City adminstrator says that there's hope for a library this year as compromises begin

City Administrator Greg EllisIn less than a year, City Administrator Greg Ellis will step down from his post. But in the interim, he’s hoping for an active and positive run to the finish line for Canby. The city’s future, he said, leaves him feeling optimistic.

Topping the list of potential 2014 brings, is a renewed debate – a positive debate – on a new library for Canby. During last Wednesday’s Urban Renewal Agency workshop, Ellis said he witnessed a spirit of cooperation and positive discussion that has him thinking the project still has possibilities. The when, where and how still need to be decided, but the discussion was positive.

“I know hope springs eternal, but I’m thinking this library is going to get off the ground,” he said. “I hope to see a groundbreaking before I leave – we may not – but I’m hopeful it will happen.

“We have to work together to make it happen,” he added. “Three options came up and were discussed very intelligently and very respectfully. Nobody had too much pride of ownership in their idea and we just had a really good discussion. Obviously, there are things to be worked out, but the agency is moving forward to do its due diligence. I was pretty pumped.”

Ellis said another goal for 2014 is the updating of department goals to align more closely with City Council goals.

“We did our visioning project and the community said ‘this is what we want.’ Council looked at that and set its council goals based on that,” Ellis said. “Now, our department goals are needing to be inline with the council goals, which were based on visioning, which was based on citizen input.”

That process will go through February and March.

Ellis was candid about the city’s visioning project and wanted Canbyites to know that it has been a valuable tool – not the waste of time some told him it would be.

“When we started that visioning process, I had people tell me it was a waste of time and nothing would ever be done with it – it would just sit on a shelf,” Ellis said. “One of the things I want to do is let people know that these visioning projects don’t sit on the shelf. These things get done.”

“Virtually everything from our last visioning process was accomplished. People need to know that we act on the visioning and things get done. I think that’s important.”

The plan is to have department heads attend council meetings to provide reports of what’s been accomplished, as well as get the word out through the Herald and on the city’s website.

Financially, the city continues to deal with dwindling sources of revenue. However, Ellis said that last year’s budget had a higher than expected carryover and now, six months into its latest budget, the carryover looks like it will be substantial again.

But there are hurdles and unknowns still to be determined.

“It’s kind of a shrinking pie, to be honest,” he said. “I think we’re doing some really good stuff and our staff really works at being frugal. We’re unsure about health costs and not sure how the Affordable Care Act is going to affect us.”

Ellis said that he continues to see double-digit health care cost increases nearly every year. He also expressed concern for the Canby Police Department, which has been operating a couple officers down for a while.

“The chief (Brett Smith) has been short two officers for a long time,” Ellis said. “We want to fill that hole as soon as possible, but can we afford it? They do a lot of things behind the scenes that people don’t know about, but we have to kind of wait.”

Also on his mind for the next budget, he said he wanted to develop a capital improvement plan that includes all the funding mechanisms for capital improvement infrastructure for the city.

“We want to make sure our system development charges are being spent correctly,” Ellis said. “We have four SDCs — park, storm, sewer and transportation — and we want to make sure the money that comes in from those are being spent correctly. Currently, we put that in our wastewater-stormwater reserves, but in the next budget you’ll see them segmented out. We’re okay, but we need to track that money a little more. I want people to be able to see what the money is and where it’s being spent on infrastructure.”

Piggybacking on the library project, Ellis said he would like to see the city’s administration housed in one location. Currently, Ellis has staff spread through three buildings, not including library and police staffs. The current setup, he said, is inefficient and disruptive — “a disservice to the community.”

Bringing all city staff together, he said, could potentially save the city a decent amount of money.

“We get a lot of people coming through these doors (at city hall) that we have to redirect down the street,” he said. “That’s just not good for the city. I don’t think I’ll get that accomplished before I leave, but we’re going to try.”

On a positive note, Ellis noted, the city’s wastewater treatment plant continues to stay up-to-date and innovative in ways to save money. The city has budgeted over the next two budget cycles about $1.1 million for a new clarifier for the plant – the first $800,000 of which will be in this year’s budget.

“We’re keeping things modernized out there and we are well-positioned for growth in the future – we’re using only 35 to 40 percent of our capacity out there.”

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