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Roseburg City Council wrap-up: City Manager hiring process delayed, additional funding for mental health college

May 14, 2019

At its regular meeting Monday, Roseburg City Council decided to suspend its city manager hiring process until July 8.

The decision comes after city’s final candidate for the position, Paul Eckert, withdrew from the hiring process two weeks ago after the city completed a reference check and background investigation. City officials declined to explain Eckert’s reason for withdrawing.

Mayor Larry Rich previously said the delay would give Public Works Director and interim City Manager Nikki Messenger a taste of the job — in case she wants to be considered for the position.

City Councilor Ashley Hicks was the only no vote on the motion.

“It took a long time to get to this point, considering (former City Manager Lance Colley) announced his retirement almost a year ago, and I’d just hate for us to waste any more time,” Hicks said.

At the meeting, the City Council also entered into a memorandum of understanding to provide additional funding for a proposed allied and mental health college in Roseburg.

Councilors agreed to loan up to $10 million to help establish the college as part of the memorandum with Oregonians for Rural Health.

The city has been working with ORH and several other local groups, including the Umpqua Economic Development Partnership, for years to try to bring the college to Roseburg. This year, George Fox University has agreed to provide the academic and administrative structure of the college.

At the suggestion of the Oregon State Legislature, ORH recently requested the city play a bigger role in the project.

ORH is trying to obtain between $15-20 million in funding from the legislature by the end of its current session. Legislators want a governmental entity to lead the construction of the college, which will cost about $30 million, according to Phillip Scheuers, a lobbyist with Pac/West Communications who addressed the city council. Scheuers has been working with ORH to secure funding for the college.

The city would apply for a special public works fund loan or other funding mechanism to finance the $10 million, according to city documents. City funding would be contingent upon state funding and the creation of a long-term building lease with George Fox University.

Since 2013, the city has contributed $70,000 to help develop the project, including two economic feasibility studies. One study by ECONorthwest will be completed by the end of May, Scheuers said.

In April, the city agreed to support the project with at least $400,000 in abated systems development charges for the construction of the college.

Scheuers said the city’s loan will be repaid by George Fox University when the college becomes profitable. The preliminary results from the economic feasibility study show the college will be profitable in 2024, he said.

The City Council also had a first reading of an ordinance that would allow the Roseburg Police Department to dispose of guns turned over by owners who no longer want them.

People turn over firearms to the police for many reasons, including “when they were utilized in a suicide, a spouse or other family member dies and the surviving relative no longer wants the firearms, or the firearms are unsafe due to neglect or disrepair,” Klopfenstein told councilors.

City code currently requires the department to give public notice and auction off surrendered firearms, but officers are opposed to auctioning guns that are turned over voluntarily.

The department already uses Covanta Energy, a waste management company, to destroy guns forfeited by the courts. The ordinance would allow the department to use the same procedure for voluntarily surrendered guns.

The City Council also approved construction contracts for the third phase of downtown street lighting improvements project and the Stewart Parkway pavement rehabilitation project.

The street lighting project would replace three poles and lighting fixtures at the city’s public parking lot on Rose Street between Lane Avenue and Cass Avenue and update several more fixtures with LED lights.

The project is estimated to cost $500,962. The city awarded the contract to Sims Electric, Inc., the lowest bidder, for $424,072. The funds are currently budgeted from the urban renewal budget, and additional costs would come from the sidewalk/streetlight fund.

The pavement rehabilitation project would repave about 2,600 lineal feet on Northwest Stewart Parkway between Northwest Edenbower Boulevard and Northwest Aviation Drive.

A 2015 pavement condition study showed the roadway was in need of repaving. The project will also include the replacement of a damaged storm drainage line and six sidewalk access ramps to meet current Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

The project is estimated to cost $695,988. The city awarded the contract to Knife River Materials, the lowest bidder, for $564,535. The funds are currently budgeted from the urban renewal budget, and additional costs would come from the transportation fund.

The City Council also voted to transfer the deed of the Chatham House on Northeast Malheur Avenue to the Battered Persons Advocacy.

In the early 1990s, the city was awarded a grant to create four single-family dwelling units on the property to be used as low-income housing through the Battered Persons Advocacy. The group has provided safe shelter for survivors of violence and their families, and specific services addressing the physical and emotional needs of those residents, according to city documents.

The advocacy group has met all the terms of the agreement for the 25-year grant, which recently expired. As part of the agreement, the deed will now be transferred to the Battered Person’s Advocacy.