Banks, City Council, Government

City council talks zoning, forestry, audits and more at April 13 council meeting

Banks City Hall. Photo: Brenda Schaffer

At the council work session, where councilors discuss items of import but do not vote or make decisions, councilors discussed an expiring police services levy, an overview of federal stimulus funds from the American Rescue Plan, a discussion centered around finding a new city auditor, and a discussion around performance reviews for city employees. 

The council also took a look at exploring a way to do hybrid city council meetings to allow public participation remotely. The total cost quoted initially would be $14,679.99, a cost that would cover equipment costs and staff time. Several councilors expressed a desire to see that cost brought down. 

Beginning just after 7 p.m., the city council meeting began with two ceremonial proclamations, one commemorating National Drinking Water Week, and the other proclaiming April 30 to be Arbor Day in Banks, which has been a “Tree City, USA” for 15 years running. 

Deputy Frank Ward, one of two deputies assigned to the city as part of the contract between the city of Banks and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, gave the monthly police report

Banks Public Library Director Denise Holmes gave an update to the city council, and shared statistics of circulation within the county in a written report and a report she gave over Zoom. 

According to Holmes’ report, in March 2021, there were 5,719 items checked out, a number which includes digital items, compared to March 2020’s 4,333, an increase of about 32%. 

Holmes also gave an update on the library’s efforts to allow patrons back inside the building. “When we set our limit numbers for capacity in the building, they’re way way lower than what the calculations would allow us,” Holmes said. As a result, if more stringent COVID-19 restrictions go into place in Washington County, the library’s ability to serve in-person library patrons should not be affected, Holmes added. 

City Manager Jolynn Becker gave an economic development commission update; audio from that volunteer commission’s last meeting can be found on the city of Banks website. There was no planning commision meeting held last month, but an April 27 public hearing has been scheduled before that body regarding proposed code amendments. More information, including a link to view the proceedings, can be found here

“It’s really hard to get people excited about zoning code amendment packages,” said city attorney Dan Kearns, but he and city staff noted a number of ways that the city had attempted to spread the word about the proposed zoning changes. 

Following that, Becker gave her regular monthly city manager’s report. 

Becker’s report noted that the city may place a one-hour parking sign in front of the tanning salon at the north end of the Banks, is looking at planning events in the city, such as National Night Out in August, Movies in the Park and others, but is still uncertain as to what can be done in light of COVID-19 restrictions. The city is moving forward with plans to host the annual July 4th firework show, and has netted about $4,700 in donations to pay for the display, with Sunset Speedway pledging to match $5,000 in donations.

“We may end up doing a ‘quiet’ fourth of July event,” Becker said, a callback to 2020’s event, promotion of which was kept fairly quiet in an effort to reduce COVID-19 transmission, among other items on her report. 

After adopting items considered routine in a package known as a consent calendar, the city council moved onto the business agenda of the meeting. First up was a contract for a new city financial auditor. The council unanimously approved Jarrard, Seibert, Pollard & Company, LLC, a West Linn-based financial services firm to take on the task.

The next item was to consider signing a letter of support for Hampton Lumber’s opposition to the Oregon Department of Forestry’s Western Oregon State Forests Habitat Conservation Plan as it stands. 

“Our small town of less than 2,000 people depends on the economic activity that the forest sector provides. The sawmill located just off Main Street employs roughly 60 people and supports hundreds of indirect jobs throughout the community. These businesses rely on timber harvest from working public forests. We are lucky to be so close to two state forests that provide wood fiber, recreation opportunities, and environmental benefits for our residents. However, if the current draft of the HCP were to be approved, their livelihoods will be severely and negatively impacted,” the letter read in part. 

The full letter the council unanimously approved can be read here

Finally, the city unanimously approved a change to how the city conducts annual employee evaluations. 

Following that, the council delved into a roundtable discussion, where councilors give various updates from the boards and commissions they serve as liaisons to, such as the Banks School Board. 

Audio from city council meetings is posted regularly on the city of Banks website.

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Chas Hundley is the editor of the Banks Post and sister news publications the Gales Creek Journal and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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