May 23, 2007
(Harris Hall Main Floor)
Commissioner Faye Stewart presided with Commissioners Bill Dwyer, Bill Fleenor, Bobby Green, Sr., and Peter Sorenson present. County Administrator Bill Van Vactor, County Counsel Teresa Nelson and Recording Secretary Melissa Zimmer were also present.
11. PUBLIC HEARINGS
a. SECOND READING AND PUBLIC HEARING Ordinance No. 5-07/In the Matter of Amending Chapter 4 of Lane Code to Provide that Car Rental Tax Revenue be Placed into the County General Fund (Lane Code 4.250) (NBA & PM 5/2/07).
b. SECOND READING AND PUBLIC HEARING Ordinance No. 6-07/In the Matter of Chapter 4 of the Lane Code To Revise the Use Of Transient Room Tax Revenue (Lane Code 4.175) (NBA &PM 5/2/07).
Van Vactor reported that in response to the potential loss of the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self Determination Act of 2000 funds, the Management Team proposed under Budget 2 that $910,000 of car rental taxes be redirected from the Parks Division to the general fund. He said the rationale for the change is set forth in Sections B. 3. and D. 2. of the Strategic Plan. He indicated that it provides ďBefore cuts are made to critical public safety services, the County will consider possibilities for redirection of revenue that support other services.Ē He added that they donít have to do this action under Budget 1. He said that historically, 76 percent of car rental tax has gone to the Parks Division and 24 percent to the general fund. He added that this would change to 100 percent to the general fund in order to save high priority public safety services. He said the budget also proposes redirecting a portion of the transient room tax to County Parks. He said ORS 320.300(9) provides that TRT may be expended for improved real estate that has a useful life of more than ten years and has a substantial purpose of supporting tourism and accommodating tourist facilities. He noted Sections 10 and 11(b) are where certain activities Lane County Parks Division would qualify. He noted the park functions considered eligible for transient room tax revenue are the full costs experienced in providing overnight stays at Lane County Park facilities including Harbor Vista Campground, costs for the campgrounds at Baker Bay and costs directly related to the campgrounds at Richardson Park. He added that Camp Lane would also qualify.
Green said on March 21 they had a work session that gave staff direction to begin providing notices to park users. He said it was Board decision that gave the Parks Director the authority and the reason to start posting notices, not the Parks Director.
Wilson explained what is in front of the Board is changes to two ordinances. She said the ordinances increase the flexibility for the Board in the use of the money so the Board could accommodate those budget needs. She said a decision on the car rental tax ordinance would mean the car rental tax revenue would go into the general fund. She noted the Budget Committee and the Board still have decisions about how the money is used. She added that a decision today doesnít bind the Board to using the money in a particular way. She said the Board could choose to take the car rental tax and spend it for Parks or other general fund purposes through the budget process. She noted the room tax money is already bound to be used for tourism funds.
Van Vactor indicated this would be a $510,000 loss to Parks because of the switch.
Todd Winter, Parks, said reduction notices went out on March 15 and they eliminated maintenance staff on April 15. He stated their labor capacity has dropped. He said they spoke with McKenzie guides and the newly formed Friends of Zumwalt Park to look at ways they could partner with local communities and groups to help assist with maintenance to keep them open. He said they reached a tentative agreement with the bargaining units to allow caretakers to perform minor maintenance so they could minimize the impacts to the user groups. He noted that SB 29 was introduced in Salem that would increase the allocation payments to counties from RV license fees from 30 percent to 40 percent. He commented that it would have a positive impact on Lane County Parks. He said they currently operate, own or lease or maintain 73 park properties in Lane County. He indicated the $510,000 net loss would result in a $618,000 loss due to areas that would generate a day use fee or picnic shelter that were closed. He said they have worked hard to minimize impacts to the public.
Fleenor didnít think there was direction to staff to actually start closing parks.. He gave direction to start the process of closing parks, not to give direction to close any parks.
Green recalled the direction the Board gave to staff was to start to do this. He asked if the fees they charge for Parks is 100 percent full cost recovery.
Winter said it was not close. He added there is a cost associated with collection of the fees. He indicated that they collect about $55,000 through the collection for day use and they spend approximately $2.1 million in operating the facilities in Lane County.
Green indicated the perception is the County is getting full cost recovery. He asked if they were to move to full cost recovery, what it would take to get to 100 percent.
Winter responded that user fees represent about 30 percent of the overall revenues for Parks, including marinas, campgrounds, day use and picnic shelters. He said they charge for parking fees and are currently with market.
Van Vactor stated the Board had some discretion with the car rental and transient room tax.
Ollie Snowden, Public Works, said they will have contract labor and they would keep three senior park maintenance workers and hire a general labor through the summer. He indicated that they were able to do that because the car rental tax they expect to get in this fiscal year is about $40,000 more than what was budgeted. He anticipated using that additional revenue to keep general labor on through this season.
Commissioner Stewart opened the Public Hearing.
Jim Berl, McKenzie Highway, said he is a user of the river for fishing and is a fishing guide. He wanted the Parks and boat ramps to stay open, funded and maintained. He commented that it was important for tourism in Lane County and the local businesses for having the river accessible. He wanted the Board to keep the funds where they are. He also thought it would be bad to limit maintenance.
Christi Kershner, said she represents the children. Her concern is if they close the Parks around Fern Ridge, there is a population of transients and with that a large majority of meth trafficking, usage and crime. She asked if they donít have money to fund Parks to make it a healthy community, how they were going to fund enforcement for what closing the parks will create. She asked why they couldnít use community service for traffic violations and funnel that workforce into Parks.
Fleenor recalled the process on March 21 was to give notice to the unions of potential layoffs because of contractual requirements for bumping privileges. He said they have a timing issue in giving them sufficient notice versus running out of funds and not having sufficient workers after July 1. He commented that he sees this as a miscommunication and misunderstanding. He stated there was no deliberate intention to cause harm.
Tanya Blum, submitted an article about why open space matters. She said public parks and open spaces are important for community health. She stated that open spaces are essential for human social and psychological well being and community economical health. She added that crime is reduced by 50 percent in areas where there is green open space. She believed keeping funding for public parks is important and related to public safety.
Dave Helfrich, Vida, said he has been a guide for over 60 years on the McKenzie. He commented that if all else fails he would support a fee system for all of the boat landings. He noted the only fee is at Hendricks Park for $30 per year. He wanted to see an annual and daily park pass. He called it the beneficial user pay concept-you use it, you pay for it.
Stewart asked if Helfrichís drift boat users could have a volunteer adoption of boat ramps.
Helfrich said their association puts money in for bathrooms and life jackets at some of the facilities. He thought they could find volunteers.
Mary Monette, said she is one of the organizers of the Veneta meeting and newly formed Friends of Zumwalt Park. She hoped the Board would keep an open mind. She commented that even though the Budget Committee are professionals dealing with numbers, she didnít believe the community part of parks was factored into the number 2 budget. She asked why parks were being closed when they do so much for the community. She thought the Board should have these meetings in the evening as they would get a better turn out for people who work. She asked the Board to take half of the CRT, giving $400,000 of the TRT to Parks. She commented that they canít rely on forest funding or lottery funds anymore.
Mark Guy Santiago, Eugene, stated that closing some of the parks will only make them accessible to people who access them illegally and they wonít be able to maintain the parks due to vandalism. He said people can recreate in Lane County year round and to close the parks limit what people enjoy doing. He stated that he teaches white water safety and if some of the boat ramps are closed, they increase the potential of more people being injured.
Devon Trottier, said as taxpayers, they have purchased the parks several times over. She said now they have to pay fees and the Board is asking to close them. She stated the public trust is denied to her. She noted the people who are using the parks are policing them already and they are picking up trash and informing people about suspicious occurrences in the parks. She thought they should stop giving away natural resources to the corporations and have them pay their fair share in taxes. She thought parks needed to be open for dogs and for children
David Jensen, McKenzie Highway, indicated that before noon, the president of the guides association called to ask if he would testify on behalf of the association. He said they are against transferring money from Parks. He said they are spending tens of thousands of dollars through the convention and visitors bureau to get people to come to Lane County but there wonít be parks for people to visit. He said Ben and Kay Boat Ramp should not be closed.
Hal Palmer, commented that to him parks are critical. He said it is coming down to trust. He said he voted for the income tax and realized that Lane County will need more money in the future. He commented that taking the money from the car tax and putting it into the general fund is an indicator that they canít trust what their leaders are doing versus cutting across the board.
Teresa Crone, Veneta, said her property is up against the park property and the grass is high and it is closed. She didnít know parks would be closed down. She was concerned for her safety. She asked why the Country Fair residents will be able to use the parks.
Ray Miller, discussed the boat ramp. He said Ben and Kate Doris Park is good for handicapped people getting out of boats. He asked to keep some boat ramps open for handicapped people.
Gene Highfill, Springfield, was concerned about cuts made in the Parks Department. He said that Lane County is known for its beauty and recreation and by slashing Parks, it sends a message to the citizens that Lane County does not think that parks and open spaces are important. He commented that closures of parks are safety concerns. He hoped the Board would keep the Parks budget intact. He said if they close parks they will have more criminal element and it would increase the Sheriffís budget.
John Sullivan, said he manages a 70 acre farm and riverfront. He said he lives below Martins Rapids. He encouraged the Board to work on public safety. He supported the guides as they are stewards of Lane Countyís waterways. He encouraged the Board to take a long term solution and have a fee for permits and charge people who want to use the facilities. He commented that the voters have already told the Board no more taxes.
Jim Welsh, Elmira, said he represents government affairs for real state companies. He said they look at what is involved in developing the quality of life for the County. He indicated that they take into account schools, jobs and parks and open spaces, public safety and the environment. He noted people moving to the community are concerned about the issues. He said realtors are concerned about public safety issues and for Secure Rural School funding. He indicated that the issue that always rises to the top is life and safety issues. He commented that parks and open spaces are important for tourism. He hoped when the Board transfers money that they keep public safety at the top of the list.
Kim Short, Eugene, said he is a member of the McKenzie River Guides Association. He was against the Board transferring car rental taxes out of the Parks budget. He commented that it was almost impossible to get dedicated funds back into a department once it is given to the general fund. He supported not closing the landings on the McKenzie River. He noted to close those ramps will have an adverse affect on the guides and the economy of the communities. He supported working with Todd Winter, Parks, to come up with alternative revenue sources. He said all the organizations up the river would support user fees. He said they would pledge their part to keep things open and he thought the people who use the resources should help in paying for them.
Leonard Blissenbach, suggested not taking any more out of Parks then what is cut across the board from any other department. He thought they should have a sunset clause that says it would only happen for one year and they wouldnít have taken away the dedicated funding. He thought they should turn Zumwalt Park over to the Corps of Engineers as it would reduce the Countyís liability financially and legally.
Jim Dougher, Eugene, thought they should follow what the snow parks do. He thought a sales system for permits should work. He thought money spent on law enforcement was a joke. He thought prisoners could be used to clean up parks.
Repha Hardin, Springfield, thought it was wrong to close parks. She said kids need a place to play. She stated that she has family reunions in the parks. She noted that there were already 46 parks dormant and she didnít want more taken away. She understood finances were hard. She said if they close more parks in Lane County she will have nowhere to go.
Chris Orsinger, Friends of Buford Park, asked the Board to retain a portion of the car rental tax for the Parks Division. He said they need to have a certain level of park staffing that he didnít think could be done with the cut proposed. He said the County needs to stay in control of the parks and manage them. He said they need to maintain a core maintenance staff level to handle tasks that are not suitable for volunteers. He thought the Board should direct staff to facilitate volunteer involvement. He added that they need staff time to approve volunteer projects. He thought they could empower those groups to demonstrate commitments to work through priorities and serve as ambassadors. He said the County should redirect only $500,000 of the car rental tax to the general fund or less if the Secure Rural Schools is refunded so there is a net $100,000 reduction. He recalled that there used to be over 30 staff members in Parks in the 70ís and now there are only 10 employees.
William Laing, Eugene, stated that he has lived in Lane County for over 60 years and is a member of the McKenzie Guides. He commented that the rivers are a reason people are attracted to Lane County. He noted that water sports and activities involving the river systems account for a large percentage of the recreational opportunities in Lane County. He urged the Board to preserve and maintain safe access to the rivers and reservoirs. He recalled that Lane County has made river access a priority for its citizens. He suggested a launch under the Beltline Bridge. He said they need a dependable boat launch for safety.
Kari Westlund, CVALCO, commented that CVALCO recognizes the severity of the situation the Board is facing. She said they remain committed in investing the TRT they receive in generating visitors and visitor spending and more car rental tax. She said they value Lane County Parks in terms of what they contribute to citizens for quality of life and in attracting visitors to the County. She has concerns for some of the proposals. She said they donít want to see car rental tax lost to the general fund. She said they donít want to pit themselves against Lane County Parks. She noted that TRT is not only paying for the marketing efforts, it is keeping the fairgrounds and historical museum budget going. She wanted to see the car rental tax stay for its intended purpose and they want to see the citizens of Lane County step up to bear the load of general fund expenses. She hoped a permanent funding solution could be found.
Karen Jhoh, Veneta, said she is a retired senior citizen on a fixed income. She said she walks daily in a County park. She doesnít want to see the parks closed. She thought if the County came up with a specific tax for Parks, it would get a large approval and she thinks the Board should do it in the future. She added that citizens would welcome volunteer work to keep busy.
Perry Burdon, commented that the County doesnít make corporations pay their fair share. He thought the law was the problem. He thought the County could get money by getting the law changed.
Jim Boyd, Santa Clara, was in favor of keeping the boat ramps open and toilet facilities available to the public along the McKenzie River. He didnít think keeping the toilets open would impact the Countyís budget. He said it doesnít matter which pot the Board puts the money in, as long as they are in agreement on how the money is to be spent.
Karen Wickham, said she enjoys Perkins Peninsula and visits three times per week. She purchased a pass for the summer before she learned there wouldnít be a park to go to. She thought there could be interest from the City of Veneta to maintain the park. She stated that lawns growing in parks are a fire hazard. She was upset about having to be charged to use the parks.
Bill Monsoor, Eugene, asked the Board to be open minded and let brainstorming happen. He asked to let the union people do other jobs. He thought Parks should be left alone.
Charlie Larson, said kids need to run wild in the parks. He didnít think parks should be gated, they should be free. He said that needed to be changed and the Board had to think outside of the box. He thought if Lane County could not run Parks, they should franchise it out to people who can.
Bert Hoeflich, Eugene, thought with the high price of gas that people would use parks that were closer. He thought if dedicated funds were taken out that they would never be put back. He commented that public safety is leadership responsibility of maintaining the trust of the people who have made a decision on how the funds should be used.
There being no one else signed up to speak, Commissioner Stewart closed the Public Hearing.
Fleenor wanted another public meeting in the evening within the next week or two for both ordinances.
Sorenson recommended setting this over for a special board meeting for the limited purpose of getting an update from Tony Bieda, Intergovernmental Relations Manager, on what has happened and to continue the deliberations.
MOTION: to approve a Second Reading and Public Hearing and setting a Third Reading and possible deliberation for May 30, 2008 at 3:30 p.m. for Ordinance No. 5-07 and Ordinance No. 6-07.
Sorenson MOVED, Dwyer SECONDED.
Snowden indicated that Winter would be coming back to the Board with options. He noted an option is to take Blue River and Ben and Kay Doris boat ramp and if the Board declares those as highway rest areas, they could be eligible for use of road funds.
Dwyer said parks are important but so are children and families and Meals on Wheels. He stated that if he had to vote today, Parks would lose. He said he would vote to transfer the money but would put a sunset in so it wouldnít be automatic and would address the concerns. He added that he would support putting a Park bond out before the people to decide if they want to pay for the services. He said they will have a special meeting next Wednesday night before they have the Budget Committee and they will know for sure where they are. He said if they are going to utilize volunteers that they need to develop benchmarks.
Winter thought the Parks Advisory Committee would be a good place for the discussion.
Fleenor commented that he has a low confidence rate that the CRT money going into the general fund would actually help keep WIC and Meals on Wheels even though they are transferring the CRT money to the general fund.
Fleenor announced his coffee and conversation at the Walton Cafť.
Stewart wished everyone a happy Memorial Weekend.
13. CORRESPONDENCE TO THE BOARD
Stewart received a
letter about the NACo Annual Convention. He
said they were asking for credentials and proxies for voting.
He wasnít planning on attending.
to give all the votes to Commissioner Green.
VOTE: 4-0 (Dwyer out of room).
14. OTHER BUSINESS
There being no further business, Commissioner Stewart adjourned the
meeting at 5:10 p.m.