Florence City Council holds mid-October meeting

Updated on new pickleball courts, complaints on downtown, housing solutions

Nov. 2, 2022 — The Florence City Council approved the acceptance of a significant grant for improvements to Rolling Dunes Park during a public meeting on Monday, Oct. 17. The park project, which includes new pickleball courts, new restroom facilities, and ADA accessibility, was one of many topics discussed during the meeting, which included updates on hybrid and electric cars for the city’s fleet, complaints about RVs in Old Town, and new ideas on housing.

Public Works Director Mike Miller described the current amenities of Rolling Dunes, which is located on 35th Street and Siano Loop.

“The existing amenities at the park consist of tennis courts, which also can accommodate up to six pickleball courts,” Miller said. “We have the community gardens … and then we have a picnic, shelter and restroom area. A horseshoe pit, and then of course the tsunami siren is located at that park.”

Initially, the city had planned improvements to the park such as an expansion of the tennis area to include dedicated pickleball courts, a resurfacing of the entire court, and improvements in the parking lot and ADA accessibility to the courts themselves.

Florence applied for a $100,000 grant through the Oregon Parks Recreation Department (OPRD) for the Land and Water Conservation Fund Grant. But when OPRD toured the site, they suggested doing more.

“They said, ‘Gosh, we have a little extra money. Would you be interested in expanding the project to include new restrooms and a new picnic shelter?’” Miller recalled.

Using grant funds, the current restroom would be demolished, replaced by “about 10 new restroom facilities,” according to Miller, while the new concrete picnic tables would be similar to those used in Exploding Whale Memorial Park.

The total cost of the project would be $303,000 — $151,500 of which would be covered by the grant.

“Because it’s a 50/50 split, the city will need to provide $151,000 towards the project,” Miller said, stating that the remainder was part of the city budget.

The council voted unanimously to accept the full grant.

Later in the meeting, Miller gave an update on the city’s progress on purchasing hybrid and electric vehicles for the city’s fleet.

“We’ve placed orders for a number of vehicles for our fleet over the last year,” Miller said, pointing out that in 2021, an order was placed for an Interceptor hybrid for the Police Department. But “due to supply chain issues and the shortage of microchips, that vehicle has not even gone into production yet. But working with our local Ford dealership, as well as myself submitting a letter on behalf of the city to Ford Motor Company, that vehicle is now scheduled to go to production in November of this year.”

In total, Miller reported seven new vehicles have been ordered: one fully electric, and the others hybrid.

“We were pleasantly surprised to have a brand new Ford Escape gas hybrid show up last week,” he said. “It can operate under fully electric mode and has about a 40 mile an hour range, and also a hybrid mose, so it has about a 480 mile and hour range.”

The council meeting itself began with a host employee recognition. Following the recognitions, a proclamation by Mayor Joe Henry pronounced Oct. 19 as “Support Your Local Chamber of Commerce Day,” encouraging “all businesses, nonprofits and citizens to learn of, and take advantage of, the resources available from the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce.’”

Standing with Henry was Chamber CEO/President Bettina Hannigan, Director of Tourism and Events Mitzy Hathaway and past and present board members.

The proclamation was followed by public remarks, which began with John Raleigh, co-owner of the Edwin K. Bed and Breakfast, who purchased the property two years prior after moving from Eugene.

“We have invested a lot into it, and Bay Street and downtown was kind of what drove us here,” he said. “In the last two years, we've seen a gradual change in that area of town and probably other areas of Florence too.”

In verbal and written comments to the council, Raleigh described a “deterioration in street camping, garbage, vandalism, theft” and sewage on the street left from RVs, who can park in the streets for days.

“The city code is way too lenient,” he said. “I think our transit campers know the city code better than most of us in this room. They know where to move. They know how to do it. Our city code enforcement officer, he doesn't have any legs to stand on. He just gives him a citation.”

Raleigh stated that elected leaders, businesses and individuals need to find solutions, as customers are beginning to complain.

“This is starting to look like Eugene and Portland. Not a lot, but a little, and it will continue to creep,” he said. “We have elderly neighbors in our community that live in the condos, who are sometimes afraid to walk up and down the street now.”

He closed by saying that he was willing to help with any solutions.

“I know that a lot of you might not see it every day. We live in it every day and it does change the community” he said. “Florence is built on tourism. … A lot of those millions of dollars that are spent here will go away.”

Michael Allen spoke to the council next, updating them on his petition to commit the city “to addressing our global climate emergency.” He encouraged the council to consider collaborating on a partnership between the city, Lane County and the Green City Partnership Network, whose mission is to “advance healthy natural open space in urban areas, and to empower people to be agents of change in their community.”

Finally, Public Art Committee members Maggie Bagon and Jo Beaudreau used their time to give an update on the Art Exposed exhibit.

City Administrative Services Director Anne Baker presented a pair of policies for the council to vote on, the first of which was Resolution No. 32, Series 2022, adopting the City of Florence’s internal control policy.

“Part of the city's responsibility is to provide assurance that its assets and public funds are kept secure. The city is committed to preventing loss from things such as fraud, employee error and rash actions of its employees and officers. The importance of an internal control policy is it sets the tone at the top with support of safeguarding the city’s assets, and it helps departments create appropriate procedures to keep the assets.”

In a follow up with Siuslaw News, city staff stated that internal control concepts are not new for the city, and there have been no issues of fraud or other errors when it comes to assets and public funds — “We do include internal controls in our processes and touch on them in our general financial policies outlined in the budget document.”

However, this would be the first time the city would have a specific policy addressing the issue.

“Looking forward, the policy may be of help if departments have staffing challenges where current processes are not able to be completed as designed due to limited capacity,” the staff member said. “This policy will help navigate the need for control over assets along with getting tasks completed timely and accurately.”

Resolution No. 33, Series 2022, which would adopt an Allowable Costs policy, dealing with receiving federal grants, was also presented to the council by Baker.

“The city received $2,048,000 in federal funds during the 2021/2022 fiscal year,” she said. “Grants, especially federal, have restrictions as to what can be done with the funding even within approved projects.”

Adopting federally recommended regulations on grant guidance would provide guidance to the city when “the grant itself does not specify what is or isn’t allowable, “Baker continued.

The council voted unanimously to approve both policies.

Later in the meeting, Baker reviewed quarterly financial statements for the city, reporting that expenditures for the city are under budget. Property taxes have shown consistent growth, and taxes collected have exceeded budget estimates the last four out of five years. Public Works comprised 40.8 percent of the quarters budget, the largest portion of which was dedicated to the Ninth Street rehabilitation project, which was completed.

Finally, members of the council who attended the League of Oregon Cities conference in Bend shared some of their experiences at some of the meetings and presentations.

“I came back with just a plethora of ideas where we as council going forward can be even more engaged in our community,” Councilor Sally Wantz said. “One question that came up, which I thought was interesting, is, should we have standing committees or should we focus on focus groups? I hadn't heard that as an option. So something we might want to consider as a city.”

She also mentioned that Oregon City, which newly elected a 22-year-old mayor, is in the final

stages of adopting a Youth Commission policy to attract younger populations to get involved with City politics.

The council also toured several homeless shelter developments and projects.

“Very intriguing, very interesting,” Wantz said. “Doable. The next day we toured affordable housing options. We went to see four of those — really incredible affordable housing.”

One project included a medical facility on the ground floor, and apartments up top.

Councilor Bill Meyer said he concentrated on presentations on affordable housing and issues related to the unhoused.

“There was a St. Vinny’s program … that was a very successful program, but it was also highly structured,” he said. “It's kind of a boutique solution. The one that we looked at had maybe 10 or 15 housing units, which amounts to a miniature standalone apartment.”

He also toured a project for veterans, which he also called a successful program.

“You don't get to just come in there and be irresponsible if you're going to take part in the program responsibilities that were imposed on you,” said Meyer.

Henry described a meeting he attend on the Deschutes Basin Water Collaborative, which he said he was “enthralled” with, as well as a discussion on the “crisis of misinformation.”

“I gotta tell you folks, we have the problem in our community,” he said, laying blame on some local media and online posts, though he did not specifically state what he felt was an issue.

“One of their biggest problems that they described was what they call trolls,” he said. “Now we have some of those in our community, unfortunately. So that’s really all I had to contribute.”

For more information, visit ci.florence.or.us.