Mayor Christine Lundberg and city counselors discussed the pandemic and policing during budget deliberations.

The Springfield City Council meeting on June 15 was rife with technical difficulties as multiple members of the community spoke during public hearings.

The 2020-21 fiscal year budget was discussed during the council work session on June 8 as council members reviewed the impacts COVID-19 is projected to have on the general fund. The revised resolution, which removed the cutting of police body cams, was put forward that evening. 

Before addressing the public hearings, Councilor Sheri Moore wanted to remove the May 2020 disbursements from the consent calendar before approving. She asked Police Chief Rick Lewis about the $13,000 spent on ammunition because it “seems like a lot and I need an explanation.”

Lewis explained that money is part of the $40k that the department spends a year on ammunition because of the qualifications officers must reach. When Moore asked about doing practice without shooting ammunition, Lewis said that while they do simulations, it’s “nothing like shooting a real weapon at all.” 

Moore also had a question about the audio-visual security system for $85k, which was used to upgrade the court and jail’s camera system, and $700 for an office chair, which Financial Director Nathan Bell explained was an agreement with the Human Resources department to meet worker’s compensation requirements. All of these items were budgeted for, he added. 

Moving into the animal control update, Animal Control Officer Brian Austin said these code changes were made to more clearly define certain terms, reclassifying the current vicious dog code and revisiting the beekeeping code. A representative of the Oregon Beekeepers Association said he appreciated loosening of code to allow beekeeping in the city but wanted them to consider allowing for temporary hive splits above the limit of hives per square footage, which is seen in the City of Salem.  

For the public hearing on state shared revenues from cigarette, cannabis, gas and liquor taxes, Kris McAlister spoke about allocating those dollars into the vulnerable populations that utilize these substances and give them a safe place to detox or put into funding low-income housing. 

As the council went into the 2020-21 budget adoption, City Councilor Joe Pishioneri clarified that the body cams were removed from the list of proposed cuts and were not being removed from the budget.

The public hearing began with Robert Conrad, Vice President of the Police Officer Association, saying that the Springfield officers were never opposed to cameras and it was a budget issue and not a cop issue; however, he expressed concern with budget cuts in addition to bringing the cameras in.

 “We do have support in this community and don’t want people to vote for Levys and get services cut in the budget,” he said. Conrad also expressed the importance of having school resource officers, particularly after the shooting in Thurston. 

“We don’t want to see any more budget cuts as much as possible, and make sure we maintain services,” he said. “We don’t want to outrage the public by cutting services or positions.”

 Three other comments expressed concern about Lewis’ proposed budget cuts, including the community service officer position. Johanis Tadeo had technical difficulties getting in touch with the board and ended up emailing his concerns, which included the concern of cutting that position and the importance of sitting with Black Lives Matter members. 

The position, although funded, is vacant, and Councilor Joe Pishioneri asked for a clarification that the community service officer is a different job than the community outreach coordinator. City Councilor Leonard Stoehr said Tadeo’s concern is reasonable about cutting this position and “I can’t vote for a budget if it means cutting those two positions.”

Lewis said nothing had been cut from the police budget but in the future, that position and the records specialist position would be removed. 

Councilor Sean VanGordon said this budget has to be passed soon, but it’s important to address the main issue that is coming up at these meetings. 

“We need to have a conversation about the police and the community and how to fund that,” he said. “Those are two different conversations.”

 Pishioneri made the motion to approve the budget and Councilor Marilee Woodrow seconded. Stoehr left the meeting before the vote, calling in to say he abstained from voting; however, the motion still carried.