A Philomath woman’s wishes for her property to be established as a park and memorial for the son she lost in the Vietnam War appears to be materializing as she had envisioned before her death more than a year ago.
The Philomath City Council came out of a 45-minute closed session during its Oct. 14 meeting and voted unanimously to accept the donation of a lot on the corner of College and North 16th streets with the estate’s conditions attached to the property.
In a summary issued to councilors, City Manager Chris Workman said that beginning in 2016, he had on-and-off conversations with Beverly M. Durham about her desire to donate the lot, which has a house and garage sitting on it, for use as a city park and memorial to her son, Paul Jefferey Cochran.
Durham outlined conditions of the donation in her will.
“Some of the details of exactly what will take place with the property are still up in the air,” Workman said. “However, the conditions expressed in Ms. Durham’s will are not negotiable.”
One provision attached to the gift included using the property for “park purposes” and that it not be developed by the city or anyone else. The city identified in its Park Master Plan that part of town as an area in need of a park.
A longtime tenant of the house has moved out.
“No money is allocated for improvements to the property for this budget year, so any improvements would need to be allocated by the council for the next fiscal year at the earliest,” Workman said.
Cochran, a member of the 101st Airborne Division, was killed May 1, 1968, in Vietnam just five months after he had arrived, according to an obituary published that year. He graduated with 71 fellow seniors with Philomath High’s Class of 1966. He enlisted in the Army the following November. He is buried in Willamette National Cemetery in Portland.
Durham died Aug. 5, 2018, at age 90. After moving to Philomath in the 1960s, she worked at Oregon State University teaching English to international students while also earning two master’s degrees. She worked at the university for 22 years.
Following her death, Workman reached out to her daughter, Shane Fritz, to see if any arrangements had been made about Durham’s desires. Workman said that Fritz and the rest of the family were in support of those wishes.
Workman and Mayor Eric Niemann met with Fritz to discuss the possibility of placing a veterans memorial of some sort on the property. City officials, including Kevin Fear and Garry Black of public works and Dale Collins of the Park Advisory Board, did a walk-through of the house and property.
Clay Thompson of the American Legion was also on hand at the walk-through with the possibility that Marys River Post 100 might have an interest in using an existing structure as a meeting space.
Workman said that based on estimates, the total cost of the house’s removal would be no more than $30,000. He added that the city would apply for state grants that are available for veterans memorials. Some of those grants do have matching requirements of 10% to 20%.
With the council’s vote, city staff will work with the Durham estate to finalize the transfer of title and meet the conditions of acceptance. Fritz was present at the council meeting.
For the second time this year, the Philomath City Council will need to fill a vacant seat. Marion Dark resigned from the council because of a move out of the city. Terry Weiss left the council in June.
Niemann said Dark had sold her house and was planning to live closer to her daughter in Linn County. He recognized her service with a certificate of appreciation.
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“You’ve always been an active participant and took up challenging issues and pushed the council in a variety of different areas,” Niemann said. “I think we’ve made a lot of progress based upon your service in areas like transparency, water rates, visibility and we certainly appreciate those contributions.”
Dark joked that she got a good offer on her house, but also said, “It’s been an interesting experience. I’ve learned a lot and I’m glad that I had done it. It was a hard personal decision.”
The council will accept applications from those interested in the position until Nov. 27. Applicants will be interviewed and a decision will likely be on the agenda at the council’s Dec. 9 meeting.
At the beginning of the meeting, City Attorney Jim Brewer announced that the council’s 3-2 vote on Aug. 12 to appoint Ruth Causey to fill a vacant seat did not satisfy city charter requirements. According to those guidelines, a majority vote of the remaining members of the council is required to fill a vacancy.
Although only five councilors were present, the council actually had six sitting members with the resignation of Weiss, which means the number of votes needed for the appointment was supposed to be four.
Brewer apologized to the mayor, council, Causey and community for the oversight with his belief at the time that she had actually received the required four votes.
The council then took another vote by secret ballot with Causey and Doug Nelson, who had applied for the post, as the candidates. Matt Lehman, who received the other two votes in the Aug. 12 meeting, opted to not be included on the ballot.
Councilors then approved Causey’s appointment on a 5-1 vote. City Recorder Ruth Post swore in Causey for a second time.
Causey participated in the Sept. 9 meeting when she was originally sworn in. As a result, Brewer recommended that the council ratify decisions and actions from the meeting, particularly resolutions that supported the formation of a Philomath Community Market Steering Committee and reduced city fees for Randy Kugler Community Hall and large-format printing.
In other news from the Oct. 14 meeting:
• Niemann proclaimed Oct. 14 as Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Philomath. Niemann presented Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians Tribal Council members Gloria Ingle and Angela Ramirez with a framed copy of the proclamation.
• Becki Goslow, a former Philomath teacher and past president of the Benton County Veterans Memorial organization, proposed that the city become involved in a program to recognize current and past veterans with banners on Main Street. Councilors gave head nods to move forward with looking into it.
• Public hearings were held on proposed changes to zoning code and annexation code amendments. Proponents, three in the first hearing and two in the second, shared their views and concerns. There were no opponents and one person spoke as a neutral party in both hearings. At the conclusion of each hearing, the council voted to keep the record open until Oct. 31.
• Weiss, a former councilor, was among those that spoke during the public comments period. She shared information about water bills from Corvallis with comments on how they compare to her Philomath home’s bill. Other comments came from a citizen who informed the city about damaged sidewalks on College Street between 18th and 19th and 16th and 17th streets. Catherine Biscoe, who serves on the city’s budget committee, applauded the Citizens’ Academy and decision to begin studying changes to the city’s comprehensive plan.
• The council unanimously approved a liquor license application for Campfire Wines and Co., a company partnering with Spindrift Winery.
• The council unanimously approved the formation of a special committee to assist with the process of updating aspects of the city’s comprehensive plan. The committee would meet during the duration of the project, expected to last about a year, and then disband. It would be made up of residents, business owners and representatives of various segments of the community, such as the school district, nonprofit organizations and others. It could meet as early as January if the city receives a technical assistance grant.
• The council unanimously supported the city manager’s recent application for a technical assistance grant from the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development. The city would use the grant to complete an economic opportunities analysis, Main Street plan, housing needs analysis and an inventory and assessment of available buildable land that will inform the preparation of the city’s new comprehensive plan and land use map. Workman said the estimated project cost would be $70,000 with a grant request of $50,000. The city would provide $20,000 in a cash match. Workman expected to know if the grant was awarded by the end of this month.