John Day has a new city councilor.
Brandon Smith was chosen by the John Day City Council April 10 to fill the council seat held by the late Donn Willey. Six people applied for the position and spoke to the council.
Councilors Steve Schuette and Paul Smith commented on the high quality of the applicants and the difficulty in choosing one, but the vote for Smith was swift and unanimous.
A fourth-generation county resident, Smith has a Ph.D. in chemistry from Dartmouth College and a master’s from Tuck School of Business. He is a consultant for B Squared Strategies. He has coached youth and high school sports, served as a scoutmaster and church leader, and sits on a city advisory committee.
After being sworn in, Smith participated in the meeting and was appointed to the Grant County Digital Network Coalition board and the city safety committee.
Three of the other candidates, Katrina Randleas, Vincent Maurer and Beth Spell, volunteered to fill vacancies on the city budget committee. City Manager Nick Green told the Eagle after the meeting they will be formally appointed to the budget committee at the April 24 council meeting, and a budget meeting will be held at 7 p.m. May 3.
In other city council news:
• The council chose to support keeping 911 dispatch service in Grant County rather than outsourcing it to Frontier Regional 911 in Condon. The city’s decision will be presented during the next 911 User Board’s meeting, which will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 26, in the Oregon Department of Forestry building in John Day.
The 911 User Board, composed of the 27 entities that use dispatch including John Day, will vote to determine how to proceed. An informal tally at the first meeting counted 16 in favor of maintaining local dispatch and six in favor of outsourcing to Frontier Regional 911 in Condon.
The city of John Day will discontinue its 911 dispatch center after June 30, 2019. Based on the city’s understanding of discussion at the 911 User Board’s March 20 meeting, a local dispatch center would be run by either the county or an independent board of directors appointed by the users.
The location of the dispatch center, board composition and the role of users were still to be determined, Green said. The county or independent board would negotiate the next collective bargaining agreement for the dispatchers.
Users would sign three-year agreements, which would terminate about one year after the users learned the legislature’s decision about whether to increase the phone tax that supports 911 dispatch centers across the state, Green said.
Cost sharing for the $200,000 remaining after using 911 phone tax revenue would be based on user charges per call and the assessed values of the nine participating jurisdictions. Under this model and average call volume, the city would pay $27,728 for police calls, $1,064 for public works calls and $15,596 based on assessed property value, for a total of $44,388.
In a related matter, Gov. Kate Brown issued a proclamation making April 8-14 Public Safety Telecommunicators Week to honor 911 dispatchers across the state.
• The council approved an amended ordinance and adopted an intergovernmental agreement establishing the Grant County Digital Network Coalition. The ordinance was passed under an emergency declaration so the city could meet a deadline to apply for a 2018 U.S. Department of Agriculture Community Connect Grant.
Similar ordinances and agreements have been approved by Grant County and Seneca, the other two parties in the coalition. John Day will be the lead entity and have overall responsibility for the coalition’s operations.
The Oregon Legislature approved a $1.8 million grant in 2017, enough to run a fiber optic cable from Burns to John Day. The city has signed contracts with Commstructure Consulting to plan the cable route and Fiber Channels to review, validate and update network requirements.
The coalition’s board planned to hold its first meeting in April to adopt bylaws, but Green later told the Eagle scheduling conflicts postponed the meeting to May. John Day, Grant County and Seneca each will have one voting board member, with two at-large members appointed by the first three. In addition to Smith from John Day, Grant County appointed Dan Becker, and Green said Seneca appointed Public Works Director Josh Walker.
• The council approved a resolution to authorize refinancing through Washington Federal to pay off $62,000 due on a promissory note for the land used to build the city fire hall and to borrow $300,000 to complete construction of the new fire hall.
Green said the city could save $10,000 in origination fees and a significant amount of interest by paying off the loan in five years instead of 20 years. A capital loan from the city’s water department to the general fund would be necessary to complete the deal.
Green said he will meet with representatives of Kirby Nagelhout Construction Co. in April to discuss plans to finish the fire hall. The company built the fire hall and will be making seismic upgrades to Humbolt Elementary School this summer.
• The council discussed the need to complete an annual performance review for Green’s work, which Councilor Dave Holland noted was overdue. Once that is completed, the council could discuss whether to change the city manager contract from one year to multi-year.
Holland said a multi-year contract would provide more security for both the city and Green. Anna Bass, of Oster Professional Group, said the budget could accommodate the proposed contract change. Holland said he had worked with Bass and talked to other councilors about the proposed change.