Council Feb 22, 2019
Mayor Holston opened the meeting with the pledge of allegiance, roll call, and a packed agenda.
Councilor Don Hadley was not in attendance because of illness. Councilor Hadley expressed through friends that he very much wants to be in attendance to serve the City of Oakridge and is sad that the state of his health will not permit him to do so at this meeting.
Dawn Kinyon, Oakridge resident requested that a budget that will support the Oakridge Fire Department be drawn up at this time. She told the group that she had visited Don Hadley in hospital, of his passionate dedication to the City even in his illness, and, that in spite of Don’s past difficulties over-reacting and, his sometimes-argumentative stance, that she recognizes his perseverance and has much respect for him for fighting his fight for Oakridge.
Renae Edmonds, Oakridge resident and Volunteer, told Council that she believes there may be a grey area with the IRS in determining whether Fire Chief Hansen is an employee or private contractor. If it is ruled he is an employee, the City will owe three- and one-half yrs. PERS.
In public comment, Dan Barclay, Oakridge resident, addressed Council reminding them that they, as a Council, have inherited “crap” not created by them, but up to them to deal with.
He applauded them for being willing to stand for election to resolve ongoing conflicts with Staff, Departments, Contracts and Budget. Dan spoke of Councilor Hadley’s absence and his passion and interest in City Government for many years in spite of the difficulty Hadley had at times, dealing with others on the subject.
Mayor Holston, in her remarks cited many of the good things that are happening the City with events, selling lots at OIP, new business arriving, Tree Planting Festival, working with school Superintendent, The Booster Club, a test Well for healthy drinking water, the scheduled hunt for a new City Administrator, and great Volunteers to lend a hand. Holston suggested the City allow Chief Hansen’s contract to expire and replace him with a hired Fire Chief. She does not believe there has been any violation of PERS, however the new Legal Firm when on board will
review the issue.
A vacancy on City Council was created by Mayor Holston’s election. That vacancy was filled by Councilors vote for Trisha Maxfield. Resident and former Military person, Maxfield, was sworn in and welcomed to take her seat. She will be assigned to the Administrative Committee.
Dawn Kinyon, Oakridge resident., was appointed to the Council’s Administrative Committee. Dawn has served in many capacities in the community and City Government.
There are four three-year vacancies on the Budget Committee. Three were filled by appointment of Kevin Gobelman, Oakridge resident and former Council member, Dawn Kinyon, resident and former Council member, and Teresa Freborg, Oakridge resident, former Oakridge Planning Commission member, and retired banker.
Gary Carl, Oakridge resident and former Oakridge City Councilor was appointed to the Oakridge Economic Development Advisory Committee.
James Cleavenger, Oakridge resident, Oakridge Police Officer with a Juris Dr. degree, was appointed to the Oakridge Parks and Community Services Committee, along with Lynda Kammerer, Oakridge resident, Volunteer, and Business Woman, and Charles Nichols, Oakridge resident and retired engineer.
Two appointees to the Oakridge Planning Commission are Gail Partain, Oakridge resident, retired from blue print planning and construction, to a four-year seat, and Richard Wiemholt, Oakridge resident retired businessman, to a two-year seat.
The City will post a Resolution amending the responsibilities of the Audit Committee for the purpose of selecting well qualified City Auditors to assure clear and complete transmittal of Audit results to Council and Community.
Leahy Cox, a legal firm which has served as Council to the City of Springfield for forty years has been selected to serve the City of Oakridge. Interim City Administrator, Mike Messina was charged with negotiating a contract with this firm.
In recruitment for a permanent City Administrator, Interim Administrator Messina asked Councilors to prepare a list of personal qualities they would like in a new Administrator, copies to be available to the public.
Texas Trailer Construction Company will begin construction of their new site at Oakridge Industrial Park in March. Realtor of Record for the City has other client interests in OIP.
Interim Administrator Messina read a scathing statement demanding a public apology from Oakridge Council and two City Councilors in particular, to Oakridge Police Chief Kevin Martin. Two Councilors met with Messina and made serious allegations against Martin without material evidence. Chief Martin was completely exonerated with a criminal background check and investigation into the matter. Messina listed Martin’s contributions, awards in Police work and the respect Martin has in the general County and Statewide Police associations and other venues and deserves to have the same respect in this community.
Mayor Holston offered an apology on the behalf of the Council. Councilors Hollett and Whitney also spoke to the unfortunate affair. Administrator Messina referred to items of specious gossip and innuendo on Facebook and other Social media that are mistaken and the harm they do.
Interim Administrator Messina read a review he made of Oakridge Fire Chief Michael Hansen’s personal services contract. He pointed out that current cost is $86,562.00, which is $42,795.00 less than the cost of the previous chief. He listed his own 30 yrs. Experience working with Fire Department and Chiefs, that Hansen’s’ education and experience uniquely qualifies him to assess problems, address issues and make changes in the Department. Messina pointed out that some of these changes result in hurt feelings and disgruntled people. It is Messina’s intention to continue with the contract of Michael V. Hansen, LLC, and to fund his position with a new six-month contract beginning July 1st for a six-month period. Hansen can then assist the City to recruit a new Fire Chief with the expectation of a start date of January 1, 2020.
Messina stressed that for the morale of the active Volunteers, the Mayor and City Council vocally and officially recognize, thank, and support all members of the Oakridge Fire Department. Councilors received copies of the Review of the Personal Services Contract with Michael V. Hansen, LLC from Interim Administrator Messina.
Herb Wick, Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Hazeldell Fire Protection District, submitted a letter to the Council from that Board, stating that this Board of Directors fully supports Chief Hansen and have found him to be a very effective leader and a pleasure to work with. The Fire Board’s contacts with personnel reveal a high level of support for the Chief and his style of proactive management. The Board expressed respect and appreciation for City Leadership and have an understanding of the complex business of balancing mixed views expressed by community members and the stress and strain that can be brought about by organizational changes. The Board fully supports the Chief and his leadership of the Oakridge Fire Department and the Hazeldell Rural Fire Protection District and believes a careful evaluation of the management of the District will lead the City to sound decisions on the future management of the Department and be supportive of Chief Hansen.
Councilor Hollett objected to the adjective “disgruntled” applied by Messina to the Volunteers who complained. She pointed out that they have been dealing with this issue for three years and their complaints went largely unrecognized. She went on to say, This Chief, Hansen, “Has created disunity and anger. It is a tragedy to dismiss good Volunteers who love this community.” Councilor Hollett also stressed the importance of having the PERS issue resolved.
Patricia Martinson, Oakridge Fire Dept. Volunteer Association President, in a presentation dated May 16, 2018, researched Fire Department activity in her concern over the controversy with hiring of part time EMT’s. In her findings, she says the Department wants to hire people with Fire Fighter 1 certification. Current volunteers may apply. The volunteer must be an Intermediate or Paramedic. They will have one year to complete the Fire Fighter 1 certification. (This for current volunteers only) Martinson’s recommendation is that the lead Paramedic make the decision as to who will take the patient to the hospital depending on whether it is basic life support or advanced life support.
Volunteers will still have plenty of opportunity to put in hours. There will still be 468 stipend shifts a year to sign up for, although Volunteers are not required to pull stipend shifts. Hours can be obtained by completing crew shifts, which can be any hours of any days. This gives more flexibility regarding crew shifts and stipend shifts.
Mayor Holston pointed out that the dismissed Volunteers made their choice and must live with that. We must now find the best way to move forward. Mayor Holston suggested that the City let the current Chief’s contract expire and look for a new Fire Chief with “No skin in the game here.”
Councilor Forcum offered his input stating, “Let’s get information of letting contract expire and see what financial direction we should go.”
Councilor Maxfield spoke to Council “There is not a good culture going on, if we dismiss the Fire Chief what options need to be explored to be in the best interests of the City?”
Mayor Holston also emphasized the importance of the work ahead for this Council. “Hire an Administrator, prepare a Budget, hire new legal representation, solve the water problems, the Fire Department troubles and all the day to day obligations of Council.
Larry Sweet, Oakridge resident requested that the Fire Department issues be resolved to bring back services to the Oakridge community. He said, “Leadership is all important and all this can be worked out. It is a big loss to lose volunteers.”
Kathy Pokorney, Dunning Rd. resident, introduced herself as very connected to Oakridge in spite of the fact they may not vote since they live out of City limits. She admonished Council to look into the PERS issue and she feels Councilors should be the ones to do that. She asked that Council terminate the present Fire Chief and hire an interim until a qualified person can be hired.
Leo Robb, resident, with some forty years experience with the Fire Department, told Council he appreciates the Fire Chief. He asked that when citizens have concerns, they contact the Fire Chief personally and not rely on Face Book and other Social Media for their answers since these comments are not to be taken seriously.
Rick Zylstra, on behalf of Public Works, gave a report on Inflow and Infiltration issues. There will be a $6,000 expense to the City to assess the needs of repairs to Berry St.
Council meetings are open to the public and take place each first and third Thursday of the month at the WAC Center on Garden Way and School ST. at 7:00 PM. A sign-up sheet for public comment is available at the door prior to each meeting.