Dave Stram – Creswell Mayor
Editor’s note: This is part 1 of the 2018 Creswell State of the City Address. See next week’s editorial page for part 2
By Mayor Dave Stram
It has been said that, ”You can accomplish less than you think in one year, but more than you think in five years.” Tonight, I want to take a five-year look at our City and the progress that we’ve made. When I’m finished I think you’ll agree that we have accomplished a great amount in the last five years.
In the fall of 2012, the people of Creswell were preparing for the November elections. In coffee shop conversations and public forums, several topics of conversation came up frequently. These included: a general lack of confidence in city government, the cost of water, public safety, a lawsuit at the airport and audits that were delinquent.
When I ran for office in 2012 my campaign slogan was ”Rebuilding Creswell.” It had become apparent to me that the citizens of our fair city had lost confidence in their local government.
Early in 2013 change was in the air. At the March city council meeting, two councilors and the city administrator resigned. Of the five remaining councilors, two were brand new and now we had no city administrator. That year proved to be very turbulent. Fortunately, we were blessed with three highly competent interim city administrators and new councilors who served us well.
It was a rebuilding year for the City, and that’s never easy. Just go a few miles up the road and ask the Oregon Ducks men’s basketball team about rebuilding.
In the five years since I took office, 18 people have served as city councilors, and I am thankful for each one of them. Adam Pelatt and Brent Gifford were the first to fill vacancies and added great stability. Members A.J. O’Connell, Jacob Daniels, Nora Reynolds and Jane Vincent committed themselves to Council teamwork and led through the resolution of the airport lawsuit and the summer spike in criminal activity.
When Councilor Jane Vincent completed her term in 2016, she was the longest-standing member of the Council, having served for eight years. I really appreciated working with Jane; she loves our community and is a devoted public servant!
A new group of councilors included Holly Campbell, Omar Bowles, Ted Romoser, Richard Heyman, Patrick Miller and Jean McKittrick. Each came with a passion to serve Creswell.
Before you (now) is our current Council of Richard Zetterval, Gary Mounce, Amy Knudsen, Martha McReynolds Jr., Judy Drago and Misty Inman.
Last month, Council committees were appointed for 2018, and for the first time in five years the Council committees remained the same. This Council is beginning their second year together; for some cities that’s not a big deal but for Creswell it’s a huge deal. We have stability on our Council, and that’s a very good thing.
As a new mayor in 2013, my personal goal was to rebuild confidence in the city council and staff. Today I’m pleased to say, that has been accomplished. Hiring Michelle Amberg as our city administrator in 2013 was one of the best decisions made by the Council in the last five years.
Michelle has developed a work plan built upon our Strategic Plan and has put together a top-notch staff. I appreciate every person who works for our City, from Cliff and the men in Public Works, to Mike at the water and sewer plants, to Shelley and Jerry at the airport, to Jim in Finance, Roberta and Carolyn, Jennifer and Michael, Maddie and Michelle Furrer, and Administrator Amberg. We have capable, caring people working daily to serve our citizens. I enjoy working with them and am proud of their daily contributions for the good of our city.
An example of how our staff works to create a more transparent government can be seen in a phone call I received a few weeks ago. A resident called with concerns about animals at large. She wondered, ”Does the City have ordinances regulating this?” I suggested she turn on her computer and we take a look. Together, over the phone, we found online the complete Ordinance #445: ”For the control of dogs and other animals in the City of Creswell.”
We read the sections pertaining to her specific concern and she found the answers she was looking for. As we ended the conversation, she expressed great appreciation to the City for putting the ordinance online. In fact, the entire Municipal Code is now online. That’s the kind of work our staff has been doing to rebuild confidence in our city government.
Five years ago, Creswell residents were unhappy about the perceived high cost of water. Some believed the cost to be way out of line and many were just not sure. One of the first orders of business in 2013 was to address the cost of water. A Water Rate Study was commissioned. I’ll never forget the first meeting we had with the firm we hired. I asked the question, ”Do you think it will be possible to lower our water rates?” and they replied, ”Probably not.”
When the study was complete, we learned that our water rates were not keeping up with expenses. Water rates needed to go up. The Council announced the decision to increase water rates and citizens were not happy. A ballot measure was put forth giving the people of Creswell the opportunity to vote on water rates. The City Council put forward a competing measure which prescribed a new way for setting annual water rates. Members of the Council and citizen volunteers went door-to-door to provide information and engage citizens in conversation about the cost of water and the upcoming vote.
In the September 2015 election, Creswellians cast their votes in favor of a charter amendment establishing a new process for setting water rates. The charter amendment prescribes that water rates must cover the actual cost, be reviewed annually by a water rate advisory committee of three councilors and three citizens, and be set on an annual basis. This year we will use the voter-approved process for the third time; water rates initially went up but have leveled off for the last two years.
Last year, the Oregon Health Authority presented the City of Creswell with an Outstanding Performer award for our water system. This is the first time we have ever received this award, and it’s another indication of how far we have come!
Concerns about a spike in criminal activity brought the subject of policing to the forefront in the summer of 2013. Citizens flooded the council chambers to express their concerns. The Council listened and in August made the decision to increase the number of full-time deputies from two to three. In addition, a police report was commissioned and undertaken by Portland State University. The study was presented to the Council in August 2015 and concluded that the most cost-effective method for providing police services to Creswell was to continue to contract with the Lane County Sheriff’s Department.
During the following year, the Council listened to the citizenry about the level of policing. As a result, citizens were asked to vote in November 2016 on a five-year public safety levy that would increase the police force from three full-time deputies to six full-time deputies and a sergeant, and the citizens voted ”No.” Consequently, no new taxes were raised and the level of policing remained the same.
Creswell today does not have 24/7 policing; there are weekly gaps in coverage. In 2013 we had two deputies and a one-third time sergeant. Today, Creswell has three deputies and a full-time sergeant; we have almost doubled our police force in the last five years.