The homeless issue produced another Corvallis City Council deadlock and mayoral vote Monday night.
Ward 8 Councilor Mark Page made a motion for the council to reconsider its July 16 action to award $60,000 to pay for men’s cold weather homeless shelter operations at a site on Southwest Second Street.
Page said his goal was not to change sites but to allow the city to award the money regardless of site, as he said Benton County did July 17 when it awarded $60,000 for the shelter.
“I want to make sure there is an alternative should there be any impediments” at the Second Street site, Page said.
After some parliamentary wrangling, Roen Hogg (Ward 2), Hyatt Lytle (Ward 3) and Barbara Bull (Ward 4) backed Page’s motion, while Penny York (Ward 1), Charlyn Ellis (Ward 5), Bill Glassmire (Ward 7) and Hal Brauner (Ward 9) voted “no.” Nancy Wyse of Ward 6 was absent, forcing Mayor Biff Traber to cast the tie-breaking vote.
“I vote no,” Traber said emphatically. “And the reason I vote no is that this issue has been hashed and rehashed. To go there again would not be productive.”
Traber also broke a 4-4 tie and backed the July 16 motion by Ellis to approve the shelter at Second Street. York was not present on that occasion.
The vote showed that Corvallis elected officials remain sharply divided on the homeless issue, which clearly will play out right through the November election. Traber is running for a second four-year term, with Hogg, arguably the strongest council opponent of the shelter, his main opposition.
In perhaps a sign of progress on the issue, City Manager Mark Shepard reported on meetings he has had with County Administrator Joe Kerby on the shelter controversy. One idea that has come out of the sessions is to look at hiring a facilitator to help the community work through the challenges.
Ari Basil-Wagner of Greater Oregon Behavioral Health Inc., who is assisting the county on its criminal justice assessment, is the likely hire. Shepard estimated it might cost the city $15,000 to engage Basil-Wagner. It wasn’t clear what form Basil-Wagner’s assistance would take, but Shepard said some sort of public forum was almost a certainty.
In other action from the meeting:
• Dozens of city employees affiliated with the city’s American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) chapter were on hand for the meeting. Three officers in the labor unit introduced themselves and asked their employee group members in attendance to stand. The city currently is engaged in negotiations with AFSCME, whose contract expired July 1. Neither AFSCME nor city officials testified or made any comments concerning any issues that might be involved in the negotiations.
• Councilors unanimously approved a plan to “combine” the adjacent Sunset Park and Natural Area and Bruce Starker Arts Park into Bruce Starker Arts Park and Natural Area. The two units will now be managed as a single community park.
• The council meeting was the first for Page since he was arrested July 21 on felony weapons and other charges in a domestic incident. His next court hearing is Aug. 27. The city charter notes that a council seat is vacated should a councilor be convicted of a felony. Page did not address the case nor did any councilors ask him about it.