WARRENTON - The third time was not the charm for the Warrenton City Commission Wednesday. The four members could not end a deadlock on who should fill an open seat on the board.
The seemingly unbreakable impasse pitting new commissioners Dick Hellberg and Gil Gramson against Paul Rodriquez and Mayor Jeff Hazen, left Gramson to wonder if it was not time to reopen the entire appointment process.
"I think we need to say is there somebody out there we can all support," he said. "Not just two of us but three or four of us."
When the commission first accepted applications for the open seat - which was vacated after Lylla Gaebel was elected to the Clatsop County Board of Commissioners - seven people applied. Of those seven. the commissioners have split their support. Hazen and Rodriquez voted for Bill Harris - who served with them on the previous commission. Hellberg and Gramson support Ken Yuill, who they believe will add a fresh voice to the board.
After their last meeting Feb. 5, commission members said they hoped people would write or phone them to give them a better understanding of what they felt. While Rodriquez said he had received some letters, they apparently did not convince him to change his vote.
Following the deadlock Wednesday night, the commission voted to delay the matter to its March 5 meeting (with Rodriquez dissenting).
Despite the board's inability to compromise on finding a new member, it was able to work through a full agenda which included many items relating to the city's new sewer treatment plant.
The commission first voted unanimously to use $219,000 out of the city's sewer capital fund to pay the firm HLB Engineering to finish the rest of the predesign work.
Warrenton has been ordered by the state Department of Environmental Quality to update and improve its sewage system. It is planning to do this with an $8 million sewage treatment plant. In addition to approving the payment for the predesign work, the commission directed City Manager Scott Derickson to begin work on a loan application to the state for $506,000 to pay for the final design.
The board also heard a presentation from Jeanette Hahn, project manager with the financial analyst firm FCS Group Inc, on how to pay for it. Hahn said the city can choose from a variety of options that include funding it entirely through state loans and grants, revenue bonds, general obligation bonds or some combination of those options.
She said the commission would have to decide on who it wants to pay for the project. The city could make utility customers pay for the project by raising sewer rates, or keep rates stable and make property tax payers pay for it through bonds.
"The real decision for you is who should pay for the plant," she said. "What do you feel is the most palatable way for your residents to pay for this plant?"
If the city were to fund the project completely through state loans, she said it could raise sewer rates to as much as $53 a month. If it were to pursue a funding option purely through bonds, it would be possible to keep rates at about $32.
While the commission did not have to act on the financing of the treatment plant during the meeting, Hellberg expressed his hope that the city would put the decision into the hands of the voters.
In other business, the commission approved an agreement with Clatsop County to assume the ownership of DeLaura Beach Road near Fort Stevens State Park. The agreement states that the county pay Warrenton $36,370 for paving work on the road.