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Cornelius well-prepared for 2008 projects

City officials in Cornelius feel much more prepared beginning 2008 than perhaps they did at this time last year.

The 2006 election gave the city a new mayor and three council members elected for their first full terms that began in December.

And, at that time, as the new city manager I only had one year under my belt in guiding Cornelius.

However, that new group of elected officials quickly moved to working together and gave me and the staff clear objectives. The city's goals that received the most attention were bringing financial stability and restoring services.

The new fiscal year began in July, and by Aug. 14th a police officer position was filled.

Now, due to a resignation and a retirement the police department is currently trying to fill two vacancies, so the community has not yet seen the benefit of the additional officer.

On the other hand, the response to increased hours at the library is fabulous. The library returned to a schedule of 46 hours a week including a 1-5 p.m. shift on Sunday afternoons.

As a result, library staff members report seeing more patrons and more materials being checked out than any time in the last three years.

This month the city council will consider approval of changes in system development charges for new development connecting to the three public utilities: water, wastewater and storm water.

Coupled with changes in the monthly utility rates, this brings all of the business operations of the city into a much better financial situation.

With these changes, the city can begin work on one of its major capital projects - a new two-million-gallon water reservoir. The increased storage will give the city the ability to better respond to fires and meet peak demands.

Additionally, it provides customers almost three days worth of stored water in case there is an interruption of service due to an emergency.

Another major public project also should finally get underway this year - reconstruction of North Adair Street.

The project is currently delayed due to a problem with the specifications for the street lights. The city selected the style installed at the intersection of 20th Avenue and Baseline Street but these are no longer allowed by the Oregon Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration.

The city is searching for an alternative while attempting to achieve safety certification of the preferred lights.

Construction has also been delayed on the Wal-Mart Supercenter store slated for the northwest corner of Fourth Avenue and Adair Street. While store construction plans have been approved since mid-year, one factor in the delay has been the cost of storm-water management requirements to prevent flooding adjacent neighborhoods.

The city is also awaiting the results of an application to extend the region's Urban Growth Boundary northward across Council Creek for additional industrial land. A Metro hearings officer will consider the matter at a public meeting on Feb. 19. If approved, this proposal should lead to more local job opportunities for Cornelius residents.

Another city goal will be accomplished when voters decide whether to approve a new city charter. This will likely occur during the May primary election.

If approved, the city will have its first new governance document since 1953. The new document is based on the 2004 model designed by the League of Oregon Cities. It retains the current arrangement of having a mayor and a four-member city council govern the community.

Dave Waffle is the city manager of Cornelius.