City council moves forward to find city manager on own terms

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

At its Sept. 13 meeting the City Council approved a resolution for the City of Lebanon to conduct its own city manager recruitment process.

Most often, municipalities hire a recruitment firm to locate and filter applicants for city manager positions, but this year Lebanon’s council decided to try the recruitment process by its own efforts.

City Attorney Tré Kennedy recommended the move as a way to have more control over the options, but also to expand its reach by advertising the position to skilled individuals who may not normally consider applying for the job, he said.

“Head hunting, to me, starts with a personal connection,” Kennedy said.

He gave a hypothetical scenario of a local banker who met another banker at a conference in perhaps another state and found that person to be knowledgeable, skilled and experienced in many facets pertinent to a city manager position. That banker becomes a possible candidate of interest and could be contacted to see if they’d be interested in applying for the position.

“How do we draw in those people that may have those connections that we can make that personal connection to try to maybe bring in somebody outside the box,” Kennedy said.

A good candidate for Lebanon’s city manager may be a retired military or corporate person, he went on.

“How do you find those people who aren’t really looking (for a city management job)? Through a personal connection,” he said.

The council approved a detailed advertisement for the position and a process that will allow for anonymity of the applicants until finalists are required to be revealed. The job description and application can be found at https://tinyurl.com/27u6476v.

Prior to its regular session, the council held its annual “Severe Rent Burden” meeting in a work session, per HB4006 which requires cities with populations over 10,000 with 25% or more of its population falling into a severe rent burdened category to discuss solutions to reducing severe rent burden.

Housing is considered “severely rent burdened” when a household spends more than 50% of its income on rent and utilities. Community Development Director Kelly Hart said currently about 25.3% of Lebanon’s renters fall into this category, but that number had dropped 10.5% since 2019 when 35.8% were in that category.

Hart said the biggest reason for the decline was an increase in development.

“We have had a significant increase of housing stock since 2019 that’s both for sale and rental housing,” she said. “You also had some industries that were increasing their salaries for their employees; that helps.”

Her research revealed fair market rent in Lebanon increased four percent in 2022-23. To be considered a renter in the “cost affordability” category, a renter would need an income of $52,000 for a one bedroom renting at $1,300, an income of $59,800 for a two bedroom renting at $1,495, or $79,800 for a three bedroom at $1,995.

Hart said rent prices are increasing faster than income rates and Lebanon has a higher senior population, which are two factors for rent burden. Other factors include low vacancy rates, not enough needed housing types, lack of affordable housing, and high cost of housing and housing type in the state and region.

Consequences of severe rent burden include housing insecurity and homelessness, frequent moving, need for social services, reduced ability to make healthy choices, little to no savings, and lower turnover in affordable home ownership developments.

One of the main barriers to reducing rent burden, she said, is that land is either not available, or is too expensive or not ready for development.

To see a full report, visit https://www.ci.lebanon.or.us/sites/default/files/agenda_packet_-_2023-09-13_optimized.pdf.

In other business, the council:

  • Heard from resident Cindy Peltner who shared about a positive experience she had at Portal Container Village in Bellingham, Wash. and thought it would be a good idea for Lebanon if grant funding was available to build it. The venue includes rotating retail shops, food vendors and beer gardens, as well as bike rentals and bike pump dirt tracks.
    “The concept of using the (metal shipping) containers as the vendor space keeps construction costs down and the shops secure while creating a fresh, urban, industrial-type vibe that would probably complement the Lebanon community well,” she said.
  • Heard from resident Kay Cortez who returned to talk about delivery trucks and school buses using residential streets and “ruining” the intersection where she lives. Mayor Ken Jackola said she’d have to approach the school district to inquire about school bus routes, and Engineering Services Director and Interim City Manager Ron Whitlatch said he isn’t aware of any laws that restrict trucks from residential streets.
    Cortez also asked the council to reconsider placing a four-way stop at 2nd and Mary streets. Councilor KJ Ullfers said a traffic study indicates no necessity of a four-way stop, but he did ask the council to reconsider the option from a safety standpoint given that trees along the street obstruct the view at the intersection. Whitlatch said the intersection does meet vision clearance, but admits it is a bit obstructed. The council agreed to make a motion to install a four-way stop at its next meeting.
  • Heard from Gamael Nassar who suggested the city require businesses to pay an annual license fee that would support safety services, resource connection, road maintenance, development planning and other services.
    “When businesses pay an annual license fee, it ensures that they’re contributing their fair share to the town’s upkeep which in turn enhances the overall appeal to tourists,” he said.
    He noted that people who own a business in Lebanon but don’t live in Lebanon are not contributing any money into the city because only residents pay taxes to Lebanon.
    Councilors said they believed the city used to require business licenses but dropped the program because it required too much work to maintain and it wasn’t enforceable.
  • Approved the Economic Opportunity Analysis, Housing Needs Analysis and Housing Production Strategy.
  • Tabled a discussion about system development charges on accessory dwelling units until the October meeting.
  • Updated a signed copy of authorized signers on the city’s bank account.
  • Awarded the Cheadle Lake Trail Extension Project to North Santiam Paving Company in the amount of $234,996 “pending resolution of all potential protests.”
    Whitlatch explained that a lower bid of $232,155 from Knife River was rejected because the company did not pull their documents from the city website and, therefore, was not put on the required plan holder’s list. Hearing that Knife River might submit a protest of the rejection, Whitlatch recommended the council award the project to North Santiam with the above-quoted motion.
  • Approved a motion to grant authority to Interim City Manager Ron Whitlatch to discipline or discharge City of Lebanon employees at his discretion and with consultation of the employee’s department head.
  • Appointed Jackola to act as Lebanon’s delegate for the voting process of the League of Oregon Cities.