Cottage Grove council nixes homeless shelter

Chronicle file photo – City manager Richard Meyers, left, and mayor Jeff Gowing discuss homelessness with a crowd at the Cottage Grove town hall last month.

COTTAGE GROVE – In a heated meeting Monday, the Cottage Grove City Council reversed its decision to begin construction of a homeless shelter on Highway 99. At press time Tuesday, city manager Richard Meyers said that all construction on the Highway 99 site had already ceased.

“It’s dead,” Meyers said. “The work on the project has stopped, so we can button it up, close it and then maybe even sell it. With that proposal down, (the city council) will need to come up with what they’re going to do” to accommodate the unhoused.

Councilor Jon Stinnett, who had an excused absence from the meeting, told The Chronicle on Tuesday that he was “disappointed” about the outcome of the meeting, but “the way forward was pretty fraught” and “that was clear from the start.”

The reversal of the motion on Monday was initiated by councilor Greg Ervin, with support from councilors Candace Solesbee and linchpin Chalice Savage.

Ervin proposed a reconsideration of starting construction on the site due to public opinion and outcry; however, since Ervin voted against the policy at the April 28 meeting, he was unable to do so. He beckoned across the chamber to Savage, asking, “If you want to reconsider please do. That would allow more time for the community to tell me more robust conversation as it relates to this site.”

He explained a council rule that states a person within the majority vote of an approved motion may “move for reconsideration” at the “next regular meeting,” and that once a motion is reconsidered “any new motions must be made with unanimous consent of the entire council.”

Savage, who voted previously in support of the shelter site, moved to reconsider the motion, placing the original motion back on the floor for debate.

“It’s a very tough decision because, personally, I’m on board,” Savage said. “But I’m in a position where I’m speaking for my constituents, and what I’m hearing from constituents as well as fellow councilors is we need more discussion.”

After a brief debate and clarification on Robert’s Rules of Order — the parliamentary procedures that governing bodies across the nation use — the motion was put up for a re-vote, and was promptly struck down in a 4-1 vote, with only Fleck voting in opposition for the measure’s reversal. Mayor Jeff Gowing did not vote, as his vote is only eligible in the event of a tie.

As it stands, the measure can be reconsidered a third time only in the event of a unanimous vote from the city council.

At the tail end of the night, Ervin moved to “bring the same motion back to the next council meeting for consideration.” This was approved unanimously as per Robert’s Rules, meaning that at the May 23 meeting, the reconsideration will once again be up for reconsideration.

Roberts announced that he will be “out of town for the next meeting” and may be “able to chime in virtually,” while Stinnett is on an excused absence that will “prevent him from participating in this discussion for an unknown period moving forward.”

Prior to the start of the council meeting, and the subsequent reversal of construction plans, the council met for an hour-long work session to discuss a request for proposal put together by Meyers. This proposal would have been presented to nonprofit organizations in the area and outlines the City’s requirements for the running and maintaining of the Highway 99 site.

As of now, the RFP is no longer relevant to discussions surrounding the homeless shelter, since a predetermined location is an integral part of the proposal.

What’s next

The city council will meet in two weeks to re-open the conversation about construction of a homeless shelter on Highway 99.

Moving forward, it will need to be unanimous, or the motion will be “killed,” meaning it won’t be brought up again.