Youth was the predominant factor in the John Day City Council’s decision July 23 to appoint Elliot Sky to fill the seat held by Brandon Smith.
Sky, a physical therapist with the Blue Mountain Hospital District, was sworn in after the unanimous decision. Brandon Smith, who has moved away, and Shannon Adair were absent.
The city received two applications, including one from Chris Labhart. Labhart served 24 years on the John Day City Council and served as Canyon City mayor and Grant County commissioner. He lost a four-way race to three incumbents for three council seats in the November 2018 John Day election.
Councilor Dave Holland noted that while the outgoing Smith “brought a lot to the table,” he missed many council meetings. Holland also suggested Labhart missed many council meetings in the past during fire seasons. Labhart disagreed with Holland’s characterization.
In his application, Sky noted that he has lived in John Day for two years and moved here because of the “potential” he saw in the city.
“I liked John Day’s culture and loved the idea of helping to grow the city into something more,” he said.
Although he has never held public office, Sky said he has “reached out and volunteered my time and expertise to the city to help improve John Day’s quality of life.”
He also noted the importance of his age by saying, “I would bring a perspective from a recent transplant and younger professional — one of the target demographics John Day wants to attract.”
Mayor Ron Lundbom started the discussion by noting that the council has tried to diversify its makeup in terms of gender and age. The average age of the current council is far above 50.
One by one, the councilors cited youth as the predominant factor in their decision to choose Sky. Holland said John Day will be the next generation’s town one day, so the city needs new blood. Paul Smith said change is good, and young blood is good.
In other city council news:
• Lundbom reported that an evaluation of City Manager Nick Green by the councilors found that he “exceeded” in 14 of 19 categories and averaged 2.6 on a scale of 0-3.
Based on that evaluation, the council approved placing Green on the city’s new pay scale system with an $84,048 annual salary effective next fiscal year. They also requested that his contract be modified to reflect that Green is paid a 1% grant administration fee for certain grants.
• The council approved a new three-year collective bargaining agreement with the Grant County Police Officers Association, which represents John Day police officers, effective through June 30, 2022.
Significant changes included adding a 10th vacation day — the day after Thanksgiving — as well as changing pay increases for fiscal year 2020 from 1% to $1.50 per hour, for FY2021 from 1.5% to 4% and for FY2022 from 2% to 4%.
• Fire Chief Ron Smith will retire at end of this year. Don Gabbard will be the new fire chief as a part time position. He will also work part time in the public works department. Gabbard has been a volunteer firefighter for about 12 years.
• The council accepted a $125,000 bid from Tyler Sheedy and Krista Qual for the Weaver Building. The city will carry the financing. The couple plan to remodel the Main Street building in three phases over 3-5 years.
• After much discussion about an unexpected request by Robert and Bonnie Watt to increase the size of the lot they wanted to purchase from the city, the council agreed to stay with the original offer and make changes at a later time if necessary. The Watts, who own JD Rents, want the lot behind their business for additional storage.
• The council turned down a $39,640 bid by Harney Rock & Paving to complete the Canton Street cul-de-sac project. Green said the city had budgeted about $25,000, and the council consensus was to wait until next spring when other paving projects were underway in the county. If a company was already working here, that could reduce the cost for the small amount of paving on Canton Street.
• Green said final construction at the city’s commercial greenhouse is finished and full production is next. The council approved a request by a retired service member to work at the greenhouse under the Department of Defense’s SkillBridge program. DOD will pay 100% of his wages for six months.