Council approves raise for police officers

By Scott Swanson
Lebanon Local
Lebanon City Council members unanimously approved a new two-year contract with a 5% raise for the city’s police officers, at its monthly meeting Wednesday, Aug. 11.
“It took several meetings to get through, but we were able to get through it,” Chief Frank Stevenson told the council as he presented the contract, which was negotiated with the police officers union, represented by the Teamsters. He said the union members voted to ratify it on Aug. 4.
He noted that some rewording was done to clarify items such as administrative leave, disciplinary action and establishing paid lunch breaks for all employees.
The contract includes a 5% market adjustment for officers and sergeants through June 30, 2023, when it expires. It went into effect, retroactively, in July.
Base wages will be adjusted by a 2% cost of living adjustment for all bargaining members, with officers and sergeants receiving a 3% market adjustment.
Also, in the first year, full-time police officers assigned to the jail will move from 3% special duty pay to 5%, and the contract adds other special arrangements for specific skills and responsibilities.
Stevenson and Interim City Manager Nancy Brewer said the goal was to get Lebanon’s police officers’ pay up to what comparable-sized departments are paying.
Stevenson acknowledged that wages were “cautiously” increased, “which, obviously, will cause us to kind of look at the finances, moving forward, to be very cautious with the money in addition to maintaining what we have.”
Brewer said the new contract would increase the department’s salaries total by a little more than $200,000 this year over what was budgeted.
“We’re working on some alternatives to be able to do that within budget,” she said. “But it’s going to require some pretty careful management on the part of the Police Department.”
Stevenson said that, for the time being, an open, vacant position will be frozen “until we can kind of look at that overall picture and see where we can adjust.”
“I would say they deserve every damn penny,” Grizzle said. “What a horrible time to be a police officer. I commend all of our Lebanon officers. I was happy to see that, especially if it brings us more in line with where we need to be.”
Nassar agreed.
Stevenson said that he has an “outstanding” staff, noting that “over the last year and a half have been the most challenging years that I have faced, and I have been doing this for a little while.”
Aziz wanted to know how the retroactive provisions in the contract would affect the city’s budgeting.
Brewer said she recognized that the contract creates “a hard lift” for the department to manage.
She noted that the city is “not picking up that much in tax revenue” and the city would have to figure out how to pay the additional costs, which, she added, will continue to increase.
“At some point we’re going to have to sit down and have some discussion about our resources and uses,” she said.
Brewer said Finance Director Matt Apken is working on a five-year projection of city General Fund finances “so we can use that as a tool to sit down and talk about what our future looks like and what choices we can make or have to make to make sure we can be a viable operation into the future. That’s coming.”
Grizzle asked when the next PERS change occurs.
Brewer said it occurs in odd-numbered years, meaning it increased July 1 of this year. She said the PERS board has made some “tweaks,” including dropping the assumed rate from 7.2 to 6.8%.
“That will have a big impact, in terms of rate increases for that ’23 to ’25 biennium,” Brewer said, adding that “It’s been a good earnings year so far, and we will keep our fingers crossed that it continues to be a very good earnings year, because that will help us in the long run.”

Arts Commission Move
The council also approved moving the city Arts Commission to the umbrella of the Lebanon Downtown Association.
Kelly Hart, community development director, noted that the council, at its March meeting, directed staff to reach out to the LDA to determine whether the organization was interested in including the Arts Commission in its organization.
“That idea was accepted with very open arms by the Downtown Association, to say the least,” Hart said. “They were very excited about it.”
She said the two sides have met over the last two months to work out details regarding what role the city would play and what LDA would take over.
She said the LDA requested a one-time payment of $8,000 to do the work necessary to make the transition. Hart said the city has money budgeted that could be used for that purpose.
The deal would need to include a lease agreement for LDA to display art in Strawberry Plaza.
According to a staff report presented to the council, LDA would oversee the roles and responsibilities and membership of the commission, though the city would have a participatory, non-voting role as a liaison between the commission and city staff in determining permitting and city participation in events in public areas.
LDA would also take over the art board project in Strawberry Park, though the city would store the art board and paint them in preparation for exhibitions. LDA would solicit artists, approve proposals, approve design proposals and coordinate installations. It would have discretion over the sizes, number and types of art installations in the plaza.
It would take over the Temporary Sculpture program, which has been Quirky Turkey in recent years, and would be responsible for developing new programs, fundraising and use of any funds raised.
Mayor Paul Aziz said he supported the idea.
“This really goes along the line with our Vision process, where the vision was that this was to happen,” he said. “The vision was that this was to happen. The community wanted it to happen. The city took the ball on this one and now this group is probably the best to handle it.”
He likened it to the Museum Committee, in which the city got things rolling and the group eventually became a nonprofit organization.
“It’s a good thing and I really appreciate the LDA taking it on,” Aziz said. “And it really makes sense that they’re doing this.”
Councilor Gamael Nassar, who is a member of the LDA board, asked whether the $8,000 amount could be increased.
Hart said the council could do so, but it would require an adjustment to the city budget approved in June.
Aziz said he thought the amount was reasonable and that if more funds were needed in the future, that could be addressed.
Nassar also asked whether he should vote on the issue, given his association with LDA.
City Attorney Tre Kennedy said it would not be a conflict of interest if Nassar does not have a financial interest.
“The question of whether you have bias, only you can answer that,” he said, adding that councilors may not vote in such a situation due to concerns about the appearance of a conflict of interest.
“Only you can decide that.”
Councilor Michelle Steinhebel asked whether the city’s participation would require staff time.
Hart said city Arts Liaison Alysia Rodgers would continue to participate in the LDA in a non-voting, “advisory” role, to keep the city aware of any projects and enable staff to address any issues that arise.
“We’re only really there as a communication piece,” she said. “Alysia Rodgers has the capacity to take that on.”
Aziz, Steinhebel, and councilors Rebecca Grizzle, Wayne Rieskamp and Wayne Dykstra voted in favor. Jason Bolen was absent and Nassar abstained.
Aziz and councilors were outspoken in their support of the department, praising the National Night Out celebration and day-to-day operation.

In other action, the council:
♦ Voted to declare vacant Grizzle’s Ward 2 seat, after she announced at the council’s July meeting that she would be stepping down because she is moving outside the ward parameters. Interviews for her replacement are scheduled for the regular Sept. 8 and the new council member would be sworn in on Oct. 13, according to a staff report. The term will run through Dec. 31, 2024.
Aziz said the council has two applicants: David Workman and Ken “K.J.” Ulfers.
“You have two more meetings,” he told Grizzle.
“Then you’ll have no power over me,” she retorted, laughing.
n Brewer announced that the city would require the wearing of masks indoors in city facilities as of Friday, Aug. 13, following Gov. Kate Brown’s announcement earlier in the day.
“We are excited about it, like everybody else, but we would like to see a stop to case counts, case spread,” she said.
♦ Approved amendments to the city’s fee schedule.
Apken said that the state requires the city to provide opportunity each year and that city staff had several recommendations for cleaning up the schedule.
The expungement filing fee for Municipal Court has been raised by the state, so the council approved raising it to $281, from $52.
A rental fee of $50 for the new large shelter at Century Park, and a $20 fee, to cover the cost of city staff going to parks to turn electricity on and off for rentals, was added to the fee schedule.
A $75 temporary use fee charged by the Community Development and Planning Department was missed on the city schedule last year. It was added.
LINX Transit fees have been broken out from the Senior Center fees and the council approved adding a line for students to ride free of charge. Seniors (60 and older) and disabled people can ride LINX one-way for $1. The charge for other members of the public is $2.
♦ Approved a $341,259.08 contract to have RJ Armstrong & Associates, which is contractor for the River Road reconstruction project, to complete an extension of Primrose Street, which has been on the shelf for more than 20 years.
Engineering Services Director Ron Whitlach told the council the city entered into a roadway improvement agreement in April of 2000 with Cedar Green, a company operating the small retail center and Taco Bell site on the east side of Airport Road, north of Main Street.
The agreement indicated that the city was forming a new urban renewal district for Cheadle Lake and the Primrose extension from Airport Road to the southern property line associated with the development would be paid for by the Urban Renewal District.
“That never happened,” Whitlach said. Due to the slow progress of URD Funds, the street section was never built.
In May of this year, the city Planning Commission approved a commercial development for Western Sky Holdings to construct a brewery and food pod court directly to the east of the retail center. The extension of Primrose Street will separate the two properties and be utilized by both for access, according to a staff report.
As a condition of development, the applicant is responsible for installation of a half street improvement (Primrose, from Airport to the south property line). Planning conditions also stipulate that the applicant pay its portion of the half street, drainages, and sidewalks to the city, and in turn, the city will complete the construction of the entire extension. n Approved a public utility easement is for the Westside Interceptor Project. City staff negotiated with the property owner to provide $5,000 in consideration for the easement crossing their property at 786 Vaughan Lane. Staff also agreed to provide a sewer stub for future connection to city sewer along with payment of the sewer System Development Charge at the time of connection.
♦ Approved a utilities easement and right-of-way for a sidewalk for the River Road Reconstruction Project. City staff negotiated with the property owner to provide the real market value of $878.28 in consideration for the right-of-way dedication at 1925 River Road.
♦ Approved a full on-premises liquor license for Seeds Italian Bistro, 1112 S. Main St.
♦ Also, the council held a work session held prior to the City Council meeting involved an explanation by Galardi Rothstein Group, an economic and financial consultant, about an updated methodology for the transportation system plan based off the new transportation system plan in 2018 for system development charges (SDCs).
A committee formed of city council members, contractors and a realtor worked on the updated plan for more than a year.
The city is currently using a 2007 methodology and project list that charges $1,984 for transportation (streets). The updated methodology and project list will charge $6,173.
“It is a sizable increase, since you haven’t modified the SDCs in quite a while,” Galardi noted.
A lot of the charges depend on how many projects are included in the methodology, said Ron Whitlatch, engineering services director.
“I think we were fairly conservative in the projects we picked for transportation,” he said. “We picked projects that we think are very likely to happen.”
The committee recommended a phase-in of the increased charges over two years, Galardi said.
Based on a 2019 survey, the current charges put Lebanon on the very low end of the scale in comparison to other cities throughout Oregon. The updated charges put Lebanon in the middle.
However, Galardi noted, most cities update their charges every year based on inflation, so the survey is somewhat outdated.
SDCs, also known as traffic impact fees, are a one-time charge to new development, and sometimes redevelopment. Developers usually pay the fee. The revenue is used to maintain and improve the transportation network throughout the jurisdiction that is charging the fee.