the Local Contract Review Board. This responsibility requires councilors’ approval, with Baker asking for that approval in Resolution No. 19, Series 2020.
This resolution authorized the city to opt out of the attorney general’s model of public contracting rules, which allows for more flexibility when re-authorizing or amending public contracts.
The resolution passed unanimously.
Baker addressed the council later in the session, reviewing staff recommendations to minimally increase fees which had not been raised during a round of adjustments earlier this year.
The action item called for the council to consider postponing the fee increase for a year due to constraints as a result of the COVID-19 virus and the uncertainty created by the pandemic. The discussion was brief, centering on the current hardships being experienced by many in the community.
The motion to delay increases was passed unanimously by the council and fee increases will be postponed until next year.
Next, Planning Director Wendy FarleyCampbell made a presentation to the council in the form of a request for approval of Ordinance No. 8, Series 2020, which would amend Florence City Code Title 4, Chapter 7, regarding sign regulations. FarleyCampbell went on to individually review each sign located improperly according to current code.
FarleyCampbell told councilors that the reason for the update was in part due to other changes in code recently adopted, as well as due to the long period of time since the applicable codes had been updated.
FarleyCampbell’s request for approval of Ordinance No. 8 was approved unanimously.
Public Works Director Mike Miller spent the most time addressing the council on Monday. Miller requested authorization to spend $87,605 for replacement of a blower at the wastewater treatment plant and $34,300 for materials, plans and an engineered design for an equipment storage building. Following limited discussion by the council, both requests were approved.
Miller also made a presentation regarding his department’s request to accept the Coastal Highlands Stormwater Project bid from Ray Wells Inc., in the amount of $467,384.
The project is set to take place in the area of 18th Street and Willow Loop. Miller also pointed out the reduction in the original engineers estimate as a major benefit to the city.
“The original engineer’s estimate when we put together the FY 2019-21 were based on much higher oil prices and extensive utilization of round drain rock for the infiltration galleries,” Miller explained. “As we progressed in the design and made modifications to the plans, the original engineer’s estimate was reduced by $150,000. As we reviewed the bid results, the second lowest bid was only slightly higher than the engineers revised estimate.”
Miller explained that, although groundwater is not a factor during the project, some of the bidders may have included some dewatering for the project.
“The bid from Ray Wells, Inc. is a result of extensive local knowledge of the underground conditions in this area as well as having direct experience constructing streets and utilities within this area. As a result, we received a very favorable bid from a local contractor,” said Miller, who reviewed the need for the project by tracing the history of flooding in the impacted area.
The City Council then authorized Acting City Manager Megan Messmer to proceed with the contract. Miller’s last request of the council consisted of soliciting approval for Messmer to sign an application to apply for a grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation for the Safe Routes to School program.
This request by Miller was also approved.
Florence Police Chief Tom Turner also spoke to the council Monday, explaining the unusual circumstances that exists between the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians regarding FPD support of tribal police. Turner told councilors that there had been a significant delay in the payment of owed monies by the Tribes and the two parties had been negotiating a restructuring of the payments for nearly a year.
“In 2018, the monthly payment had increased to roughly $12,800 per month. Beginning in late 2018, the Tribes expressed a desire to re-work the payment terms of the agreement due to a decrease in the number of 9-1-1 calls to the Tribes’ property and the Tribes’ financial hardship in making the payments to the City,” Turner explained. “The City worked over a number of months to meet and discuss the issues surrounding the ongoing agreement and the payment terms.
“During the negotiations, the Tribes stopped paying its quarterly payments, but the City continued to provide police services to the Tribes’ property.”
Turner continued with a review of the negotiation process undertaken by the two parties to resolve the impasse, which resulted in a new agreement which Turner asked the council to approve.
“The Tribes have now approved a proposal that would compensate the City at a rate of $6,417.04 per month, which is 50 percent of the rate charged in 2018. The Tribes will also make payments for the period of time between December of 2018 and June of 2020 at the rate of $6,417.04 per month,” said Turner, who added that, while this is technically a 50 percent reduction in the overdue payments, it is an overall payment of $128,340.70 which he said staff believes is acceptable compensation for the services provided during the applicable time period.
Under the proposed amendment, the city would receive a total of $198,928.14 in payments from the Confederated Tribes for the 2019-21 biennium. While this is not what is currently owed to the City under the previous contract terms, it is $58,928.14 more than what is in the current biennium budget — and $198,928.14 more than was forecasted in the June budget presentation to Council. Ongoing, the annual contract amount will be $77,000 per the proposed amendment.
Councilors and Messmer thanked Turner for his work in clarifying and bringing to a resolution the situation with the Confederated Tribes and supported his overall handling of the situation. Turner made a point on two occasions to mention the relationship between the two departments was very good and the support provided to FPD by Tribal police was timely and more dependable than assistance from other law enforcement organizations.
As the meeting was winding down, Councilor Ron Priesler requested that a proclamation from the city be written and adopted regarding the need for recognition of the issue of climate change. Preisler had made a similar request at a previous council meeting.
The discussion regarding the proclamation during Monday’s meeting was brief, with Preisler stating his goal clearly.
“I would certainly like for it [proclamation] to be supported by the whole council. I am suggesting that we, as a city, support the issues of climate change and recognizing it and to take steps in the future to mitigate those changes,” Preisler said.
The proclamation, as written by Preisler, was included in the evening’s materials and contained the following excerpt:
“Whereas climate change will have a profound influence on the residents of, and visitors to, Florence, which include sea-level rise, dune erosion, seasonal temperature changes, increased forest fires, acidic ocean waters resulting in the harming of local crab and fish industries and chemical alterations in ocean and estuarine environments, and economic losses, along with increased cost of living … Now therefore, we the City Council of the City of Florence, Oregon, do hereby encourage the residents of, and visitors to, the City of Florence to better understand the impacts of climate disruption and how it affects our community, environment and ecosystems. We further urge residents and visitors to promote and engage in solutions to improve energy efficiency, maintaining a cleaner, healthier community and a sustainable economy, and to address this important critical and timely concern for our generation and generations to come.”
The response to the content of the proclamation was muted, with Mayor Joe Henry asking for comments, which were few. Henry directed his response to the City Charter, precedent and legal advice rather than the content of the proclamation.
“The issue here is not climate change, which I would like to discuss at length. It has more to do with Councilor Preisler wanting to get this proclamation. I want to talk a little about the history of these proclamations and the authority that lies behind them,” Henry explained. “The City Charter or council rules contain little or no direction regarding proclamations other than stating that proclamations shall be approved by the presiding officer, which is the Mayor.”
There were brief, and at times unintelligible, comments made in the final few minutes of the meeting which may have contributed to confusion as to a motion made by Greene to “consider accepting approval of the proclamation as written.”
A point made just prior to the introduction of the motion was the possibility of rewriting the proclamation. This was discussed by Greene and Councilor Geraldine Prociw, who was agreeable to the possibility of rewriting the proclamation.
But that decision was not formalized.
Henry then agreed to entertain a motion to consider the proclamation, as presented, which was given by Councilor Greene and seconded by Preisler. The motion was defeated on a 3-2 vote with Prociw and Councilor Woody Woodbury each entering a “no” vote.
Some confusion over what sounded to be profanity from an unmuted microphone during the latter stages of the proclamation discussions, and additional confusion regarding Greene’s request for passage of the motion to approve the proclamation, went unresolved.
Lastly, reports from City Commissions, Committees and Volunteer reports were made available to councilors in the informational packet provided, but no reports were made live.
All City council meetings are available for viewing on the city website. The next Florence City Council meeting is scheduled for Monday, Aug. 17, beginning at 5:30 p.m.