Creswell Mayor Dave Stram is back in a familiar spot, leading the Creswell community from City Hall. ERIN TIERNEY/CHRONICLE PHOTO
CRESWELL – Processes and plans: Mayor Dave stram has wasted no time putting these protocols into action since his appointment in November.
“Running a council meeting is a lot about following the processes,” Stram said during a recent interview at a local coffee shop. Since then, he’s spent a considerable amount of time refreshing the council on policy and procedure, re-establishing expectations and structure under his helm.
Part of that success is also structured around five priorities he outlined during his campaign: roads, water, communication, Strategic Plan, and committees.
A man who speaks largely in analogies – a side effect of pastoring for nearly three decades – Stram likens the need for road improvement to the need of a new middle school in the early 2000s.
“The school district had a great strategy: come to the middle school and take a tour. They showed me the underbelly. I went through the tour and said, ‘My kid is going to school and I didn’t know it was in this kind of shape. How much is it gonna cost me?’”
The strategy proved successful: If you show people the problems, it will be easier for them to understand what they are paying for and why. A bond passed in 2006 allowed for the construction of a new middle school, which opened in 2009.
Much like that tour at the middle school, Stram said he perceives a process in which the public can get acquainted with the potholed “underbelly” of Creswell roads by taking a “tour,” learning more about how road repair is funded, and exploring ways to raise money – like with a gas tax, for instance.
That group of interested persons – possibly an ad hoc committee composed of business leaders and community members – may find a solution-oriented approach to the issue. “Now exactly what is that approach? That’s something for the council and staff to discuss,” Stram said.
Stram lists water quality as another top priority during his term, especially in light of recently released data by The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The data includes roughly 120,000 industrial sites around the country that may be, or may have been, handling a class of toxic chemicals known as “forever chemicals” which are associated with various cancers and other health problems. The data includes 750 Oregon sites, including Creswell.
Forever chemicals, also called PFAS, have been used for decades and are found in items like nonstick cookware, food packaging and firefighting foam, according to the Oregon Health Authority. Oregon officials plan to test 150 drinking water systems in Oregon for contamination through an EPA grant. Once testing is complete, Stram said it is his priority that councilors stay abreast of its findings, act accordingly, and effectively communicate its findings with the public.
Stram is also aware of the ongoing grumbles about the cost of water to city residents, noting that “there is a general confusion about the ‘water bill.’”
It depends on your frame of reference, he said, and how you read the bill.
The “utility bill,” includes three fees: water, sewer and public safety. With $15 allotted monthly to public safety to contract police services from the county, the remaining costs of water and sewer are “closely matched.” For a $110 bill, for instance, the water bill breaks down to about $45 a month, or $1.50 a day.
“There’s often confusion about why the government does what it does and how much it costs,” he said. For all of these issues, Stram said effective communication is the solution.
“I want to make sure our council is doing everything we can to communicate,” he said.
Before Stram came on board, the council had already been discussing hosting a town hall meeting with the Fourth of July – past and present – as the subject matter. While it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, Stram said that town halls can be effective, as demonstrated in the past when Stram held a town hall meeting about the absence of a grocery store in the City. That town hall meeting, Stram said, inspired Jessica Landstra to fill the void, who later opened Farmlands Market in 2014.
With council in agreement, Stram at the Nov. 22 work session announced that on Dec.13, he will appoint councilors Shelly Clark, Alonzo Costilla and council president Kevin Prociw to an ad hoc committee to address the Fourth of July. Councilors will be responsible for putting the town hall meeting together, coordinating with possible partners like the Creswell Chamber of Commerce and the Creswell School District, and fielding questions. The date is still to be determined, but the is aiming for a January or February date.
As for the Strategic Plan – the city’s five-year road map that soon expires – Stram said he is all-in on “doing (his) part to keep pushing it along.”
Stram pulled out a paper easel and worked through each councilor’s top two picks for consultants at the Nov. 22 work session, encouraging council conversation and advocacy for their top picks. Within an hour, the council whittled the requests for proposals down from five to two consultants, Berry Dunn and Managing Results. Both requests for proposals will be put forward for a council vote at a December meeting.
With two applicants already filed for the two open council positions, Stram said he was confident he will have a full council in the new year, and is hopeful he will be able to say the same thing about committees.
“We have some vacancies, one of the challenges and unique role of the mayor is to appoint committees and divide the charges … My goal is to have meaningful and meaty charges for all of the committees,” Stram said.
It’s a lot of work to finish before his term expires. As for running for mayor again next year, Stram says, “We’ll see.”