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Corvallis Council acts on homeless recommendations

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Pioneer Park cleanup 09

Corvallis Parks and Recreation employees, from left, Joshua Kruckewitt, Nikolay Galtsev and Zach Zimmers remove trash from a former homeless campsite at Pioneer Park on May 26.

The Corvallis City Council signed on to the recommendations put forth by an advisory board on homelessness Monday on a night in which councilors came in for blistering criticism from the public on the issue.

Councilors unanimously passed three motions on the recommendations of the Benton County Home, Opportunity and Equity Advisory Board (HOPE), which has been working since December, 2019 on gathering data and making suggestions on easing the city/county homelessness challenge.

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The first motion accepted the HOPE recommendations (see this story at the website for the full text from HOPE). The second motion identified which policies were likely to be led by which entities. The third motion, and the only one which was discussed at any length, sought to establish the city’s top three priorities among the recommendations.

At an earlier work session councilors had reached consensus on Recommendation No. 1 on data gathering, Recommendation No. 5 on a crisis response team and Recommendation No. 7 on a resource center.

Monday, on a motion from Ward 4’s Gabe Shepherd, councilors added a fourth priority, Recommendation No. 6 on establishing a 24/7/365 sheltering system. Shepherd’s amendment passed on an 8-1 vote, with Ward 1’s Jan Napack providing the lone dissent.

Emergency shelter was the main tool with which six visitors bludgeoned the council during the community comments section of the meeting. The city, at the direction of the council with $40,000 in new funds, began posting and cleaning up homeless camps on city property as of May 15, with those testifying referring to the “bulldozing of neighborhoods," "dehumanizing treatment of the homeless" and "councilors failing to listen to the unhoused.”

Ward 7’s Paul Shaffer came under some personal criticism. The fact that Shaffer is retired was noted by one commenter, which she said made him out of touch with the working class.

It was some of the strongest language used in public criticism of the council in recent memory.

In other action councilors:

• Unanimously approved its $181 million spending plan for the 2021-22 fiscal year. Some councilors expressed interest in requests for assistance from the Corvallis Fall Festival, but it seems likely that issue will be addressed, possibly using council discretionary funds, at the June 21 council meeting.

• Established a new methodology for parks systems development charges (SDCs), which are the funds builders pay for parks as part of new development. Councilors will look at the fee piece of the equation at their July 22 work session. A final decision on the fees will come at a council meeting to be determined.

Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@lee.net or 541-812-6116. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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