At Tuesday's Astoria City Council meeting there was someone new sitting in the chair designated for the public works director.

Ken Cook, the city's public works superintendent, will fill the position on an interim basis until a new director can be hired to replace Mitch Mitchum, who was fired Aug. 12.

Mitchum is appealing his termination, which came after an investigation into issues surrounding the building of a pump station on West Irving Avenue which is part of the Skyline Water Project.

His appeal could be heard as early as the Sept. 19 council meeting, City Manager Dan Bartlett said, either during the public meeting or in executive session, whichever venue is agreed upon by both sides.

Meanwhile, Bartlett is searching for a certified professional engineer to fill in temporarily as city engineer in the wake of Mike Caccavano's resignation, which was announced Monday. Caccavano would like to leave Sept. 30 for a new position in Redmond, Wash. Bartlett said the city is required to have a certified professional engineer on staff. He said he has already received two resumes from public engineers looking for interim work.

Hiring an engineer for the permanent position won't happen until a new councilor is seated after the Sept. 20 election to fill a vacancy in Ward 2. Once the council is back to five members, a new city manager will be hired to replace Bartlett, who retired June 30 because of pension concerns and is now working as a contract employee. The new city manager will hire a new public works director, who will then help select a new city engineer.

Bartlett presented the council with a profile of qualities desired in a new city manager and a timeline for the recruitment process. Ken Strobeck, executive director of the League of Oregon Cities, worked with the council to come up with the draft profile, which will be held open for public comments until the Sept. 19 council meeting. If it's adopted at that meeting, the council can begin interviewing top candidates recommended by LOC after a screening process. The position has been advertised since July, and the deadline to apply is Sept. 16. Final selection would take place in November.

According to the profile, the successful candidate should have strong academic credentials and a successful track record of at least five years of municipal management experience; be a strong leader and consensus builder with high ethical standards, flexibility and effective communication skills; and possess a host of other skills, attributes and qualifications. For example, under the Community Relations heading, the two-page document says "the Astoria city manager is seen as the 'face' of the city government and administration to a public that takes a great interest in the city." Under Council Relations, it states that the council "expects to have a relationship of trust and honesty with the city manager and to have 'no surprises' regarding city business."

• heard from Paul Farrar, a Canby resident who formerly owned property on 27th Street in Astoria. He asked the council to demolish a vacant house at 637 27th St. that the city acquired in 1997. He asked the council to declare it a public nuisance and tear it down and provided a packet of information including photos.

He said the house is often a haven for trespassers, is unsightly and overgrown with blackberries and weeds. He said that city staff told him four years ago that the house would be gone in two years, but it is still there.

Mayor Willis Van Dusen thanked Farrar and promised to look into it. "We're not going to just sweep it under the carpet. This has been going on too long," Van Dusen said.

• heard a presentation from Library Director Jane Tucker and Patty Skinner, a librarian, on the summer reading program and recognized volunteers who had helped to make it a success;

• heard a presentation from Bill Lind, a member of the Sunday Market board of directors, who said the market now has 180 vendors and more than 200 booths and attracts many shoppers, two-thirds of them from outside the local area;

• approved designating Oct. 8 and 9 as Fall Cleanup Weekend;

• agreed to recommend to neighbors concerned about a spruce tree on Southeast Grant Street that they obtain the services of an arborist because the tree is the responsibility of the property owner, not the city;

• approved a resolution to spend remaining grant funds appropriated for renovation of the Alderbrook and Astoria Yacht Club community halls.


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