Five months into a two-year term on the Philomath City Council, Terry Weiss announced her resignation during the June 10 meeting because she and her husband plan to move out of town.
“There are many things I love about Philomath — my home, which is the house that I have loved better than any house I’ve lived in, my neighborhood and the many wonderful people that we have met while living here and truly have made friends that I hope will be our friends for the rest of our lives,” Weiss said. “There are so many wonderful people in this city — and you know who you are.
“It’s a beautiful small, rural city right now,” she added. “It seems to be heading in a different direction but I will miss very much this city.”
Weiss made a few additional comments that illustrated a high level of frustration — including what she believes is a pattern of discourteous behavior by city officials with a particular focus on interactions involving the city manager.
While on the council, Weiss has often asked for transparency on the issues at hand. For example, at the meeting, Weiss mentioned what she perceives as a lack of transparency on how money will be distributed from water rate increases, a topic that had been discussed earlier in the evening.
Mayor Eric Niemann and councilors Doug Edmonds, David Low and Marion Dark all expressed their appreciation for her participation on the council.
Dark said “I’ll miss you ... it’ll be a loss” and Edmonds later commented, “I’ve appreciated your candor.”
Said Low, “You certainly have spoken your mind and there’s nothing wrong with that. I think you’re very true to your convictions and your principles. I appreciate your voice. It’s your decision to step down, but the folks that support you will miss you being there.”
The city council plans to meet again June 24, primarily to take a vote on the budget. At that time, the council will likely direct staff to post a vacancy on the seat and accept applications.
Weiss, who was sworn in with other councilors on Jan. 14, had a two-year term that expires Dec. 31, 2020. She had been serving on the city’s budget and police committees, and as a council liaison to Philomath Community Services.
Only three of the seven city councilors were physically sitting in City Hall for the meeting — Edmonds, who served as the pro tem mayor, Dark and Weiss. Niemann and Low had to be out of town but attended via videoconferencing. Councilors Chas Jones and Matthew Thomas were absent.
In other news from the June 10 meeting:
• City Manager Chris Workman reported that the city has withdrawn its request from the Philomath School District for a 20-foot easement along the north side of Chapel Drive and the south side of Downing Forest to be able to install a sewer line. “We’ve essentially missed our timeframe this year for construction season, so there’s really no pressure to move forward quickly with that anymore, so we’re going to pull it back, look at it and plan to proceed with that project early next spring,” Workman said. “So we’ll continue to work with the school district to get that easement in place between now and then.”
• During a public hearing on the 2019-20 city budget, three people testified, including two who serve on the city’s budget committee — Catherine Biscoe and Ruth Causey. Biscoe shared support for a third party to complete a compensation and benefits survey for city employees, which had cost estimates up to $30,000. Causey, who originally called for the survey, said she had met with the city’s finance director and now expressed confidence in that system.
• Kirstin Stein, a U.S. Census Bureau representative with Linn, Benton and Marion counties, gave a presentation to the council about the 2020 census and provided various statistics. Among the most interesting was a low response rate in 2010 of 19 percent in Philomath. Stein explained that undercounting translates into less funding for various programs. Among the most undercounted groups have been seniors (62 and older), young children (under 5), the homeless and foreign-born residents.
• During council reports, Dark made a motion that revenues earmarked for the new water treatment plant that are generated from water base and unit rate increases, including interest, be reported as separate line items in the water fund section of the city budget. “Folks are being assessed a fee for a specific use and it should be accounted for accordingly as a line item in the water fund budget, just as the general fee is shown as a separate line in the general fund budget,” Dark said. Finance director Joan Swanson explained that she had not received any direction from the council on how those revenues were to be separated out. A few others felt the issue per protocol needed to go to the finance/administration committee and the motion failed on a 3-2 vote (Dark, Weiss voted yes; Niemann, Edmonds, Low voted against). A motion was then made to send the issue to the committee level and that passed on a 3-1 vote (Niemann, Edwards, Low voted yes; Weiss voted no; Dark abstained).
• Workman reported progress on the planning side of the city’s streetscape project. Workman said between $9 million and $10 million in funds have been identified with work to begin on Applegate and Main streets in 2021. Workman indicated public meetings and outreach will occur in the coming months. Benton County will factor into some related improvements through its grant sources.
• Workman said Swanson plans to retire July 1 in relation to the Public Employees Retirement System fund but will continue on contract with the city as a full-time employee. Chief of Police Ken Rueben recently transitioned into contract employee status.
• During visitor comments, local resident Sandy Heath, wearing a “Transparency in Truth” sign, commented on the council’s procedure following a May 13 executive session. The council came out of the 25-minute closed session and took a vote in a reopened public meeting to accept donated property with a stipulation that it become a city park. Heath had been waiting outside City Hall that night to re-enter for the public meeting but through an apparent miscommunication, was not informed that they had reconvened.
• The council tabled the approval of minutes from its May 13 meeting after Weiss said she would not vote yes unless she could listen to a specific part of the meeting’s audio.
• A short meeting of the Urban Renewal Agency also took place with a public hearing on its budget. There were no comments.