The evening had been pretty emotional.
Sitting on a table against a wall in City Hall were four candles. Three of those were lit by Troop 161 Boy Scouts in a 9/11 remembrance ceremony. Mayor Eric Niemann read aloud the final conversation that occurred between a Flight 93 passenger and 9-1-1. That was the plane that terrorists crashed into a Pennsylvania field.
It was difficult to listen to those words, knowing that the individual and others on the plane would in seconds be gone because of the horrible events of that day. A moment of silence followed and no doubt, there were a few tears in the room.
A short time later, Paula May talked to the council. Paula is the aunt of Lilly Stagner, who six years ago took her own life, and started an event to bring awareness to teen suicide. Lilly’s Lope for Hope is held on the second Saturday of October each year and has provided valuable resources for the local school (and other schools in the area) on this important issue.
Then the mayor, with his voice starting to crack, asked Paula to light the fourth candle on the table in memory of Lilly.
Yes, a pretty emotional evening.
Less than an hour into the proceedings after the public comment period had wrapped up, Niemann decided it was time to liven things up. He called for a five-minute recess.
“I know it was kind of an emotional start to the meeting and so I thought it would be a great month to play the music of “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire,” Niemann said.
And with that, the sounds of the late ’70s filled City Hall. Classic.
Now, let’s get on with the drive with just two stops this week.
First stop — Philomath City Hall
An annual summer tradition in town for the past 60 or so years, the Old-Timers Reunion for Philomath alumni will be staged for at least one more year at Randy Kugler Community Hall in Philomath City Park.
Following a discussion on fee waivers that went on for about 15 minutes at the Sept. 9 City Council meeting, Mayor Niemann got up out of his seat and pulled cash from his wallet.
“From my heart and as mayor, I’ve got three $20s for the Old-Times for 2020 — so they don’t have a fee,” Niemann said.
A few moments later, City Manager Chris Workman said, “I’ll match the mayor’s offer, so that’ll give you $120 so you can have two time blocks.”
Peggy Clark, the Old-Timers Reunion organizer who was at the meeting asking for the continuation of its waiver, was appreciative of the donations and added that it would allow the group some time to talk about possibly changing to another location.
The issue came up at last month’s Finance and Administration Committee meeting. Councilors David Low, Marion Dark and Chas Jones sit on the committee and they discussed the possibility of reducing weekday rates at Kugler Community Hall because it was hardly ever used at those times.
During the discussion, Finance Director Joan Swanson mentioned the four groups that in 2015 when the shelter opened had been issued fee waivers — the Lions Club, Philomath Classic Car Show, Old-Timers Reunion and Church in the Park. The committee recommended that only the Lions Club continue to receive a waiver for use of the hall in recognition of its contributions during the shelter’s construction.
Last week, the City Council talked about it and ultimately decided through head nods to only extend the fee waiver to the Lions Club. Clark had spoken to councilors earlier the evening.
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“We’re just asking if maybe the council would maybe grandfather us in as a no charge so that we can continue the tradition for the community,” Clark said. “We had 160 participants last year for the Old-Timers Reunion.”
Niemann said he appreciated the organization’s concern and perspective.
“We want to try to do what’s best for the community but at the same time, we acknowledge that we have some city costs in terms of maintaining the shelter, maintaining the park, those sorts of things that we also have to mindful of to balance it out,” he said.
Councilor Doug Edmonds said he had mixed feelings but called it a “slippery slope” when it comes to granting waivers.
So the picnic will be there again in 2020 thanks to the mayor and city manager.
Final stop — Highway 20/34 just west of Clemens Mill Road
Walking along the pedestrian-bicycle path next to Highway 20/34, I came upon the new crosswalk that’s under construction to provide connectivity to the new Boulevard Apartments complex.
The crosswalk had come up as an item of concern from Councilor Marion Dark during the Sept. 9 City Council meeting. I can see why she said, “Somebody’s going to get killed there,” after I observed for a few minutes.
“I don’t know if there’s anything that we can do about that but I think it’s a very unsafe thing,” Dark said. “That’s a highway, that’s not a city street like on Ninth where they have them or several other places in Corvallis.”
Flashing lights are to be installed before the crosswalk is opened to the public.
Dark would like to see the speed limit reduced, which isn’t a city decision. But the mayor sits on the Corvallis Area Metropolitan Planning Organization’s policy board, which coordinates transportation planning in Corvallis, Philomath and Adair Village and adjacent parts of Benton County. CAMPO also coordinates closely with the Oregon Department of Transportation.
Niemann knows the dangers of the crosswalk in that spot (and a few other spots in Philomath) and talked recently to the Boulevard Apartments property manager about the concern.
“About a year ago, we had a volunteer picking up trash that was killed almost in the exact same spot,” Niemann said. “The circumstances there wasn’t crosswalk related, it was a driving-under-the-influence-related accident, but nevertheless, it’s indicative of what can happen.”
I have some experience in crosswalks with flashing lights while pushing my young son in his stroller. The most important thing I’ve learned while using these crosswalks is to never assume the vehicles are going to stop. On more than one occasion, I’ve had to pull myself and the stroller back to the curb because a car coming in our direction didn't stop.
The crosswalk that I use is on a city street. Now, double the speed limit, place the crosswalk on a descent and throw in distractions such as turning lanes and people who ignore common sense (and the law) and are on cellphones. Again, I can see why Dark and Niemann are concerned.
“People pick up a lot of speed at Shonnard’s across the flat, hit the Starker Forest and as they come down are going at a high rate of speed,” Niemann said.
A lower speed limit might help but in my opinion, the idea of one of those digital speed signs would be a great option. I’ve come across those speed signs and they immediately catch your attention and help you realize that you’re driving too fast.
Philomath’s Police Committee has been talking about getting a mobile sign that can be moved around different parts of town. Besides speed, they can also provide you with vehicle counts. All of that sounds great but you know, that crosswalk on the highway just might be a spot where a permanent one should be considered.