The men’s cold weather shelter will return Nov. 1 to its spot on Southwest Fourth Street.
On a night of high drama, the Corvallis City Council voted 7-1 on Monday to release approximately $49,000 in funds to battle homelessness. The money will help allow Corvallis Housing First to operate the shelter this winter.
And only this year. That’s because councilors also passed an amendment that puts the council on record in opposition to further funding for the controversial Fourth Street site, which has posed livability concerns and has been the target of multiple police crackdowns since it opened four years ago.
Councilors tentatively approved the Corvallis Housing First plan in its five-hour, 15-minute meeting Sept. 6 but also asked the group to come back Monday night with more specifics on how it would work with other social service agencies and how those coming into the shelter would be vetted.
The Corvallis Housing First proposal got off to a rocky start Monday night. Ward 8 Corvallis Councilor Frank Hann said that the document was not specific enough. Corvallis Housing First board President Brad Smith countered that he couldn’t give specific answers because he hadn’t received specific questions.
At one point Smith turned to fellow board member Sara Power and asked her to expand on his remarks, and Power admitted that she hadn’t prepared anything and turned the microphone back to Smith.
But Corvallis Housing First rallied well. Councilors moved to table the homeless issue while it dealt with a land-use case, and Smith and his supporters used the recess that followed to huddle in the back of the downtown fire station meeting room, with Smith scribbling notes on his proposal next to the sink.
Back in front of the microphone, Smith outlined eight steps that his organization was planning to answer the city’s concerns, including behavioral expectations, how limited the group is in controlling the behavior of individuals after they leave the shelter, possibly changing the time it releases clients in the morning and neighborhood outreach.
And while councilors appeared convinced by Smith’s second appearance, a further challenge to the plan sprung up in an amendment from Ward 3 Councilor Zach Baker that would make it harder for Corvallis Housing First to operate its shelter at Fourth Street beyond this year.
After a lengthy debate, councilors deadlocked 4-4 on the amendment, with Mayor Biff Traber breaking the tie by voting no. Baker was joined by Roen Hogg (Ward 2), Joel Hirsch (Ward 6) and Bill Glassmire (Ward 7), while Hal Brauner (Ward 9), Barbara Bull (Ward 4), Mike Beilstein (Ward 5) and Hann of Ward 8 voted no. Ward 1 Councilor Penny York was absent.
A second less complex amendment was put forward by Brauner and it passed 6-2, with Brauner joined by Hogg, Baker, Bull, Hirsch and Glassmire. Beilstein and Hann voted no.
Then it was back to the main motion, which passed 7-1, with Hogg, whose ward includes the shelter, supplying the lone no vote.
Traber’s vote was just the second of his mayoral term — and his second of the evening. The mayor, who only votes to break ties, also participated in a comprehensive plan amendment vote that approved a plan by the Pastega family to rezone property it owns on Northeast Walnut Boulevard that is set aside for industrial use. Passage of the amendment opens up the acreage for residential uses.
Proponents of the plan cited the city’s need for additional land for housing. Opponents, meanwhile, expressed compatibility concerns given how close the site is to a Pepsi bottling plant and the Sprick roofing company.
Hann, Brauner, Bull and Beilstein voted in favor of the rezoning. Hirsch, Baker, Glassmire and Hogg voted no before Traber broke the tie with his yes vote.
The meeting was in its fifth hour as the Gazette-Times presstime approached, although Traber had been forced to announce at 8:41 p.m. that “our sewer systems have failed and the restrooms are being shut down. This might give us more incentive to conduct our business in a timely manner.”