June 5, 2019 — The first of two Florence City Council Meetings scheduled this month took place on Monday, June 3, to a mostly empty room. The low public turnout for the meeting was unusual given the nature of the action items presented to the council by City Manager Erin Reynolds and her staff for consideration and approval.
Reynolds was asking councilors to approve the City of Florence’s Biennial Budget proposal of nearly $60 million in public expenditures over the next two years. The lack of community presence was a stark contrast to recent council meetings, which have included public debate between councilors and citizens over placement of public art; the issues decided at Monday’s meeting involved much larger amounts of money with more significant long-term ramifications for the city. Despite that, not one member of the public chose to question or offer comment.
Reynolds and recently hired City Administrative Services Director Anne Baker’s presentations followed City Special Projects Manager Megan Messmer’s update on the 2019 Community Block Party.
Messmer provided an overview of the City’s plans for the event scheduled for July 19, from 5:30 to 10 p.m., in the Historic Old Town District.
“We started last year with our block party to celebrate the 125th year of Florence being an incorporated community and that was a big hit. The theme for this year is a community block party, it’s basic but we are trying to invite people to Old Town to get to know your neighbors, bring your family, bring your friends and have a fun evening,” Messmer said. “Hopefully it will be a nice mid-summer party for our community.”
Messmer also said that Bay Street from the Siuslaw River Bridge to Laurel Street will be closed to traffic during the event.
The most important decision made by the council Monday was the acceptance and unanimous approval of the city’s biennium budget. The budget proposal was determined after an extensive process that included input from multiple committees and city staff.
Blake provided the final text and figures for councilors to consider and, with little discussion, the council unanimously approved Reynolds to enact the 2019-2020 City of Florence budget.
The nature of the other resolutions passed during the evening covered a wide scope of city related business — again without public comment. Resolutions included applying for an Oregon Department of Transportation grant, approving compensation insurance for city volunteers and approval to receive shared revenue from state sources. The total amount of state revenue estimated to be collected is expected to be approximately $2,163,400.
That number is only a small portion of the $58,764,700 in expenditures the council later unanimously approved to run the city for the next two years.
The next agenda item was a resolution to increase a number of fees charged by the city to residents for services provided. The fee increases were spread across a number of city services but were focused primarily on street, water, wastewater and stormwater charges.
There was again little discussion among councilors, with few questions asked and no members of the public speaking to the fee increase requests. Resolution No. 16, Series 2019, passed unanimously.
In addition, there were three action items presented to the council. The first was an authorization for Reynolds to pay vendors that provide recurring services to the city. These services include employee health benefit costs totaling more than $2.6 million, anticipated building inspection costs of $230,000 and $450,000 for utilities during the next two years. The total expected expenditure for these recurring services is estimated to cost the public $4,574,900 during the biennium.
The final major expenditure approved by the council was a request from Public Works Director Mike Miller for $498,964 to be used by his department for roadway rehabilitation. Miller asked the council to approve these expenditures for Chip and Fog Seal and MicroCoat treatments for various street segments undergoing maintenance upgrades.
The benefits of applying these additions to the basic asphalt used in street construction was shared with councilors who then approved Miller’s request.
Reynolds’ City Manager Report was brief but upbeat.
“We had an excellent Housing Code Project Open House at City Hall. … Well over 60 people attended — representing homeowners and people who live and operate in the community. That’s realtors, contractors, business owners and families,” Reynolds said. “It was really nice to share some of the things that we as staff, under your direction, are working on to address our housing code, which hasn’t been touched in about 30 years.”
The public comment period on the housing update will remain open until Friday, June 7, at 5 p.m. Take the survey online at www.surveymonkey.com/r/FlorenceHousingCode. For more information, visit ci.florence.or.us.
The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Monday, June 17.