Council opts to purchase, not lease, new cruisers

The Lebanon City Council on Wednesday, Aug. 8, approved funding to purchase two new police cars under the long-term intent to cease the leasing of patrol vehicles for the city.

Finance Director Matt Apken told the council the city has been leasing its police fleet, using the vehicles for three or four years and then returning them. More recently, the city leased-to-own vehicles for four to five years.

“It came to my attention we were paying 7.5 percent in interest,” Apken said. That would add up to $7,200 for the two new police cars, which will be used by detectives.

The city set aside $22,000 in the 2018-19 budget to lease the two vehicles, Apken said. By purchasing the vehicles outright, the city will pay $65,000.

To purchase the vehicles, the council voted to transfer $43,000 from the city’s working contingency fund.

This move should put the city on a cycle that does not include leasing vehicles, Apken said.

It’s a bigger up-front cost, said City Manager Gary Marks, but it will save the city the cost of interest.

Apken said the city replaces a different number of patrol cars annually. One year it may be one car, while another year it may be three.

Police Capt. Greg Burroughs told the council that the city will get more mileage out of purchased vehicles, reaching 80,000 to 95,000 over about seven years rather than returning them with lower mileage.

Present at the meeting were Mayor Paul Aziz, Council President Bob Elliott and councilors Jason Bolen, Robert Furlow, Rebecca Grizzle and Wayne Rieskamp.

In other business, the council:

n Following a public hearing, adopted an ordinance changing slightly the way multi-family housing projects are approved.

To meet new state regulations intended to address the need for affordable housing, the city needed to change the time the city takes to review applications from 120 days to 100 days for qualified projects, which are those with more than five units where at least 50 percent are designated affordable housing for a period of 60 years.

Community Development Director Walt Wendolowski told the council it wouldn’t affect Lebanon, which completes most reviews in less than 45 days. Reviews involving the Planning Commission and the City Council may take up to 75 days.

The second change is a requirement for cities to use “clear and objective” standards for all “needed housing” projects, Wendolowski said. Projects with 19 or fewer units are approved based on objective standards, like height limitations, density and parking, by staff.

Projects with 20 or more units go through a conditional use process at the Planning Commission level.

The only difference in approving a conditional use is a project’s compatibility with the neighborhood, Wendolowski said. Under the new ordinance, the Planning Commission will consider only objective standards not compatibility.

Compatibility is subjective, he pointed out, noting that a couple of planning commissioners rolled their eyes during discussions of the new regulations and told stories of Planning Commission discussions about compatibility continuing as late as 1 a.m.

The council also changed the way projects in mixed use zones are approved. Previously, all of them were approved at staff level. The new ordinance matches the process in other zones.

n Agreed to pay $10,000 toward to Partners in Progress doing business as the Lebanon Downtown Association to support the part-time manager position. This is the third year the city has contributed.

n Following a public hearing, altered several city fees and eliminated some from the city’s fee schedule that are no longer in use.

Among them, Strawberry Plaza may now be rented for partial days for $30. It also may be rented all day for $60. Previously, it was rented out only for a full day at $75.

n Approved easements for public access and drainage for the West River Trail Project on River Road near the Mountain River Drive area.