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Mayors talk Cornelius water, Forest Grove economics

Jef Dalin, Pete Truax take turns at the microphone in dual 'state of city' addresses


Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES PHOTOS: JOHN SCHRAG - Forest Grove Mayor Pete Truax gives roses to his wife, Pat Truax, before his State of the City address Monday, thanking her for her support.Two weeks ago, test drilling indicated that the Aquifer Storage Recovery (ASL) well being drilled by Cornelius might be able to hold as much as 30 million to 50 million gallons of water.

That was the big news from Cornelius Mayor Jef Dalin’s “State of the City” address Monday at the monthly luncheon of the Forest Grove/Cornelius Chamber of Commerce, where he shared the spotlight with Forest Grove Mayor Pete Truax.

According to Dalin, Cornelius currently has only one above-ground storage tank of 1.5 million gallons. That might sound like a lot, he said, but when the city’s water main broke last year, he discovered that “a million and a half gallons barely makes it through the day in Cornelius.”

Aquifer storage takes advantage of the deep layers of porous basalt beneath the earth to capture and store excess water during the rainy season — to be used later, during the dry season or in emergencies.

A new above-ground tank that stores 2 million gallons would cost about $3 million — the same as the ASR (and pumping facilities) that might hold 25 times as much water, Dalin said.

The rest of his address reviewed the city’s recent successes, including completion of the eastbound Baseline Street project, which added wide sidewalks, street trees and parking, new lighting and other amenities. “With the addition of a full-function traffic light at 14th Avenue, drivers will no longer need to exit their vehicles to press the crosswalk button,” he said, drawing big laughs from a crowd of people who had clearly spent time waiting at that stoplight.

Dalin extolled the success of the police department’s merger in 2014 with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, noting that the number of police contacts with citizens had increased 47 percent over the previous year, with many of the contacts initiated by the deputies themselves, including “shake and rattle” nighttime visits to ensure businesses are locked up. “Occasionally they find one open,” he said.Photo Credit: NEWS-TIMES PHOTOS: JOHN SCHRAG - Cornelius Mayor Jef Dalin attended and spoke at the Forest Grove/Cornelius Chamber of Commerces Monday luncheon, listing the growing popularity of citywide activities such as movies in the park and Take Care of Cornelius Day as one of his citys many successes.

And with the WCSO’s West Precinct officers now working out of the Cornelius office, police presence has increased by at least eight additional vehicles driving in and out of the city, he said.

Dalin also celebrated the reactivation of the city’s Economic Development Commission and $2.4 million in lottery funds that will support a remodel of the city’s cramped library.

The city’s biggest challenge, he said, will be passing a levy to fund its understaffed fire department. Right now, Dalin said, Cornelius has one firefighter and four interns available each day, plus volunteers. When a federal grant expires in June, the city will lose the interns. “There is no way we can operate our department without this five-year levy,” he said. The levy, which will be on the May ballot, would add two full-time emergency medical technicians (only one working at a time) and three interns.

The value of a fully functioning fire department goes beyond health and safety, Dalin told the business crowd, because if the quality of a local fire department goes down, “insurance rates can go up” for businesses in that city.

Truax’s list of Forest Grove successes started with economic improvements. The number of vacant industrial buildings dropped from 16 to 11 during the year. Three businesses expanded with help from the city’s enterprise zone. And Summit Foods and Chaucer Foods both added employees.

On the health and environment front, the city reined in backyard burning, banned smoking from parks and public property and made its Sustainability Commission official.

Truax welcomed the addition of Juniper Gardens Two, an affordable-housing project on the city’s north side, and $240,000 that will help fund a sanitary-sewer project for properties along the recently annexed Firwood Lane.

He also extolled the performance of the city’s public-safety professionals and urged a statewide upgrade of mental health services and programs. “Police cannot be the first responders to individuals with mental health issues,” he said.

Forcing police, fire and emergency-medical professionals to continually deal with “the highly emotional situation of those with mental disabilities is unfair and, to be pragmatic, costly,” he said.

Truax also celebrated the completion of Mollie’s Garden, a colorful public art piece in the city library’s entryway.

“It is police, it is fire, it is public works that play a dominant role in the funding responsibility of a city. But it is libraries, it is parks, it is an appreciation of the arts that allows a city to grow culturally and to contribute to the overall well-being and health of a city,” Truax said.

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