Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

By Terri Harber


Baker City councilors on Tuesday adopted a final spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

However, they disregarded advice provided by city staff about what to do with $20,000 that became available last week because Baker County won't be doing as much community development activity for the city in the coming fiscal year. City staff will do these tasks or, if necessary, seek contractors.

Portions of the $20,000 were to go to the Baker City Fire Department, $9,428; Administrative Services, $2,055; and Contingency $8,565.

The Baker City Police Department would have lost $48 to even out the small mathematical shortfall.

Some councilors were adamant about not having the $20,000 available for use as a cushion to fund any pay increases for city employees.

These councilors wanted the money moved into the unappropriated ending fund balance, which can't be used during the fiscal year for which it's budgeted. An emergency caused by natural disaster or civil disturbance would be the only exceptions, according to Oregon Revised Statute 294.481: Authorization to receive grants or borrow or expend moneys to respond to public emergency.

Only the $2,055 suggested for Administrative Services was reallocated; the rest went to the ending fund balance.

The councilors initially split their vote, 3-3. Councilors Clair Button, Barbara Johnson and Mike Downing voted in favor of the staff's proposal to distribute the $20,000 among various departments.

Button then changed his vote to break the tie and joined Mayor Richard Langrell and Councilors Roger Coles and Kim Mosier in voting to put most of the $20,000 into the ending fund balance.

Councilor Dennis Dorrah was absent Tuesday.

Langrell said there was money already in the contingency fund ($69,000 total) and that councilors made it a goal to "not have an increase in labor costs."

Not adding any of that money to the contingency fund is "a small attempt to cut labor costs," Langrell said.

Button said some councilors asked for no increases in labor costs, but that he and others wanted City Manager Mike Kee to simply do his best "to hold down" those expenses while negotiating with the city's three labor unions.

The idea was to provide Kee some "flexibility," Button said.

Button explained that he changed his vote to break the tie because the differences were over a relatively small portion of the total budget.

The budget for the fiscal year starting Monday and ending June 30, 2014, is $16 million, with a general fund of just under $5.1 million.

Button said he "trusted" that Kee "would work hard" to find more money to accommodate the workforce - if needed.

The city and Baker City Employees Association agreed to a three-year contract earlier this month that provides 1-percent raises each of the first two years and an increase of 1.25 percent during the third year. Employees with a decade of service might be eligible to receive an additional 1 percent more pay if they do well in a performance evaluation.

Though no contract has been approved, the city and Baker City Professional Firefighters Association reached a tentative agreement for an annual cost-of-living increase of 1.5 percent.

An agreement with the Baker City Police Association representatives is still being worked out.

All three current union contracts expire June 30.

Baker City resident Michael Borisoff wanted to know why the councilors approved the pay increase for members of the Baker City Employees Association, which represents mainly public works employees.

Johnson told Borisoff it was "the best contract we could get" and that it provides pay increases that are below the projected cost-of-living increases during the next few years.

Johnson also pointed out there will be savings for the city once the new health insurance program for all employees is established.

Button said he "personally voted for that contract because everything we do ends up being a compromise."

Downing recused himself from voting on certain parts of the budget because he works at the Baker County Consolidated Dispatch Center, which the city contributes money to because the center provides emergency dispatching for the city fire and police departments.

More rewriting of proposed park smoking ban ordinance

The councilors asked for some changes in Ordinance No. 3322, which would ban smoking in city parks and recreation areas.

Banning use of smokeless tobacco products was rejected by the councilors though the county health department suggested a full tobacco ban.

The Quail Ridge Golf Course, although a city property, won't be included in the smoking ban.

Mosier, who supports the proposed ordinance, said the golf course isn't a magnet for children and that the goal is protect children from the dangers of secondhand smoke.

There would be five-foot buffer around the ban areas. Surrounding sidewalks and parking lots would be exempt.

The Leo Adler Memorial Pathway would be a no-smoking area with a buffer.

Baker City resident Bobbie Danser said she doesn't want to see the ban approved because she'd prefer that existing codes be better enforced by police officers for such things as noise, fireworks, youth curfew, leash laws and discharging firearms.

"These are public parks," Danser said. "Everyone has the right to use them."

The idea is to encourage people to follow the rules, "to try to get by with a minimal amount of enforcement," Button said.

The proposed smoking ban ordinance will be reviewed by the city attorney and could come back to the councilors for a possible first reading in July.

In other business, the councilors:

andbull; Approved an interfund loan from the Anthony Silvers Street Tree Fund of $294,881 to the Local Improvement District for relocation of utility lines so they run under Resort Street from Campbell Street to Auburn Avenue, which is being reconstructed and beautified. The fund uses only the interest accrued from the principal for projects and this arrangement would add money to the Silvers fund. A second loan of $36,256 from the equipment and vehicle fund would be used to pay off related general fund debt.

andbull; Accepted the third and final reading of the Transportation System Plan, Ordinance No. 3323. The document replaces the similar plan created for the city in 1996.

andbull;Approved bids for E Street improvements between College and 8th streets. The overlay project was awarded to High Desert Aggregate and Paving Inc., for $115,965 and VanNevel Concrete and Curb Inc., received the $85,907 award for sidewalk work. Both companies are based in Redmond.

This project is a continuation of the street repaving and sidewalk construction on E Street near Baker High School that started two years ago.

andbull; Made no decision about whether to hire a meter reader to replace the water department employee who retired last year. More information is expected from prospective contractors. It's budgeted during this upcoming fiscal year.

andbull; Named these residents to the Parks and Recreation Committee: Rick Taylor, Mike Clark and Jim Horan.