Monmouth council votes yes on city utility fees

MONMOUTH — Two utility ordinances were enacted by the Monmouth City Council on Dec. 5.

One provides for full compensation to the city for use of public rights of way and installation and use of utility facilities in the rights of way. The other charges $200 for application for a utility license and $200 for amendment, renewal, or transfer of a utility license.

Both were approved on 5-1 votes, with Councilor Laurel Sharmer voting no on both. She said that city residents would be “getting a service they’re not paying for.”

Councilor Jon Carey noted that the Oregon Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of city utility fees and that many other cities are enacting similar ordinances.

Much of the meeting was taken up by Mayor Steve Milligan's presentations of years-of-service awards to the following city employees: Ed Alvarez, public works employee, 25 years; Darrell Tallan, police chief, 20 years; Wendie Hamm, court clerk, 15 years; Kelli Carpenter, police detective, 10 years; Scott McClure, city manager, 10 years; Mark Robertson, police officer, 10 years; Jon Steed, finance employee and recently acting finance director, 10 years; Michael Strack, police detective, 10 years; Billy Black, wastewater specialist, five years; and Mike Gregory, line foreman, five years.

During councilor’s reports and comments, Carey reported that the Monmouth-Independence Networks operating income had returned to springtime levels.

Councilor Thomas Steinke noted that the safety commission had proposed a street light at Highway 99W and Madrona Street to illuminate the crosswalk.

In a work session following the meeting, members of the Monmouth Engaged Committee urged making the city bicycle friendly by lighting intersections better, establishing walking trails on existing sidewalks, and working with Cycle Oregon to promote tourism. Committee members said wineries and breweries would help the city as well. Milligan mentioned clothing and sporting goods stores as ways to keep dollars in town.

Another group proposed making Gentle Woods Park an overnight park for cyclists whose route includes Monmouth. A spokesman noted that advance notice to the police department would be necessary. Council members commented that an ordinance permitting such a use for the park should have a trial period with a one-year sunset clause.

McClure suggested that the city find ways to cooperate with homeowners whose sidewalks need improvement. Steinke said that because maintenance of sidewalks is the responsibility of the homeowners, the city should limit itself to reminding the owners that the law requires them to keep sidewalks in repair.

The beekeeping issue came up again, with City Attorney Lane Shetterly saying the main concern should be preventing bees from becoming a nuisance. He added that Monmouth has an unenumerated nuisance ordinance, so it was up to the council to limit the number of hives if bees become a nuisance. There was disagreement as to what constitutes a hive, and Shetterly suggested that the council wait a few months for bee season to work on an ordinance.

After the work session, the council reconvened to go into executive session. Topics were labor negotiations, consideration of exempt public records and trade secrets, and performance evaluation of public officers and employees.

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