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Toledo C/C Workshop: New Patrol Car! Work Force Housing, Water Plan Update, Whither Business License for Special Events?

Toledo starting to go Ford Interceptor SUV for their fleet

Toledo starting to go Ford Interceptor SUV for their fleet

Toledo’s City Councilors got their first look at a new type of Toledo Police Patrol Car that Chief David Enyeart says would best fit the city’s needs. Chief Enyeart said the department’s patrol cars are getting “up there” in mileage – police car mileage – and it’s time to rotate in some beefier and more useable vehicles.

He told the council the Ford Police Interceptor Explorer has more room, more power, better handling and better storage for the increased amount of weaponry that is typical in leading edge law enforcement operations. He said there are too many occasions that an officer in a regular patrol car must call on the department’s larger SUV to transport a prisoner to the Lincoln County Jail. By changing over to the Ford Police Interceptors that shouldn’t happen again. He said the newer vehicles also have better gas mileage, both around town and on the highway. He said Lincoln City and Newport police departments report they’re very pleased the with Ford Interceptor SUV’s they’ve acquired.

Enyeart was given tentative approval by the council to purchase the $42,000+ vehicle. Enyeart will bring the issue back to the council at their next meeting for their formal blessing of the purchase.

The council also showed some interest in helping the Lincoln County Land Trust develop an affordable program for Toledo. A land trust spokesman said there are at least four properties in town that are either bare lots or run down homes that councilors said they were fearful would fall into the hands of someone who would simply rent them out rather than improve them or start from scratch. The trust spokesman said the trust would like to step in, buy the land (after the fire department burns down the house as a training exercise) and then help a lower income family find the financing to build a very energy efficient three bedroom, two bath home. List price in the low 100’s. The trust representative said it would like the city to help fund the project to the tune of around $6,500 which raised the eyebrows of Mayor Ralph Grutzmacher. He said he wasn’t too keen on using taxpayer dollars to subsidize new housing when many residents are just barely making it as it is.

The trust employee said they’re making affordable housing available again and that there is a lot of value in that. There are also rules that limit the value of the house to go up just 2% a year as a “firewall” of sorts against those who would buy the house, then try to flip it on the open market for a lot more money. Plus the trust forever owns the land under it. The council said although they like the idea of the land trust, they’d like to study the arrangement more closely and take it up at a later city council meeting.

Toledo Public Words Director Adam Denlinger addresses the council on future water projects

Toledo Public Words Director Adam Denlinger addresses the council on future water projects

The council also got a report from Public Works Director Adam Denlinger who told them that the town is getting closer and closer to beginning some major (and majorly expensive) upgrades to the city water system. Denlinger said construction on phase I of the new booster pump and a 1.9 million gallon water tank are expected to be under construction by early July, with completion by October or November of 2014. Phase II involves upgrading the city’s intake on the Siletz River – using a two screen system for enhanced reliability. Also the delivery and distribution system, especially as pertaining to new water access to the Sturdevant Road area, including to the high school. Denlinger said he hopes construction on that part of the water upgrade will be complete and running by June of 2015. Denlinger said he would be back before the council soon to give them the final word on everything and request their permission to proceed.

Which brought up the issue of money to pay for all this. City Manager Michelle Amberg said the community already knows that their annual water rates will rise every year at 1.5% in order to pay for water system construction bonds that were recently floated. The council said it would be better if Toledo residents also knew what was coming up on sewer rates. They asked Denlinger to help develop an annual sewer rate increase so that residents can begin budgeting for that as well. Councilor Jill Lyon emphasized that she still wants council reviews every year – not willing to go solely on a pre-determined rate. The council agreed.

The root of the problem is that Toledo’s water and sewer systems were ignored for so many decades that the entire system today needs replacing. It’s been said that former city councils and townspeople never got serious about consistently “paying it forward” so today’s residents have been left with a lot of heavy lifting to make sure their water is safe to drink and that their sewer system isn’t fouling the environment.

And finally, with the hour getting late, the council tried to tackle the thorny issue of city business licenses – especially for vendors who show up at various special events during the year, like the Wooden Boat Show, Main Street events, Farmer’s Market and Summer Festival. City Manager Michelle Amberg reported to the council that there are a lot of out-of-town businesses who show up as repeat vendors during these events, many of whom don’t pay a business license fee to the city.

The council tried to come up with a plan to ensure that all vendors have a Toledo business license or at least pay a fee to the city to be a vendor in that it’s only fair that they pay something toward what makes doing business in Toledo as straight-forward and as profitable as it can be. But the council couldn’t seem to agree on how that should all come together.

A few councilors, Terri Strom, Alma Baxter and Michele Johnson said Toledo should be very careful that Toledo is not judged by out-of-towners as “nickel and diming” businesses unjustifiably. The one line that stuck to the ceiling was “I wouldn’t want to pay a substantial amount for a temporary business license just because I want to sell jam on Main Street.” One suggestion that seemed to gain traction was the idea of an event organizer including a business license fee into the vendor application and fee schedule. However, Councilor Terry Strom that at least one special event program could fall by the wayside if that happened.

The council was getting a little more fatigued by that point and decided to explore the issue at a later city council meeting.

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