The Baker City Council on Tuesday appointed three members to a committee that will help distribute the $292,929 the city has received in federal aid for the coronavirus pandemic.

Mayor Loran Joseph will appoint two additional members later to the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) committee.

Membership will include one city councilor, a city employee, a Baker County official, and two local residents.

On Tuesday the Council appointed Councilor Doni Bruland, Robin Nudd, the city’s human resources and community development director, and Chris Knoll, manager of Umpqua Bank’s Baker City branch.

Councilors also voted 5-0 to rescind their July 28 decision to award $50,000 of the federal aid to Community Connection of Baker County.

That organization will still be eligible, however, to apply for some of the money the city received through the CARES Act, which Congress passed in late March, early in the pandemic.

Councilors Arvid Andersen and Randy Schiewe were absent Tuesday.

City Manager Fred Warner Jr. proposed that the Council, during its twice-per-month meetings, allocate some of the CARES Act money to the committee for disbursal.

The city needs to distribute the money by Dec. 31, 2020.

“We believe there is quite a need out there but we don’t know,” Warner said.

Councilors voted 5-0 on Tuesday to make an initial transfer of $75,000 to the committee. They also voted to spend no more than 5% of the money on administrative costs, which will go to a contractor who will handle the paperwork associated with distributing the money.

“What they would need, the contractors that they are looking for, they need to be able to get the dollars out the door in an efficient manner and have a proven method to document COVID-related expenses,” Warner said. “And then, especially with businesses if we were going to help businesses, they have a plan for long-term viability so that we weren’t just putting money out to some business that couldn’t actually make it.”

The city will create contracts and send them to the CRF Committee and the council will need to sign the contracts.

Among the potential recipients, in addition to businesses, are the county’s Economic Recovery Committee, food banks, faith-based groups and any other organization that has the capacity to track how it would use the money.

The committee could also specify financial aid for specific purposes, including helping residents pay for housing, utilities, transportation, food, medical supplies and other needs.

Warner also discussed the possibility of helping parents pay for child care.

Bryan Tweit, Baker County’s economic development director, said the county’s Economic Recovery Team has been working to distribute about $280,000 from multiple grants.

“We have a lot of businesses that are hurting,” Tweit said.

He said the city’s new committee can potentially help “all those people who fell in the cracks” and didn’t qualify for other pandemic aid.

“This committee will have the ability to look at anybody coming and presenting,” Tweit said.

Jeff Nelson, Baker County business adviser with Blue Mountain Community College’s Small Business Development Center and also a member of the county’s Economic Recovery Team, said the city dollars are needed.

“Our businesses are still suffering,” he said.

Parking changes

Councilors approved a resolution modifying parking near the new Baker Early Learning Center in the North Baker School building at 2725 Seventh St.

The Baker School District asked that the city restrict parking on the west side of Seventh Street between B and C streets to allow for parents to pick up and drop off students. The parking restriction would be in effect on school days from 7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The resolution also prohibits parking at all times on the east side of Eighth Street from B Street north to the cul-de-sac, and restricts parking on the north side of B Street between Seventh and Eighth streets on school days from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In a staff report to councilors, Michelle Owen, the city’s public works director, recommended against banning all parking on the east side of Eighth Street north of B Street. Owen wrote that the school district’s construction of a new parking lot northwest of the Early Learning Center, the former site of a playground, should accommodate teachers and parents and that Eighth Street could be left to allow parking for the general public and adjacent residents.

Angela Lattin, director of the Early Learning Center, said the parking ban on Eighth Street is of no benefit to the district, but was suggested by Sid Johnson & Co., the district’s contractor for renovating the building, to avoid possible traffic congestion on the street.

In other business Tuesday, councilors:

• approved the purchase of a used road grader from Western States CAT in Meridian, Idaho, for $180,000.

• voted to accept a $138,933 federal grant that will pay for an exhaust system at the Baker City Fire Department, and three CPR machines.

Former Fire Chief John Clark applied for the grant, which requires a city match of $6,946.

Fire Chief Sean Lee wrote in a report to councilors that the exhaust system will prevent fumes from fire trucks and ambulances from accumulating in the station. It will cost about $95,000.

The CPR machines will cost about $51,000.

The machines “will give Baker City the ability to perform lifesaving, high quality CPR for longer periods of time with fewer people,” Lee wrote in his report.

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