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Lebanon Police gives weekend pass to inmates

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local

City Manager Nancy Brewer announced at the July 13 City Council meeting that the Lebanon Police Department will be giving inmates a weekend pass due to staff shortages.

Inmates will be released on Thursday evening and are expected to return on Monday. Doing so will allow the two officers on duty during the weekend to continue patrolling the streets without interference, Brewer said. If the inmates don’t return, she expects the LPD will work with a judge to issue a warrant.

“I’m hopeful people will do the right thing and come back,” Police Chief Frank Stevenson told a Lebanon Local reporter, “because they’re gonna get an additional crime of fail-to-appear if they don’t, so it would make sense for them to come back.”

Officers have to check on the inmates every hour on the hour, he said. But it’s more than a quick check. Often the inmates need something, plus they need meals and meal cleanups.

“When we are so short-staffed, it pulls an officer off the street to come to the jail and then we’re even more short-staffed on the street if something happens,” Brewer said.

Stevenson said his team of “dedicated officers” have been working hard.

“Even though they’re tired and frustrated running very, very short-staffed, they’re still out there doing everything they can to maintain the peace and safety of the community,” he said. “They’re doing a great job.”

The new policy began Thursday, July 14, and will continue every weekend until they have enough staff to do jail-checks, Stevenson said. The City also suspended its contracts with Linn County and City of Albany which ensured beds would be available for the two entities.

“I believe that will definitely assist my patrol staff on the weekends when they’re running a two-man team which is extremely taxing for them to not only maintain the city’s safety but also come in and make sure that the housed individuals are being taken care of,” he said.

Brewer also noted that most calls require a two-officer response to, for example, split up a domestic or a fight.

“So it’s an important step, I think, for us to take for officer safety and just from a workload perspective,” she said.

Councilor Michelle Steinhebel asked for clarification on what would happen with suspects who commit a serious crime during the weekend, and Stevenson assured they would be housed at Linn County Jail.

The LPD currently has 14 officers on staff dedicated to patrol, and need six more to be fully-staffed, Stevenson said. New hires are guaranteed a $6,500 sign-on bonus. Stevenson’s most recent hire will begin July 26, and the department is in the process of interviewing six other candidates.

“I’m really hopeful,” he said. “It looks like a really good candidate pool that were coming through.”

In other business,

♦ The City Council approved a motion to place a measure on the general election ballot asking residents whether the City should place a moratorium on the development of an ordinance that would either prohibit or allow psilocybin facilities in Lebanon.

Oregon voted in favor of Measure 109 in 2020 allowing the “manufacture, delivery and administration” of psilocybin, a naturally occurring psychedelic drug. The Oregon Health Authority is managing the regulations and issuing licenses for the drug. Statewide, the measure passed with 55.75 percent of the votes; Linn County voters voted 55.26 percent against it, while Lebanon voters voted 51.71 percent against.

The law allows cities to adopt an ordinance that either prohibits or allows the manufacture and/or sale of psilocybin within City limits through a vote in the general election. City Councilors had to choose whether to do nothing regarding the law (which defaults the City to follow state law regarding psilocybin facilities), place a two-year moratorium on the matter (giving the OHA time to complete its regulations framework and time for the City to consider the matter further), or prohibit psilocybin facilities in the City. The latter two options require a city vote;

♦ Mayor Paul Aziz appointed Rebecca Grizzle to the City Budget Committee, appointed Karisten Baxter to the Planning Commission, and reassigned commissioners Lori Gerig-Knurowski and Kristina Breshears;

♦ The council adopted a new City Cybersecurity Policy to require multi-factor authentication of user accounts, phishing training for all users of City email accounts, enhanced offsite encrypted backups and annual tabletop drills;

♦ The council awarded the Lupine Neighborhood Sanitary Sewer Rehabilitation Project to Emery & Sons Construction Group, LLC for $1,520,528. The base bid is about $8,000 higher than city staff budgeted for, so staff recommended using contingencies within the Wastewater Fund to complete the much-needed project;

♦ Appointed Councilor Kim Ullfers to an advisory committee to provide guidance and review data analysis of the Economic Opportunity Analysis. The City was awarded a $55,000 grant in 2021 from the Department of Land Conservation and Development for the development of an EOA, and ECONorthwest was chosen as its consultant;

♦ Approved a resolution accepting the Lebanon Housing Needs Analysis. The City received a grant in 2018 from the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development to complete the HNA which evaluates housing demand and land needs policies to meet state and local objectives over the next 20 years.

Community Director Kelly Hart said the HNA identified the City has a surplus of 240 acres of land for low-density residential development, 63 acres for high-density, nine acres for mixed-use and nine acres for medium-density. The City needs a surplus of 298 acres for the overall anticipated development, which means the City is doing good and won’t need to re-zone or change any development codes to intensify housing development. The HNA also identified a housing need of 1,320 single family homes, 643 town home or duplexes, and 540 high-density apartment units over the next 20-year-cycle.

“There’s nothing in the Housing Needs Analysis that says the City is responsible for that development to occur,” Hart said. “It’s just saying based off of our population trends, we are to expect this amount of housing to be able to accommodate our anticipated population increases and that we have the land to be able to do it;”

♦ Approved a resolution accepting a $60,000 Oregon Business Development Department Brownfield Redevelopment Fund grant, which will be used to help fund an environmental assessment for property within the city;

♦ Approved a resolution amending Resolution 2022-16, updating the amounts to certify the taxes for fiscal year 2022 with delinquent sewer charges of $16,992.94 and storm drain charges of $4,308.29;

♦ Accepted a $2.6 million grant from the State for accessibility improvements at Cheadle Lake Park;

♦ City Manager Nancy Brewer announced the city has hired Brandon Neish for the position of finance director.