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Councilors discuss pay issues, fluoride

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

Much discussion among city councilors at their April 12 meeting centered around fluoridation of the city’s water supply and a new payroll system for city employees.

The city switched its payroll system to ADP which requires employees to use a machine to clock in and out. Prior to this, employees were handwriting their shift hours.
“Part of this was driven by some court cases that have come out – state rules from the Department of Labor, for example – and been very clear that the employer is responsible for employees’ time and time-reporting,” City Manager Nancy Brewer said.
Court cases have involved employees who took shorter lunches than mandated and a large corporation that rounded employees’ timecards to the hour if they were within eight minutes early or late, she said. The state law is that employees must be paid for every single minute they’re working.
The timecard machine will ensure employees are being paid for every single minute they’re “on the clock.”
Councilor KJ Ullfers asked how that affects employees such as Lebanon police, who may end up working several hours past their scheduled shift due to incidents they must report, or arrive to work early to get their gear ready.
Police Capt. Kim Hyde explained they may arrive five or 10 minutes early to go over briefing and other preparatory procedures, in which case they are getting paid for that time.
Ullfers asked how all that incurred overtime is affecting the budget.
“It’s not happy,” Brewer said.
Overtime might also be accrued at the wastewater treatment plant if an employee is called back in to work after a shift to assist in an emergency, she said.
Based on a labor agreement, if an employee is called in to work, but only works as little as 15 minutes, the employer is required to pay them for two hours.
“My concern is that I don’t want to end up hamstringing the folks, like the police, with time constraints,” Ullfers said. “At the same time, I also don’t want to necessarily blow up the budget with overtime.”
He said he’d like to check out how the new system is working after about six months.

Councilor Dave Workman brought the topic of water fluoridation to the table following a resident’s concern at last month’s meeting and follow-up research he conducted on the matter.
Also, local dentist Adam Kirkpatrick sent the council more than 200 pages supporting his reasons for preferring fluoride in the water (these can be found in the meeting’s agenda packet online).
“I don’t have a strong feeling one way or another about this, but somebody expressed it and obviously somebody has a pretty strong feeling the other way since they gave us 208 pages of sales brochure on it,” Workman said. “There were topics in there that said how to fight an opponent of fluoridization.”
He said he learned it costs the city about $45,000 every year to add fluoride to the water, and that it’s the most toxic, caustic chemical the water treatment plant employees are exposed to. He provided some numbers regarding fluoride across the states, though his report didn’t compare to the numerous pages provided by Kirkpatrick.
“If I have a headache, I don’t ask you to put Aspirin in the water,” he said. “At some level, the actual benefit of it should be weighed.”
It is a matter Workman believes should just be discussed further among councilors, particularly because he wants the residents to have more say and more opportunity to vote on such matters, he said.
Councilor Michelle Steinhebel said she believes fluoride should be in the water and noted the 208 pages are peer-reviewed, scholarly articles from the American Dental Association and other scientists.
“There’s also information from the Linus Pauling Institute in Oregon that has conflicting information to that and doesn’t have a financial interest in supplying us fluoride,” Workman said.
City Attorney Tré Kennedy said he found several references in past City records that adding fluoride to the city’s water was voted on by the people, but he couldn’t find records to verify that. Instead he found records indicating a presentation was made to the council in 1999 asking for fluoride to be added to the water, which was followed up in a subsequent meeting with a public hearing and vote by council to direct the city staff to add the fluoride, which began in 2001.
Kennedy said there are three options for addressing the concerns: residents can petition to place a vote on the ballot, the council could vote to put it on the ballot or the council could vote to remove fluoride from the city water.
A petition to place the matter on a ballot was started a year ago and those who are circulating the petition have one more year to file it, City Recorder Kim Schaeffer said.
“I don’t understand the harm (to put it) on the ballot. There are issues that the people should decide,” Workman said. “I want to do what our town wants us to do.”
Councilor Jeremy Salvage added that he, too, did some research on the matter and found that support for either side of the controversy can be found. He did, however, note that research from major universities, such as Harvard and Stanford, were generally in support of fluoridated water, he said.
Salvage said he was agreeable to discussing the matter further at a later date. Kennedy added that the topic was discussed in 2016 when Council had to decide whether to pay for the installation of a fluoridation system in the new water treatment plant. Brewer said the matter may likely be placed on the agenda for further discussion in a couple months, perhaps in July.

In other business, the council repealed and replaced Lebanon’s municipal code chapters 12.12 Parks and Public Places, and 12.14 Park Hours and Park Closure. The changes are a response to two Federal Court decisions (Martin v. Boise and Blake v. Grants Pass) and new requirements by the Oregon Legislature which prevent municipalities from imposing unfair, cruel and unusual punishment upon a person experiencing homelessness.
Specifically, Lebanon Police cannot fine a person for sleeping on public property if there is no alternate shelter available. The code changes allow the City of Lebanon to “balance civil liberty and public safety” by maintaining its public areas responsibly while also providing designated sleeping areas that would allow homeless individuals an alternate place to sleep during the night.
A “designated sleeping area” in Lebanon has not yet been solidified, but two sites are under discussion. A third site, owned by Linn County, is also under consideration, and talks between the city and county regarding that site are under way.

Operating as the Lebanon Urban Renewal Agency, the council approved a resolution amending the North Gateway Urban Renewal Plan to add a right of way, and a project providing improvements and a traffic signal at Fifth Street.
The project, estimated to cost $4,350,000 and begin in 2025, will be on Fifth Street from Mary Street south of Tangent Street. It will replace all city utilities, failed roadway, curb and gutter, sidewalks and railroad crossings.
In Community Development Director Kelly’s Hart report on the matter, a substantial increase in vehicular traffic associated with the ongoing development within that URD is a main contributor to the failed roadway. The project includes the installation of a traffic signal at Fifth and Tangent streets, an intersection that sees heavy traffic for area schools, businesses and facilities.
The agency also accepted an addendum to an economic development agreement with Larry and Nikki Spires to extend their timeline of completion one year for the development of Mill Race Station and address issues regarding partial transfer of ownership.

Coucil members also:
♦ Heard a report by Brewer regarding efforts through the Linn County Multi-agency Coordination Center (MACC) to get access to state funds for homeless services. Linn County declared a state of emergency of homelessness, which gives them access to those funds, but those funds must be spent by January 2024 and there are exclusions as to what they can be spent on.
Those limits include such stipulations that it must be spent on a new project, but not for building things or creating a brand new shelter, not for ongoing operating costs and other limits that will be “challenging” to meet in such a short timeline, Brewer said, particularly considering supply chain issues many cities are facing;
♦ Held a final public hearing for Linn County Housing Rehabilitation Program (LCHRP), which administers a housing rehabilitation program serving Lebanon and surrounding communities. Part of the administration of the program is sponsoring and obtaining community development block grants to fund a portion of the housing rehabilitation program. The City of Lebanon has been the applicant and fiscal agent for the LCHRP Community Development Block Grant funding for the 2020 cycle.
DevNW, subcontractor in charge of managing the program and projects, presented a report summarizing the work that was completed through the program;
♦ Approved the annexation of 3.92 acres on the east side of Hansard Avenue, south of Reeves Parkway;
♦ Heard a report by Chamber of Commerce Tourism and renewed a contract with the Chamber to provide tourism services to the community and its visitors. By request from the Chamber, the City agreed to allow the visitor center to be closed on Saturdays except during special events;
♦ Discussed the renewal of contracts with City Attorney Tré Kennedy (through Morley Thomas Law LLC) and Municipal Court Judge Gerald D. Waite;
♦ Heard a presentation by Santiam Excursion Trains.