Mayor: We need to be careful about statements that we make

The St. Helens City Council spent nearly half an hour discussing the potential impact of increased rail traffic at its work session Wednesday, July 17, but while councilors said they want to keep working on the issue, they were reluctant to take a position.

Councilor Susan Conn said she wants to see the council come out against increased traffic, which could result from new development at the Port Westward Industrial Park if the Port of St. Helens’ proposal to expand the site is approved by Columbia County commissioners.

“I think we need to take a stance as a city council in support of what our public is asking,” Conn said.

But Mayor Randy Peterson and Councilor Keith Locke said that before the council commits to a certain position, it needs to have more information from stakeholders about how they would be affected.

“I do think that we need to be careful about statements that we make, especially as a public body, and ... what kind of impact those statements have on other entities or other activities in the county,” Peterson said.

Council President Doug Morten and Councilor Ginny Carlson joined Conn in voicing concern about how increased train traffic through St. Helens would affect residents and local businesses, also expressing the belief that the council should “take a stance.”

Morten said he would support directing staff to reach out to stakeholders and keep the issue open.

Conn declined to withdraw or amend her motion, and it was defeated 3-2.

Immediately after that, a motion asking City Administrator John Walsh to work on a process to involve stakeholders passed unanimously.

“This is something that shouldn’t be perceived as being tabled,” Morten said after the motion was adopted. “But it should be on the agenda next month.”

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