Molalla’s JOKE of a Transportation Plan: If wishes were horses beggars would ride!

And the sad part is money REALLY CONTROLS what cities can or can not provide in terms of quality of life features – Decayville Molalla doesn’t have enough to fund infrastructure: Molalla needs $46 million for wastewater and $91 million  for transportation = $137 MILLION! Good luck on that Molalla!

Do you remember this great song:

“Money makes the world go around

The world go around

The world go around

Money makes the world go around

It makes the world go ’round.

A mark, a yen, a buck, or a pound

A buck or a pound

A buck or a pound

Is all that makes the world go around,

That clinking clanking sound

Can make the world go ’round …”  (Cabaret)

If you don’t have the time to read the below FACTS about the insane/hilarious new Molalla Transportation System Plan (TSP) know this: the City of Molalla HAS NO MONEY TO MAKE ANYTHING GO AROUND these days, let alone a “plan” that costs – hold your breath! – $91 MILLION DOLLARS TO IMPLEMENT!  It’s beyond crazy and incompetent for Molalla “leaders” to endorse a plan they have no ability to pay for.

But wait! Maybe this is the phony dream in the head of the  Molalla “if wishes were horses, beggars would ride” planners who promote abject nonsense (like El Hefe so-called city “manager” Huff and his buddy, so-called public works “manager” Fisher – can they READ A BUDGET?):

You can bet the ONLY chance Molalla has to implement this ridiculous plan is if the skies really opened up and rained money! Good luck, Molalla, how many more insane “wishes” do we have to endure from Decayville before you admit your are functionally broke?

Do the so-called “managers” and “planners” of Molalla actually believe money is going to fall from the sky to save the Decayville mess they have created? Apparently so, given the ridiculous beyond belief 20 year Transportation System Plan (TSP) about to be rubber stamped by the untrained, naive, led by the nose Planning Commission (Apparently the  so-called “mayor” Thompson and his El Hefe “manager” Huff like to keep the Planning Commission untrained, all the better for pushing through private agendas!).  Here’s the real truth about this crazy $91 million plan for Molalla, a city that can barely afford to fix a pot hole and struggles every year to balance the budget!

Sept. 4, 2018

RE: TSP

Molalla Planning Commission,

In February, comments were submitted to the consultants tasked with guiding Molalla to a viable TSP (see below for the submitted comments). The comments focused on the need for the City of Molalla to produce a REALISTIC TSP that had a chance of being implemented. Instead, Molalla has again produced a ridiculously expensive, aspirational plan that has virtually no chance of being implemented. The tech memo from the consultants noted exactly how costly and unrealistic this overreaching plan is (quote):

Molalla Transportation System Plan (TSP) Update Project #: 21266.6.6

June 18, 2018 Page 3

Kittelson & Associates, Inc. Portland, Oregon

 TRANSPORTATION FUNDING

The TSP will include a planned transportation system, which identifies all of the projects and programs needed to address all of the transportation needs within the city and a financially constrained transportation system, which identifies the projects and programs the City anticipates being able to fund over the next 22 years. Per Tech Memo 3: TSP Financial Forecast, the amount of local funds that is expected to be available for capital projects in the TSP over the next 22 years is $0. Per Tech Memo 3, the City is expected to have a deficit of approximately $16.5 million, which is equivalent to a deficit of roughly $750,000 per year. *1

(*1 This number does not account for potential funding from state and federal grants such as the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) and House Bill (HB) 2017 Transportation Investments. While it is likely that these funds will be used to fund some transportation improvements within the city over the next 22 years, because of the uncertainty in acquiring grant funds, these funding sources are not accounted for in the City’s revenue forecast.)

 PLANNED TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM COST SUMMARY

Table 1 summarizes the costs associated with the planned transportation system. As shown, the full cost of the planned transportation system is approximately $91 million over the 22-year period, including $11 million in high priority projects, $43 million in medium priority projects, and $37 million in low priority projects. Based on the anticipated funds available from System Development Charges, there will be > 1.0 million to fund the financially constrained plan. This suggests the city will need to identify other potential revenue sources to fund transportation, including implementation of the TSP projects over the 22-year period.” End quote

Final Tech Memo #8: Planned and Financially Constrained Transportation Systems

Molalla is facing the need to “find” $46 million dollars – actually that’s a LEGAL MANDATE PER DEQ! –  in the next few years for to remedy its glaring wastewater problems – huge utility rate increases will be necessary to prove that needed loans can be repaid. Add that sum to the $91 million the City needs to “find” for this unrealistic TSP: that’s $137 million Molalla faces “finding” when it can barely balance the budget each year.

This pretty much sums up the “plans” that come out of Molalla, the poster child for champagne taste on a beer budget. But guess who isn’t on a beer budget: the paid Molalla “managers” who hog down hundreds of thousands of dollars a year with salaries paid by the public. When does Molalla get “managers” who can “manage” to tell the truth about what is realistic and what is a pipe dream? Wake up and smell the fraud!

My February comments noted that Molalla was likely to lose the ability to impose $11/month on rate payers to try to pay for transportation. In May, over 71% of Molalla voters rejected that fee. That rejection, per the City Manager and Public Works Manager, left Molalla with virtually no working funds to even upgrade Molalla’s existing roads, let alone build any new infrastructure. A 71%+ rejection of road fees does not bode well for imposing more road fees in the future to raise money for road infrastructure.

Molalla’s financial woes can, at least in part, be traced to past costly planning fiascos which flew in the face of reality – most glaring were the years and money wasted promoting the “need” for a 2,000+ acre Urban Reserve which was roundly defeated at the County level. Molalla has failed to charge adequate SDCs that could have helped with transportation needs. Molalla is glaringly deficient in providing adequate parks/greenspaces.

In the light of all the past, costly planning failures that have resulted in a low quality City,  it would be another disservice to the people of greater Molalla to pass a plan that has next to zero chance of being implemented. When will Molalla begin to learn from past mistakes so they are not repeated over and over again and instead produce a balanced, quality city that doesn’t just focus on stuffing in low quality development by constantly lowing standards?

When a consultant points out the (to put it mildly) “financial constrictions” faced by Molalla, it is unconscionable to pass a plan that is projected to cost $91 million.

Is the PC really ready to saddle Molalla with, per the consultants’ memo, a projected $750,000/ a year TRANSPORTATION DEFECIT?

The following comments are even more true today, substantiated by the consultants’ tech memo, noting Molalla’s “financial constrictions”:

February 19, 2018

Re: Comments about the Molalla TSP

Dear Molalla TSP Technical Committee,

It is of concern that time and public money are being devoted to creating new “plans” for the City of Molalla when anyone who reads the long list of projects in the 2001 TSP would quickly realize virtually no projects on that list were ever implemented. Further, Molalla has failed to collect adequate SDCs over the years and its citizens are in the process of likely rejecting an $11/month road utility fee. Any responsible transportation planner would note these extreme constrictions and failures and would have refused to grant funds for new “plans” that will likely also fail to be implemented. Since ODOT has unwisely allowed this TSP grant, please take close consideration of the long list of constrictions and only approve a TSP that has a chance for once of being implemented.

Molalla’s failure to implement past TSP (as well as the failure to  implement other “plans” created with public grants); the financial inability to implement future plans; the failure to accept the impossibility of the  Forest Road as an affordable, viable arterial; existing debt obligations; $32-38 million more debt looming for wastewater facilities upgrades; and the financial inability of local residents to manage large fee increases should all be factors the TSP committee carefully considers in planning the new TSP.

Failure to implement the 2001 TSP:

The Molalla 2017-2018 budget shows of list of road projects that were supposed to have been done, per the 2001 TSP, by 2006. The current budget lists these more than 10 years overdue projects as “Pending new Transportation Improvement Fee”, yet, before the new $11/month fee could be imposed, citizen petitioners recently gathered enough valid signatures to put the fee on the May ballot. Rate payers of Molalla are highly adverse to rate hikes, since, per Business Oregon’s distressed city, list Molalla  is one of the more poverty stricken cities in Clackamas County. Per this quote in the 2017-2018 Molalla budget by Public Works Manager Gerald Fisher, without a devoted road fee Molalla can’t even keep up with escalating road maintenance, let alone implement major projects: (bold added):

“Without increases to the Water, Sewer, and Stormwater Fund user fees, the City will not be able to perform needed operation and maintenance activities and deferred capital improvements. These operations and projects will reach a tipping point as the community rapidly approaches a population of 10,000 creating additional requirements related to permitting, testing, reporting, staff certification, and capital expenditures for upgrades in the water, sewer, and stormwater systems. The pavement condition index is in the low 60’s for city owned and operated streets. The threshold for accelerated degradation of pavement begins at a score of 70. Without a street user fee or other sustainable funding source, the street system will continue to degrade increasing the cost of repair and rehabilitation. Projects related to transportation enhancement are essentially unfunded and have been since the adoption of the Transportation Master Plan in 2001. An update to the plan is underway and without a sustainable funding source to match with transportation system development charges, the City will continue to be unable to design and construct any of the capacity increasing and safety related project that will serve the community as it grows.”

 As Molalla postpones the projects in its “plans” the costs of the projects escalate. Here is a list of the projects that were, per the 2001 TSP, supposed to have been completed by 2006 that are “pending” in the current Molalla budget; the 2018 cost is shown with the cost in 2001:

Reconstruct May Ave (5th-6th) $113K ($75,000 in 2001

Reconstruct Section St (Molalla-Hart) $150K ($100,000 in 2001)

Reconstruct Heintz St (Cole-Grange) $315K$ ($210,000 in 2001)

Reconstruct S. Cole $210K ($140,000 in 2001)

Reconstruct Shirley St (Molalla-Cole) $556K$ ($370,000 in 2001)

Failure to plan in scale with financial capability to implement plans:

 Please don’t add more unrealistic timelines and projects in a new TSP that Molalla, per its own budget admission, clearly can’t afford. If, as is likely, the voters reject the $11 road utility fee, Molalla will have virtually no chance of doing much in the way of maintenance; even with the $11/month fee it will take years to fix the degraded existing streets and to provide missing sidewalks or adequate bike lanes. The failure to implement the 2001 TSP should be a big red flag that any new TSP must be extremely conservative and should closely question how Molalla will come up with the financial resources to implement any plans. Molalla has already encumbered its Urban Renewal Funds via borrowing for the Molalla Ave paving project and it is indebted to pay back four loans. Of most concern should be the coming need to “find” a projected $32-38 million for wastewater facilities, which will surely put a huge burden on utility rate payers who have already proved adverse to the road utility fee, which is optional – upgrading the wastewater facilities, will not be optional.

Molalla has also failed to charge and collect adequate SDCs over the past decades, so SDCs can’t be depended upon for funding roads. Because of the proven lack of wastewater processing capacity, Molalla may even be facing a moratorium on building which would truncate SDC funds.

Failure to honestly assess future population:

 Please don’t overestimate Molalla’s capacity for population growth. The 2001 TSP said “SDC report forecast Molalla’s population in the year 2019 to be approximately 13,370”, yet the 2018 population has not reached 10,000. DLCD has confirmed that until the wastewater facility capacity issue is solved it would not allow any UGB expansion. Molalla is facing a Mutual Agreement and Order with DEQ and enforcement for failing to comply with the terms of a Consent Decree that resulted from a citizen Clean Water Act lawsuit; both legal actions could also impose restrictions on growth until wastewater capacity is solved. The commute from Molalla to viable job centers is the longest in the County and as Oregon’s roads continue to be choked, that commute can inhibit Molalla’s desirability. Overestimating growth causes out of scale “plans” that can’t be implemented.

Failure to accept that the Forest Road is not a viable bypass or arterial:

 Please remove the Molalla Forest Road from the TSP as any potential truck bypass/arterial.

In 2011, Business Oregon considered providing a $60,000 grant for a feasibility study to see if Molalla could build the Forest Road into a modern truck bypass. Much community outcry ensued that spending $60.000 was a waste of public money and research quickly proved that there was no way Molalla could afford to change an archaic abandoned logging “road” into a modern bypass that would cost tens of millions of dollars. Clackamas County confirmed that it is in question whether Molalla really “owns” the Forest Road – any plans made for it need to show legal transfer and that was a murky path in Clackamas County records; Molalla needs to show conclusive proof of clear ownership.

If Molalla wanted access to wished for industrial businesses (which to date never have materialized) Business Oregon’s Mike Solt said in 2011 he would “much prefer” to see short connector links off Highway 211 (Molalla’s Main Street) to the industrial brownfields.

When questioned about this “feasibility study”, ODOT’s Sonya Kazen noted on the phone that “Maybe Molalla needs to do this study to finally prove to itself it can’t afford the Forest Road. Then it could concentrate on the 211 Corridor”.  That comment didn’t inspire public trust in the process or expectation for a positive outcome from the grant and ultimately there was no study.

It should not take a “study” for this committee to know that the Forest Road as a bypass would be a long shot for a well-funded large city; for Molalla it is a totally out of reach “vision” that does not belong on the TSP as anything but a recreational corridor/ local residential access road as Clackamas County has suggested. Molalla has made “plans” over the years that claim it wants to protect wetlands and water resources, enhance wildlife corridors and provide recreational opportunities – the Forest Road, with its wetlands along Bear Creek, its peaceful rural setting and its existing narrow ROW is the perfect place for Molalla to begin to fulfill those long overdue promises.

Failure to provide adequate active transportation opportunities:

Molalla’s unimplemented 2007 Parks Plan noted the extreme lack of parks/greenspaces/recreational opportunities for the NW portion of Molalla. Since that plan was written, the SW area has also received a large influx of population via a massive apartment complex and soon to be build residential neighborhoods. As with roads, Molalla has totally failed to implement any of the bike and pedestrian improvements called for in the 2001 TSP.

The 2017-2018 budget has almost $500,000 listed as needed for bike and pedestrian improvements and bike lanes on Highway 213 – again, that funding is listed as pending the in question road utility fee. Those pedestrian/bike projects are also carry-overs from the failed 2001 TSP. There is little hope Molalla at this point will ever catch up with pedestrian/bicycle transportation needs, given the escalating costs.

Conclusion:

Without a TSP BASED ON A REALISTIC ANALYSIS OF MOLALLA’S GLARING FINANCIAL CONSTRAINTS, in twenty years we can expect another failure to implement, just like the 2001 TSP. It is up to transportation experts to produce a TSP that has any hope of being implemented. Please stop producing “plans”, at the expense of Oregonians’ public funds, that are out of scale and dishonest in terms of Molalla’s capacity to implement in a timely manner. Molalla has lost years and hundreds of thousands of dollars of public money by putting unattainable aspirational planning over realistic goals. If Molalla is ever going to improve its overall quality of life and become a successful, financially sound city, it needs to start taking baby steps instead of being overwhelmed with plans like a Forest Road truck bypass it will never be able to afford.

As a greater Molalla community resident, I feel sorry for those inside the Molalla city limits who are not getting the quality of life they deserve. As an Oregonian, I resent seeing public money wasted on these planning grants if they are not going to be implemented in a timely manner with discernible results.

 

 

 

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Posted in Molalla, Molalla City Council, Quality of life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Molalla Real Estate: Sewage Tsunami Ahoy!

Update May 17: Molalla Sewage Tsunami will now cost $46 MILLION to fix, per this newest report (which shows all the out of compliance/ over capacity sewage disasters): https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6lDnyMwVqg4TC0zaVE3UFFVMEp2ampoSjBEVG9RWGcyU3Rv/view

Here’s the newest Molalla Sewage Tsunami hold your head and cry report (it’s worse every time a new more detailed report is produced!): I & I Flow Mapping Report – Draft (Mar. 2018) (3 MB) found on this City webpage (read all the documents if you want to get really depressed about Molalla’s hideous “management”!) http://www.cityofmolalla.com/publicworks/page/wastewater-facility-collection-system-master-plan-update

And for the background on how Molalla’s wastewater FIASCO reached today’s crisis, read this post that outlines how many lies the Molalla “managers” and “leaders” told: https://oregonfirst.wordpress.com/2015/09/25/molalla-clean-water-act-lawsuit-losers/

Decayville Molalla’s newest need – but it is doubtful it can afford it!

Are you tempted by artificially low real estate prices in “drive till you qualify” Decayville Molalla?

It’s easy to get hooked by grasping real estate agent spin – after all, real estate agents depend on a commission and could give a hoot if you really understand the truth about the disaster that is the City of Molalla. The shit has literally hit the fan – the wastewater facility is over capacity, the lagoons are leaking and Decayville Molalla faces huge rate increases to meet wastewater compliance: where, oh where, will the needed $38-50 MILLION come from?  Molalla is spending money it doesn’t have, fighting DEQ on one front and an enforcement action of a Clean Water Act lawsuit settlement on the other front, using an expensive law firm that seemingly has more interest in billable hours than in producing swift mitigation.

Think hard about it: can you AFFORD to risk investing in low quality of life Decayville Molalla? 

Never mind that the city “leaders” and “staff”have failed, as they stuffed in development like drunken sailors, to add a single new park for all the crammed in, cookie cutter houses.

Never mind that the old downtown is a poster child for urban decay, featuring a myriad of archaic empty store fronts broken by  hard liquor bars, tattoo parlor, pawnshop-esque  Quick Cash, used clothing stores, video gambling parlors thinly disguised as “delis. Worst of all, old downtown and and adjoining neighborhoods now endure invasive noise pollution via a giant log grinding business which was allowed to locate (with tax perks from the City Council!!!) right in the heart of Decayville: nothing like NOISE POLLUTION slamming away from the early morning to late in the evening to ruin what was left of quality of life in Molalla. The bitter complaints about the NOISE POLLUTION of course fell on deaf ears to City “leaders” because a handful of jobs and filling up a nasty old mill site means more to them than protecting their residents from the invasive BOOMS AND CLUNKS AND GRINDS of nasty Longview Fiber (a business a DEQ rep noted was not an appropriate choice, given the NOISE POLLUTION in proximity to residential neighborhoods). So much for any “charm” about old downtown!

Never mind that the “leaders” and “managers”  failed to raise sewer and water rates or System Develop Charges to keep up with inflation and needed expansion/upgrades/maintenance.  In fact, the “leaders” and “mangers” played so fast and loose with public funds that a forensic audit in 2011 found a whooping 2.5 million dollars in SDCs was missing (and never replaced or accounted for!). The “leaders” ran the City into insolvency illegally shifting funds to push a sure to fail land use adventure that was as predicted denied (current Mayor Jimmy Thompson, then a City Councilor, voted to fund that land use train wreck to the bitter end, in spite of years of negative feedback from state and county).

Never mind that public participation  is so low that the City Council and Mayor were either appointed or elected unopposed.  If you want a wake up call about the quality of “leadership”,  take a look at the video tapes of recent City Council meetings, where the “councilors” show their lack of knowledge about issues – they are simply there to rubber stamp whatever El Hefe city “manager” Huff puts in front of them. A recent hilarious moment featured Council President Klein asking where a road was that they were about to vote to annex! Maybe a RESPONSIBLE leader would  check out the road issues BEFORE landing at a public meeting? In this case, they voted to take over Lowe Road from the County – a road that the County lists as so substandard the gravel was maintained by the few residents, not the County. Why would a Council add a woefully substandard “road” when it can’t afford to fix the roads it already is responsible for? But never fear, this is only one of the many pathetic moments when the so-called “leaders” reveal in public how ignorant they are about issues the City faces!

Never mind that El Hefe Huff and his side kick public works “manager” Fisher goaded the City Council into approving an $11/month road utility fee (see previous post) because the roads are a mess and the “managers” can’t “manage” to fix them. Before the fee could be imposed, enough signatures were gathered to put that up for a vote in May. Gee, why didn’t the City Council have the courage to ask the rate payers for a vote if they REALLY wanted to hear what “their” people wanted? And, again, why did El Hefe and Fisher push to add substandard gravel Lowe “Road” to the city inventory when they admit how they can’t manage to maintain the roads they already have?

What’s the next “great idea” the City Council will get roped into – fixing Decayville’s failed wastewater facilities with something like this? Don’t laugh, the “ideas” floated around town are about this ridiculous!

Never mind that the Molalla River School District consistently falls into the bottom 50% of Oregon school ratings. MRSD has a long, ugly history of racism and gay bashing. If you value your children, be sure to check out all the state school ratings  and pick a District that has a proven track record of excellent educational outcomes – and that’s NOT MRSD!

No joke, the “leaders” of Molalla over many decades have spent more time “visioning” than on addressing glaring problems and fixing them. Today’s current “visioning” reminds us of the past TEAM for Economic Development visioning from a decade ago that produced – you guessed it – EXACTLY NOTHING! At least when NOTHING comes of the current fortune telling “visioning” we won’t be surprised. The only way real visionary change can happen in Decayville is via MONEY, something Molalla never has enough of!

Never mind that the la la land City Council is more focused on (yet again!) “visioning” that never comes true than on the concrete and ugly problems Decayville faces. After all, since Molalla is often listed officially as a “distressed” city by the state, in part because of poorly educated residents, the Council apparently thinks pie in the sky  “if wishes were horses, beggars would ride” visions are enough to mollify tax paying residents. The 2007 official “parks plan” vision was “revised” in 2014 and is listed for yet another “revision” – and, again, not a scrap of new land has been developed as a park: no problem stuffing in houses but the “leaders” care not at all about providing adequate recreational opportunities.

What you need to worry about is that the City of Molalla “leaders” and highly paid “managers” have been so totally incompetent and unethical about managing the growing sewage that the City now faces a $38-50 MILLION DOLLAR bill to upgrade its wastewater facilities to comply with the Clean Water Act! And that won’t be a voluntary, “we’ll get to it when we can afford it” effort – it will be legally mandated by DEQ in a binding Mutual Agreement and Order (MAO).  And if the City balks at that MAO it will face a court order. That’s how far off the track Molalla’s “management” has gone. Do you really want to buy into a place that goes that far off the track?

A great book called Better Not Bigger by Eben Fodor clearly outlines exactly what caused Molalla to turn into a Decayville city, facing funding crisis after funding crisis:

This EXACTLY outlines what happened to clueless Decayville Molalla – which has had the lowest greater Metro system development charges and failed miserably to keep up with quality of life features like needed parks as it stuffed in cheap houses. Now the money crunch is fully upon Decayville!

Better Not Bigger nails it – Molalla is a poster child for creating too much cheap growth without heeding the need to pay for upgrades.  Over the past years, Molalla had to stop running it Adult Community Center, it closed the city run pool (now taxpayers have to fund that White Elephant!), it’s roads are a mess, no new parks were added, the Molalla River School District whines about over crowding but can’t get a bond passed and now the sewage plant is PROVEN to be over capacity and will need to be upgraded: the literal shit has hit the fan as Molalla faces the need to borrow $38-50 MILLION dollars for wastewater upgrades – in a town that struggles every year to balance the books! And guess who will have to foot the bills to keep low quality of life Molalla afloat? You got it – the TAXPAYERS!

What you also need to worry about is that the “leaders” are in such blatant denial about the sewage tsunami that, just like in past fiascos, they are spending public money through the nose on legal representation that is only delaying the inevitable.  That’s a big problem with Molalla “leaders”: they get hooked up with lawyers who apparently need a paycheck so badly that they goad the naive and clueless “leaders” into spending public money like it was water, making demands of agencies that any half-literate lay person would know won’t fly, It would be funny to see the legal exchanges coming from Molalla, whining about its “special” needs and is lack of money, as if DEQ would give a rat’s ass consideration to those baloney excuses, if the City was using play money. But no, those “leaders” and “managers” are spending money Molalla can’t afford to waste!

How Decayville “managers” and “leaders” treat public money – it’s all for them to waste to try to cover up incompetence!

And can you risk investing in a place where the City Council was not smart enough to monitor whether or not its highly paid, so-called “managers” were complying with the Clean Water Act lawsuit Consent Decree that Decayville Molalla signed in 2015? After two and a half years, it is easy to prove Decayville’s blatant non-compliance with that legal agreement – so chalk up who knows how much more legal fees and penalties down the public money waste rat hole.

It’s long, long overdue for the Molalla ratepayers/ taxpayers to get a clue and replace the “plumbers” – the highly paid “managers” and clueless “elected leaders” who produced the financial / infrastructure disaster that is Decayville Molalla!

Don’t hesitate to invest in Decayville Molalla if you enjoy seeing your tax dollars and fees wasted on incompetent, unethical management and on the outside lawyers who are paid with PUBLIC MONEY to try to cover up Decayville’s massive deficiencies!  Maybe you are an “if wishes were horses, beggars would ride” naive investor who enjoys watching the failures  who run Molalla flush public money down the drain.   But if you can’t afford the risk of investing in a low quality train wreck that is trying to hide  rude and costly coming rate hikes and has failed miserably to provide basic quality of life features for its citizens,  cross Decayville Molalla off your real estate consideration list.

Before you dive into Decayville, compare Molalla’s “official” website to those of similar sized local cities, like Silverton, Sandy and Canby. Look for the minutes of City Council meetings, planning meetings. Look for newsletters – or the lack of any newsletters. Look especially at the budgets and google the cities to see what kind of stories you can find about how they cope with financial, infrastructure and social challenges. Take the time to attend a city council meeting and a planning meeting in a city you might be considering to check out the type of  people – managers and elected citizens –  running the city in question. Check all the records you can find, look for the presence or lack of parks and civic buildings.Read local chat FB pages – red flag if such pages require membership and approval because they are likely run by people with a vested interest in hiding the truth about local problems. Look at whether or not there is a thriving city center. Attend a school board meeting and read the District meeting minutes, state ratings and budgets. Don’t go blindly based on flowery words from real estate agents and cheaper than average prices!

REMEMBER: what looks cheap isn’t always a bargain! In the past real estate bust, Molalla was a state leader in foreclosure rates. If you invest in a “drive till you qualify”, ill planned, low quality, stuff em without regard to quality of life in city like Molalla, which lacks the money for required infrastructure upgrades, your real estate investment can plummet in a heartbeat. Can YOU risk owing a White Elephant in Decayville?

Can YOU afford to risk investing in real estate in Decayville Molalla – a town that can’t pave a road, let alone fix its over capacity sewage plant? It was a leader in foreclosures in the past real estate bust! Cheapest isn’t always the wisest choice when it comes to investing in a city!

Posted in Molalla, Molalla City Council, molalla real estate, Molalla River School District, Quality of life, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Molalla’s Newest Rip-Off: Ill Considered Road Utility Fee

You gotta love the gall of El Hefe “city manager” Huff, his little sidekick “public works manager” Fisher, and their pawns, the Molalla City Council, for claiming they conducted “outreach” about Decayville’s failing road infrastructure (gee, what part of “Molalla infrastructure” isn’t failing?). Molalla held three pathetic, so-called “town halls” that attracted less than 30 people from a city of 9,600; El Hefe Huff used that feeble “feedback” from .3125% of the population to justify sticking all Molalla rate payers with a flat $11/ a month fee to try to build funds to fix the hideous roads. But wait, how do other places handle issues like this?

Allow a VOTE by all the stakeholders to decide if they can accept an $11/month tack on fee. Clackamas County has crumbling roads but it had the courage to put a road fee proposal on the ballot last year – and it was defeated! And before a vote by the City Council, Molalla SHOULD have at least sent a survey to all rate payers if it really wanted to know what its rate payers would accept. But no, getting the opinion of .3125% – less than half a percent of the people who would have to pay! –  was enough for El Hefe Huff, since interface with the lowly “public” seems to be the bane of his existence. Shame on the City Council for pretending the bogus Town Halls were adequate. Wait till the rate payers whose opinions were not heard open those bills and find $11/month tacked on. And, never forget that Decayville is actually currently pretending it wants to hear “visions” from far flung community members – how’s that going “leaders”, have you cracked a HALF A PERCENT YET?

Charge businesses MORE because they generate more trips and troll in larger vehicles which are destructive to roads. What a joke that the Pacific NOISE POLLUTING Fiber business, which needs endless in and out giant lumber and hopper trucks, ONLY has to pay $11/ month, just like Grannie on a pension in a trailer with no car! And how about the giant heavy concrete trucks pounding away as they come and go from Redi-Mix? And how about the stress to roads by lumber, feed store, grocery store, BiMart and hardware store delivery trucks? Business in general generates far more abuse to roads, since all business creates more trips per rate payer than any residential rate payer. Why are all those businesses rated the same as the lowly residential resident? El Hefe is apparently, in the opinion of this writer, TOO LAZY or TOO BEHOLDEN TO BUSINESS INTERESTS to do the right thing: produce a study to prove how much impact business trip generation has on the roads. Most cities do such a study and then impose higher monthly road fees on the businesses.

Molalla “officials” El Hefe  city “manager” Dan Huff and his little buddy (or maybe not “buddy” given the body language here?) public works “manager” Gerald Fisher (orange vest) having a “conference” in an alley behind City Hall.  Maybe their discussion (or  argument?) was so high level they couldn’t interact in City Hall? This is from the recent road paving that went WAY WAY over the time limit and produced crappy results. It’s rumored that a city official agreed the work was poor but that it was “good enough” for the people of Decayville.

Respect the financial limitations of rate paying residents. Molalla was listed as one of the few “distressed cities” in Clackamas County by Business Oregon in 2017 (and other recent years).

Being listed as “distressed” means Molalla has higher than expected unemployment, lower per capita income, more people in poverty and fewer people with BA’s than other cities in the State. Cities that care about the financial capabilities of their residents provide a sliding scale or exemption for their poverty stricken and/or senior residents – even $11/month can be a bust for those struggling to survive on highly limited funds.

Here’s an excellent example of how an ethical and competent city outlines its fees (note residential road fees in Silverton have been $6/month and are proposed to go to $9/month – a lot less than Molalla’s $11/month). Silverton even has a utility fee assistance fund for low income and seniors in case fees are a hardship (Oh! I forgot! Molalla is always too close to flirting with insolvency and has too many “distressed” residents to offer utility fee reductions – everyone would apply!). http://www.silverton.or.us/388/summary-of-2017-utility-rates

But greedy El Hefe Huff and little buddy sidekick Fisher apparently could care less about demographics and hardships in cheapo “drive till you qualify” Molalla. Perhaps they are rushing to cover up what could be called incompetence for failing to address the road problems in a timely manner, failing to charge (or in the past account for or even collect!) adequate System Development Charges?  Most cities start with a far more modest fee and raise it over the years as necessary. Dunning for $11 right out of the nowhere will be a shock to “distressed” residents! It’s always the case in Decayville with El Hefe Huff and Fisher “in charge” of going quickly from “all is well” to “the sky is falling”. Competent and ethical management plans ahead so heavy handed reactionary approaches are not necessary: Decayville runs on pathetic responses to “emergencies” that never should have been allowed to develop into the infrastructure catastrophes that litter Decayville.

I quizzed State Rep. Rick Lewis about Silverton, where he formerly served as mayor. He confirmed that Silverton, unlike Molalla, was smart enough NEVER to have risked using Urban Reserve bonding (borrowing) to fix road infrastructure. Molalla went out on a limb and borrowed to “fix” a stretch of Molalla Ave. The problem is that roads don’t generate property taxes, let alone the raised property taxes needed to pay back money borrowed against Urban Renewal funds. Gee, City Council, do you have a clue about how Urban Renewal works?

Speaking of “distressed”, check out the tacky set-up at a Molalla City Council meeting. They have no city owned public building to meet in – they had to give up running the Adult Center for lack of funds. So now the Adult Center (run by religious groups) dining room, complete with refrigerators, is where the Council meets. We certainly hope the Council has to PAY to use the room they don’t own! The tangle of cords and the cheap blue curtain add extra special decorating touches. In any case, the low quality set-up is a perfect reflection of the LOW QUALITY LEADERSHIP in Decayville!

Wait until rates are set to address the growing wastewater management fiasco! The current horrific wastewater management crisis is the most blatant example of Molalla’s yo-yo inept “management” that constantly swings from “all is wonderful” to “HELP! THE SKY IS FALLING” and repeatedly brings Decayville to its financial knees. Decayville is facing the need to “find” $32-38 MILLION DOLLARS to fund a complete sewage facilities upgrade in what will be in a  DEQ legally mandated time frame (and, in case El Hefe Huff and the City Council “forgot” they have a Consent Decree to honor as well – how’s that going, Decayville “leaders”? Have you bothered to read that LEGAL DOCUMENT lately?).

The truth about the wastewater fiasco finally came out once El Hefe was forced to release the “Richwine Report” – a document El Hefe Huff tried to claim was attorney/client privilege; the Clackamas County DA had to get involved to force El Hefe Huff to release the report! That refusal was in no way atypical, since El Hefe Huff apparently believes he is King of PUBLIC records and he’ll use any nasty ploy – refusing to acknowledge requests, long delays, ridiculous charges, etc. –  to thwart release of public documents!.

A RESPONSIBLE government would have been put road fees on hold until the “leaders” faced the inevitable huge sewer rate increases that will have to accompany the cost of new wastewater facilities. In some cities in Oregon, rates for sewer alone have skyrocketed to over $100/month. Pretty soon “drive till you qualify” Decayville “cheaper than somewhere else” real estate won’t look so cheap as the road fees and utility rates add further stress on the budgets of struggling residents and renters who didn’t bargain for giant utility fees.

It’s  shameful the “leaders” and “managers” failed to get ahead of the infrastructure needs before they grew to epic and unaffordable proportions. Can you imagine the Comedy of the Absurd that will ensue as said “leaders” and “managers” attempt to solve the growing problems? Who could trust this kind of failed leadership with tens of millions of dollars in projects – it was literally a theater of the absurd when the “managers” tried to re-pave a few blocks of Molalla Ave. a year ago.

El Hefe Huff on the left, “mayor” Jimmy Thompson on the right. Ignore the name card that says Sadie Cramer – she was city recorder for almost two decades but mysteriously was gone overnight (hint: she had to work for El Hefe. Enough said?)

Good luck, Decayville residents, you will surely need it if you actually trust the current regime of so called “managers” and “elected leaders” to ethically and completely “manage” your public funds.

Council Childress “thinking”.

Councilor Dragowsky in action! Is she planning to raid the refrigerator as soon as the meeting ends? Does the Council have to draw straws to see who has to restore the cafeteria room after the meeting is over?

Councilor Palumbo. You have to treasure her ignorant statement on an email saying that she believed all was going well with Decayville’s wastewater management. Then, guess what – the report came out that Molalla is way over capacity with sewage and it needs $32-38 MILLION DOLLARS to build new facilities. Decayville is tangled up legally on more than one front over wastewater management. Does ANYONE elected to City Council EVER demand FACTS from the so-called “managers” they are supposed to be monitoring in the name of the taxpayers?

Councilor Boreth: by now it is just about impossible to count how many times Boreth has FAILED to be elected to Council and then gets appointed when, as usual, someone drops off the Council. Boreth, Childress and Klein will all be vulnerable in 2018 when their seats come up for election. Will Decayville EVER have enough civic pride to have Council election where the seats are contested so there is public debate for a refreshing change? Or is Decayville really content to default to rubber stampers who just do the will of El Hefe Huff, who, per opinions around town, is about as unpopular as he can get? As the saying goes “YOU get the government YOU deserve”.  Do YOU deserve better?

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Inclusion, Diversity and Cultural Change? NO! Says Dictator Molalla Mayor Jimmy Thompson!

Boo hoo, Wanna Be Dictator Molalla Mayor Jimmy Thompson NOT getting his way. It sure looked like he was about to cry when all the City Councilors rejected his rush to judgment against a Planning Commissioner.

If there are any words Molalla “mayor” Jimmy Thompson doesn’t get, they are “inclusion, diversity and cultural change”. Wanna be dictator Jimmy is a chip off the block of our much detested so-called president. They both want to shoot from the hip, have melt downs if they don’t get their way and are totally beholden to the rich. In the case of  Wanna Be Dictator Jimmy, he’s stuck with lording it over a next to insolvent failed timber resource town that has some of the least educated, drive till you qualify and hope against hope to hold on to a home residents in the greater Metro area.

Wanna Be Dictator Jimmy joined and defended an armed vigilante patrol looking for “unwanted persons” last summer. Talk about a publicity fiasco!

http://www.oregonlive.com/clackamascounty/index.ssf/2016/08/molalla_open-carry_patrol_even.html

Wanna Be Dictator voted to allow  so-called City Councilor George Pottle to continue as a City Councilor AFTER Pottle admitted to and was convicted of voter fraud for posting false statements in the voter’s guide.

http://pamplinmedia.com/mop/157-news/279217-155465-molalla-city-councilor-steps-down-as-council-president-following-court-conviction-

http://www.oregonlive.com/clackamascounty/index.ssf/2015/10/molalla_city_councilor_convict.html

The perfect example of Wanna Be Dictator’s convoluted “thought process” was this hoot of a post on a Molalla Community FB page. Jimmy was disturbed that the local citizens had the gall to discuss problems and posted this idiotic  scrambled thought about free speech (prey tell Wanna Be Dictator, how will people solve problems if they aren’t allowed to discuss them in public?):

Molalla Now Facebook Community Page

Jimmy Thompson

February 23 at 2:11pm

“One thing that I think as a community it would be helpful for us all to be more aware of is that this page is public, and what we post here has the potential to be seen by anyone. That could be anything from potential new neighbors, to new businesses, to people that dislike the community and try to do it harm.

Posting something on facebook is not likely going to solve the world’s problems. What can and often does solve problems, at least in my experience, is going to the source. In a city of 9,000 people, the source is not often difficult to identify.

I’m all for freedom of speech. If that is the foot you want to put forward for other people to see, so be it.

I think most people would agree, we have a great community that does some wonderful things. Share the Love, Relay for Life, Ford Family Leadership, heck, even just neighbors looking out for and helping each other. In my humble opinion, we are far better served by putting that foot forward for others to see, and dealing directly with the problems that do happen to come up.”

How funny that a “leader” thinks that public debate about problems translates into “try to do it harm”. Only someone afraid of the truth would spout that kind of fear based nonsense. North Korea Dictators think like that, Jimmy! What’s next, are you going to turn off the internet? We already hear that City Hall has tried to suppress free exchange of opinions in the local paper.

Now Wanna Be Dictator Jimmy wants to keep his hand picked, insider club of three so-called Planning Commissioners happy by kicking off the ONLY Commissioner in the past year who has shown even a spark of intellectual curiosity. Par for the course, with Wanna Be Dictator and his hench man El Hefe so-called city manager Huff “in charge”.

http://pamplinmedia.com/mop/157-news/358505-238507-molalla-mayor-threatens-to-oust-planning-commissioner-

http://pamplinmedia.com/mop/157-news/358517-238522-molalla-city-council-rejects-mayors-request-to-oust-planning-commissioner

Wanna Be Dictators like Jimmy depend on stuffing their interests through with little public oversight, hence Jimmy’s pathetic failure to even list the name of the Planning Commissioner he was trying to remove on the agenda. That’s typical of sleazy Molalla and it’s “agendas” – they more than often violate public meeting rules by failing to provide adequate detail so the public can understand what issues are being addressed.  Worse than that, the record keeping is so terrible that the minutes of past meetings are currently a month or more behind – what kind of train wreck city would fail, with two weeks (or more) between City Council meetings, to provide minutes of the most recently past meeting? Molalla! It always wins the award for the least transparency and the worst record keeping. Dictators depend upon keeping the public in the dark and ensuring that people they appoint to commissions are untrained rubber stampers who won’t dare to have an independent thought.

To back up Wanna Be Dictator Jimmy (or maybe to manipulate him?) El Hefe “city manager” Huff blows hard at Planning meetings, trying to control the message. Only cities with something to hide allow their city managers to endlessly butt into planning meetings. Competent and ethical cities have an attorney present and their planning staff and the city managers are not a factor in Planning meetings. Not so Molalla, Huff never knows how to keep his mouth shut. He’s totally committed to jamming through anything developers lust for and land speculators lust for. At one Planning Commission meeting regarding hideous Stone Place apts., phase three, he told the PC that if something even barely met code they had to pass it (other trained PCs in competent and ethical cities fight hard for the best designs possible because they understand the need for quality of life via great urban design).  Then at another PC hearing he told the PC they could ignore code so a developer could put in a solid wall and  could dodge putting in highway improvements. UGH!

No wonder people drop like flies when they volunteer to “serve” in the Molalla Planning Commission. The story of last spring’s mass exodus of PC members was featured in the Molalla Pioneer and had this telling quote from former PC member Pat Torsen who was earnestly interested in working for the best design plans:

“We would vote something down, and then it would go to the city council, and they would push it through,” she said. “I just felt very inadequate. I’d come home angry every week from the meetings. We were told to keep everything hush-hush, and I wanted things to be above board. I felt we were just going along with what the city administration wanted. So I got disgusted. I am just so disgusted with our city government right now.”

http://www.pamplinmedia.com/uej/9-news/301782-179690-molalla-planning-commission-members-resign

So three PC members quit and the fourth was gone soon after this story was published. Last fall, a new chair was appointed – he quit this spring, perhaps angry that Huff and LOL “public works director” Fisher had steered the PC into bad decisions that were overturned in Feb. by the City Council.  He probably felt like Torsen did: “ I felt we were just going along with what the city administration wanted. So I got disgusted. I am just so disgusted with our city government right now.”

The only time Huff kept his control the message trap closed was on May 10, because, we can guess, excellent County Commissioner Ken Humberston was front and center to witness Jimmy’s witch hunt. How hilarious to see Humberston, a champion of inclusion, transparency, and diversity,  there to witness Jimmy’s nasty attempt to burn a volunteer at the stake. It was funny that Huff failed to jump in, could it be that he didn’t want to humiliate himself in front of a County Commission or is Huff so mean that he enjoyed watching Wanna Be Dictator Jimmy twist in the wind on May 10?

Wanna Be Dictator Jimmy will be back on May 24, hoping to get support for his witch hunt burning at the stake campaign. Will the Molalla City Council join his noxious witch hunt or will they start to turn the tide for respect for inclusion, diversity and cultural change?

Here’s what the City Council heard about their sleazy “leaders” Thompson and Huff on May 10. Only time will tell if the Council will for once stop being a herd of sheep and will try to lead Molalla into an era of respect for inclusion, diversity and cultural change. Time is running out for anyone who has an ounce of respect for inclusion, diversity and cultural change to step up and tell the Molalla Dictators NO NO NO!

May 10, 2017

Dear City Council,

Mayor Thompson invited me to participate in the visioning project. Frankly, after 26 years here, I have little faith in the City of Molalla’s ability to follow any vision except helping greedy developers and land speculators while ignoring quality of life needs like the elaborate 10 year old unimplemented Parks Plan. Molalla must understand how far behind it is compared to other local cities, which produced realistic, in scale plans and successfully implemented them.

Dissenting ideas and debate must be encouraged. There is clearly a group-think, lock step fear of anything that does not suit the agenda of the Mayor and City Manager. Molalla has, as it did ten years ago, engaged in what is called a DEAD land use process – where decisions about outcome are made to satisfy speculators. Now a campaign is underway to defend a premature decision. Good luck on that. Apparently Mayor Thompson learned nothing from the huge waste of public money on the past urban reserve fiasco. Molalla needs a stable, well-trained Planning Commission, working independently with the City Planner, without inappropriate manipulation by the City Manager and Mayor.

My vision requires your city staff to perform their stated duties on time and respectfully. The minutes of the meeting directly past should accompany every new agenda. The city website should be transparent and easy to use. Public documents should be proudly produced and shared.  City staff should be accessible to all.

City councilors, Mayor and City Manager should write op-eds and newsletters that honestly outline problems and plans. Your City Manager is, in my opinion, fond of maligning agencies and individuals when they are not in attendance. A public exchange of ideas via the paper would be a far more appropriate way to contest opinions the City Manager doesn’t agree with.

A successful city fully cooperates with public agencies and immediately employs the outcomes of grants.

Molalla needs to accept reality and tell its citizens that the wastewater problems are serious and will be costly to fix; instead, you spend public money on lawyers to try to whine your way out of the increasing violations. Attendance at Bear Creek Recovery’s annual meeting would have allowed you to discuss with DEQ the process and money needed to become a Major Facility and to solve the violations. Manager Huff made an incorrect slur about Bear Creek Recovery at the April planning meeting. BCR has been a registered non-profit since 2013, has a full and engaged board of directors and will continue to vigorously advocate for the environment. BCR receives direct land use notifications from Clackamas County and DEQ honors our requests for hearings.

Unless you encourage debate and diverse citizen involvement, acknowledge Molalla’s glaring problems, work with agencies in good faith, follow legal process and make plans that fit local financial and social demographics, you will, as usual, be stalled with grandiose visions that never come true.

Posted in diversity and cultural change, Molalla, Molalla City Council, Quality of life | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Molalla Mayor, City Councilors, Planning Commissioners, City Manager Contact Information

 

CITY OF MOLALLA PUBLIC OFFICIALS

MAY 2017 CONTACT INFORMATION

(Obtained via Oregon Ethics Commission Filings where EVERY ONE of these “officials” has “Outstanding Penalties” listed on their report)

 MOLALLA MAYOR:

Mayor Jimmy Thompson getting ready to witch hunt a Planning Commissioner!

Jimmy Thompson (elected unopposed )

647 Shenandoah Drive

Molalla OR 97038

(503) 737-4487

jthompson@cityofmolalla.com

*A little background on  the abject HYPOCRISY of “Mayor” Jimmy: He’s fond of joining in to rid Molalla of supposed “unwanted persons” – it was a fiasco last summer when he joined this open carry vigilante patrol: http://www.oregonlive.com/clackamascounty/index.ssf/2016/08/molalla_open-carry_patrol_even.html

*And a bit more background on HYPOCRITE “Mayor Jimmy: He wants to rid the Planning Commission of a woman courageous enough to ask questions, but he voted to keep George Pottle, a guy who LIED on his voter’s profile and plead GUILTY to voter fraud, on the City Council. Go figure, “Mayor” Jimmy certainly has a skewed sense of “justice” to say the least:

http://pamplinmedia.com/mop/157-news/279217-155465-molalla-city-councilor-steps-down-as-council-president-following-court-conviction-

http://www.oregonlive.com/clackamascounty/index.ssf/2015/10/molalla_city_councilor_convict.html

MOLALLA CITY COUNCILORS:

Boreth ready and eager to rubber stamp “mayor’s witch hunt with zero discussion. I guess we know who he owes his council appointment to! YUCK!

Glen Boreth (appointed, not elected)

623 S Molalla Ave

Molalla OR 97038

(503) 829-8625

gboreth@cityofmolalla.com

Childress ready to rubber stamp the witch hunt without discussion. UGH!

Leota Rose Childress (appointed, not elected)

150 Indian Oak Court Unit 3

Molalla OR 97038

(503) 984-7241

lchildress@cityofmolalla.com

Dragowsky was at least wise enough not to rubber stamp mayor’s witch hunt.

Cindy Renee Dragowsky (elected unopposed)

803 Mathias Ct.

PO Box 522

Molalla OR 97038

(503) 984-4457

cdragowsky@cityofmolalla.com

Palumbo was the hero of the May 10 Molalla City Council meeting – she had the courage to see a witch hunt for what it was and said she needed more information. Wow, can you imagine that in Molalla, taking time to actually study an issue? Good job!

DeLise Palumbo (elected unopposed)

125 Glory Lane

Molalla OR 97038

(503) 740-1133

dpalumbo@cityofmolalla.com

Swigart also knew it was (to say the least) unwise to jump on the hateful witch hunt.

Keith Swigart (elected unopposed)

210 S Cole Ave.

Molalla OR 97038

(503) 314-8125

kswigart@cityofmolalla.com

(No photo of Klein – she was missing in action at the May 10 Molalla Mayor official witch hunt meeting)

Elizabeth Klein (appointed, not elected)

699 June Drive

Molalla OR 97038

Phone (503) 341-7833

eklein@cityofmolalla.com

(failed to file Ethics Commission SEI report as of May 18, 2017)

 MOLALLA PLANNING COMMISSIONERS:

 Rae Lynn Botsford

PO Box 482

226 Ridings Ave

Molalla OR 97038

(503) 577-0974

rbotsford@cityofmolalla.com

Dan James Burck

789 Zepher Way

Molalla OR 97038

(503) 515-7057

dburck@cityofmolalla.com

Jim Chapin

1301 Meadowlawn Place

Molalla OR 97038

(503) 516-9264

jchapin@cityofmolalla.com

Rachel Cain

General Delivery

Molalla OR 97038

(503) 877-2106

rcain@cityofmolalla.com

Jaime Hinkel​

30600 S Deardorff Road
Molalla OR 97038
(503) 943-0121

jhinkel@cityofmolalla.com,

(If you want to see absurdity regarding having this woman – a realtor! – on the Molalla Planning Commission, google her address to see she lives many miles outside the Molalla City limits).

CITY MANAGER

Huff is fast becoming the most loathed man in Molalla. But hey, he can roll out of town any day, he’s from what we know, not invested here. A fat paycheck must make up for being unpopular (and that’s putting it mildly!).

Dan Huff

PO Box 248 117 N Molalla Ave.

Molalla OR 97038

(503) 829-6855 x224

dhuff@cityofmolalla.com

Posted in Molalla, Molalla City Council, Quality of life | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Molalla in Denial: Letters the “Officials” Don’t Want You to Read!

 

 

The view from Molalla City Hall. No wonder Molalla “officials” want to censor the truth about the city. It must be depressing to preside over Decayville!

Letter #1 made it into the Molalla Pioneer:

(Open letter to Molalla City Council):

Dear City Council,

I participated in the Shirley Bank hearings before the Planning Commission in Oct. Nov. and Dec. I interacted with ODOT officials about how the PC was manipulated into absolving the developer of paying for curbs, gutters and sidewalks. I attempted to find out in advance of the Feb. 8 appeal hearing what the scope would entail so I would not waste time preparing if the hearing would be limited in scope. I left in disgust on Wed. night after your vote to limit testimony to “#7” (pedestrian access through the wall) only to find out later that you reversed and did not limit to “only #7”. I support the final outcome but I cannot condone the insulting failures in process that occurred throughout the Shirley Bank hearings.

I suggest you and your planning commission quickly find a way to become trained in how to hold competent planning hearings so you don’t leave Molalla open for legal challenges. Your PC needs to be trained to understand codes and to be independent of being manipulated into making poor decisions. Public Works Director Fisher introduced the idea of a waiver of remonstrance to absolve the developer of providing road improvements after the Oct. hearing was closed to public comment so there was no chance to rebut. I suggest you listen to the tapes of the Oct., Nov. and Dec. Planning Commission meetings to hear the “suggestions” made by City Manager Huff and Fisher to the PC. The Planning Commission is citizen volunteers; it was insulting for them to be fed ideas which were totally counter to your codes and to ODOT’s input.

You should investigate the failure of your staff to provide a single handout – no agenda, no handouts regarding Shirley Bank, no minutes and no sign-in sheet – at the hearing. Is Molalla so strapped for money that it can’t provide attendees the basic information needed to follow the proceedings?

Please read Goal One, citizen involvement in planning, which is easily found on the DLCD website. Participants in planning issues are entitled to access to enough technical information so that they can be informed participants in planning. The failure to provide any handouts, agendas, minutes or sign in sheets or to state the scope of the hearing in advance was totally counter to the intentions stated in Goal One.

Another view from City Hall. Old downtown has all the markers for blight – empty storefronts, quasi-pawn shop, boarded up buildings, tattoo parlor, endless hard liquor bars and now a pot shop.

And now for the letter that didn’t make it into the paper, after the above “open letter” apparently ruffled some feathers in City Hall. Gee, could it be that Molalla “officials” don’t want the truth out in public? Anyplace with the sewage plant violations Molalla faces should celebrate information about potential solutions and opportunities to interact with DEQ reps. The City Council was invited to the meeting referenced in this letter – too bad none of them had the courage to attend.

There seems to be a mistaken idea among Molalla City “officials” that admitting problems and finding solutions is negative.  How’s that positive thinking propaganda and censorship  working out, City Council?  Not so well, since that pesky First Amendment still is functioning and the City prepares for a high level legal showdown over these wastewater problems. Here’s letter #2:

It’s alarming to see the City of Molalla’s attempts to discount the severity of its ongoing sewage management violations. Instead of complying with DEQ’s request for test well monitoring, Molalla spent money in February for a lawyer’s letter to try to dodge monitoring and to try to avoid a penalty for 20 days of illegal discharge into the Molalla River in October. A responsible city would put public and environmental health first by proceeding with test wells to ensure that groundwater and private wells are not being contaminated by leaking sewage lagoons. Molalla violated its Total Suspended Solids (TSS) limits in December, January and February, resulting in another impending DEQ Enforcement Action; suspended solids impact the health of aquatic life.

I’ll agree with one sentence in the lawyer’s letter: “Like many small communities in Oregon, Molalla faces challenges with aging infrastructure” (read the letter at Bear Creek Recovery on Facebook). It’s fascinating to research how communities around the state, in trouble with “aging infrastructure”, have stepped up to comply with the Clean Water Act.

An inspiring tour of Wilsonville’s recently upgraded wastewater plant showed sewage processed in about 12 hours into water clean and cool enough for year around discharge into the Willamette River; no sewage lagoons are needed! Exceptional Class A biosolids are produced via 550 degree ovens and the dry biosolids are immediately trucked away, safe enough for home fertilizer.

Wilsonville hired CH2MHill to design, build and run their excellent wastewater plant. CH2MHill absorbed the existing employees; they follow a code of honor to promptly report problems. Wilsonville’s City Manager is thrilled with the CH2MHill contract because it is cost certain for the City, with CH2MHill is responsible for compliance, employees and violations.

The Dyer Partnership’s website has great examples of Oregon wastewater upgrade projects. Dyer’s engineer Steve Major acknowledged that fixing “aging infrastructure” comes with a cost. In his experience, cities of all sizes with DEQ compliance problems have raised their sewer rates to $70-$105/month.

On April 13 at 6:30 at the Molalla Library, Jon Gasik, DEQ Senior Environmental Engineer, will answer questions about wastewater permitting, compliance with the Clean Water Act, and financing wastewater improvements. Gasik will be an excellent resource for compliance success stories; he can also explain how urban growth could be halted if DEQ has concerns that a wastewater plant can’t handle more volume.

The City of Molalla should stop paying for whiny legal letters filled with weak excuses and commit to a robust upgrade of its wastewater program. If Molalla wants to grow, it must to grow its ability to comply with the Clean Water Act.

Molalla City Manager Huff (left) and his sidekick Public Works Director Fisher apparently discussing the sadly overdue downtown road project. Let’s hope paving a road in a blighted old downtown via borrowing against Urban Renewal Funds pays off. It’s hard to imagine how pavement and sidewalks will raise property taxes when half the storefronts are empty and most of the rest are marginal “businesses”. Let’s hope these guys do a better job solving Molalla’s ongoing wastewater violations than they did with paving a few blocks of blighted downtown (but I’m not holding my breath!).

A “business” next door to Molalla City Hall.

How Molalla “fills” empty storefronts!

Downtown pot store – one of the few going businesses. It was funny to see the City Council first try to ban pot and then cave because they wanted the $$$$.

After Molalla “patrons” visit the pot store and all the hard liquor bars they can find help within a block.

Got addiction problems? Maybe the Molalla lawyer can send you right next door for treatment. It’s pretty hilarious to see this treatment center within a block of several not so swell bars and the pot store. But hey, let’s celebrate, at least the archaic building has a renter!

Posted in Molalla, Molalla City Council, molalla real estate, Quality of life, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Oregon Transportation Commission: Stop Funding Molalla!

A sign that greets you driving into what’s called downtown Molalla. Certainly too many “ales” are being consumed by the “officials” who are supposed to use public money wisely!

You know a city is a mess when citizens have to spend their time compiling all the ways the place fails.  You know a city must be a disaster when citizens take the time to personally address important Oregon commissions like the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC).  It’s long overdue to stop “honoring” wasteful cities like Molalla with public money. Here’s information presented on the record  at the March OTC meeting in Salem:

Commissioners,

It is an honor to address you in a room named for Gail Achterman. I was privileged to spend a day giving her a tour of the Molalla River Corridor. Her memory inspires me to work to make Oregon the best place it can be.

I forwarded you detailed observations about ongoing problems with ODOT’s interactions with Molalla on grants and wasted staff time. [entire detailed report with links is posted below].

Our public money is limited and our infrastructure is aging. The examples I provided show years of money wasted on plans that were never implemented, only to have ODOT grant more TGM money for more plans for Molalla. Molalla is in a constant battle to stay solvent after making poor planning choices a few years ago that were against the sound advice of state agencies.

I have observed ODOT staff wasting a great deal of time trying to get Molalla to comply with ODOT mandates, with codes and their own transportation plan. In some cases, after months of staff input, ODOT staff reverses and fails to follow through on demanding that Molalla follow state and local codes. When ODOT caves on standards, we are often left with worse highway conditions.

The “recommend” letters ODOT sends when plans impact state highways are a problem. Recently, with a development that will adjoin a state highway, Molalla chose to interpret “recommend” as a suggestion that could be ignored, causing months of ODOT staff time to be wasted. If ODOT is going to issue letters, ODOT needs to make it clear that it is an enforceable mandate. Otherwise, ODOT should stop wasting staff time and money on uncooperative cities like Molalla with “recommends” ODOT does not intend to uphold.

ODOT grant evaluations are not honest about whether or not a city has been cooperative with ODOT.  ODOT fails to look closely at whether or not a city has adopted and implemented the elements of past grants. In the case of Molalla, I have provided a long list of expensive grants that produced grandiose plans that have barely been implemented. It took ten years for Molalla to adopt the $122,000 TGM Downtown Master Plan. Even worse, before the Plan was adopted, ODOT granted $43,000 for a study of a proposed development based on the unadopted Plan, resulting in a summary rejection by LUBA

Please review how ODOT staff spends time and money on “recommend” letters and is failing to honestly rate cities in grant reviews. We can’t afford to continue to use public money to pile up plans in struggling cities that don’t work in good faith to use the plans, that do not have the skill or financial ability to implement plans, that ignore codes, and that fail to willingly accept ODOT’s input. In the case of Molalla, I have provided you with concrete examples of do-overs, plans ignored, and ongoing disregard for accepting ODOT’s sound advice to keep our roads as safe and functional as possible.

Molalla “officials” City Manager Dan Huff and his Public Works Manager Gerald Fisher (orange vest) having a “conference” in an alley? Maybe it was so high level they couldn’t interact in City Hall?

The following document was also provided to the Land Conservation and Development Commission (LCDC) and to Governor Brown:

March 14, 2017

 Dear Oregon Transportation Commission,

I have spent over ten years participating in planning issues in the Molalla area and was part of the Clackamas County REACT committee that lobbied for a local ACT. I have grave concerns about the way ODOT staff spends public money interacting with the City of Molalla and how grants have been issued to Molalla, only to produce plans that are ignored or that the Molalla is financially incapable of implementing.

I believe the following examples deserve your attention and that reforms are needed to ensure that we spend Oregon’s limited public money wisely. Please carefully consider the following interactions between ODOT and Molalla and note the failure to provide public benefit for the staff time and money spent. Please note the corrections I believe are needed in my summary.

 TGM DOWNTOWN MASTER PLAN  

The $122,000 Transportation and Growth Management (TGM) 2007 grant  produced a  2007 Molalla Downtown Master Plan/ 211 Streetscape Plan. http://www.cityofmolalla.com/planning/page/downtown-master-plan

The Plan shows $64 million needed for 20 years of transportation projects, yet next to nothing on the “priority” transportation project list has been implemented since the plan was written. ODOT’s Sonya Kazen (now retired) said that if this Downtown Plan was not fully adopted in 5 years Molalla’s ability to receive grants would be in jeopardy and the “Plan” would become obsolete. In 2008, DLCD urged the city to adopt and use the plan.  Molalla failed to adopt the Downtown Master Plan until 2014.

 In 2010, ODOT granted $43,000 for a traffic study for “Hart Street” mixed use apt/commercial project. The development was based on zoning/criteria provided in the Downtown Master Plan which was bundled with an unapproved comp plan/ urban reserve. Molalla’s Planning Commission approved Hart Street but the City Council denied it. The developer appealed to LUBA: Vest v. City of Molalla, 66 Or LUBA 155 (2012). LUBA found in favor of the City’s rejection because Hart Street was based on the non-adopted Downtown Master Plan’s zoning /criteria.

Why didn’t ODOT staff note that the Downtown Master Plan was not an adopted plan before ODOT wasted $43,000 on grant to study traffic impacts?

With the Downtown Master Plan filled with “priority projects” that have never been completed and an unrealistic “Forest Road” bypass that has been proven to be impossible to build though wetlands, ODOT has approved a 2016 TGM grant to “update” Molalla’s Transportation Plan. ODOT’s Michael Rock said the new TGM grant is likely to cost around $200,000.

Why is ODOT staff giving large TGM grants to a city that has failed to use past plans correctly; why has ODOT failed to note that virtually none of the 20 year, 63 million dollar road projects in the Downtown Master Plan it helped facilitate have been funded or completed?

 OREGON 211/ TOLIVER ROAD SAFETY IMPROVMENTS

 In 2002, Molalla and ODOT signed a HEP safety improvement project contract to develop sidewalks and put a stoplight at the Highway 213/ Toliver Road intersection. The contract required a 20% matching fund from Molalla and stated that Molalla would be responsible of any costs incurred by ODOT if Molalla failed to complete the project. ODOT did engineering studies; cost of the project was stated at about 1.5 million. Molalla backed out of the project in 2007, claiming it could not afford the matching funds. ODOT acknowledged that it did not charge Molalla for the work done. Now ODOT is engineering plans for a roundabout at 211/ Toliver (STIP 20478, engineering cost $700,000). Molalla’s Mayor Thompson is using social media to say he opposes a roundabout as the solution.

Why did ODOT fail to hold Molalla responsible for costs incurred on the 2002 project?

 STONEPLACE APTARTMENTS ON HIGHWAY 211

 Stoneplace Apartments has developed on Highway 211 in three phases. Phase one had highway improvements that included an access driveway with a left/right turn lane. When phase two began development, Molalla allowed foundations to go up with an access driveway to Highway 211 just west of the existing driveway without notifying ODOT.  Citizens had to inform ODOT about phase two while it was in progress and questioned the location of the new driveway. ODOT wrote that the new westerly access driveway should be restricted to emergency access, saying “Cannot be approved…approach is only about 250 feet from existing approach… fails to meet ODOT spacing standard of 500 feet as required in OAR 754-051-4020(2) (a) and (8), Table 6.” (Larry Olson, District Manager June 24, 2013)

ODOT then failed to follow its own mandate, allowing the new driveway with a “pork chop” low barrier with right in/right out only. That has caused all kinds of traffic problems on Highway 211, with drivers violating right turn only. Now Molalla wants a crosswalk in front of the apartments, with phase three (95 more apartments) coming online to add additional cross traffic. Crossing Highway 211 at Stoneplace would bring a pedestrian to the dangerous north side of Highway 211, which features deep open ditches, virtually no median and no sidewalks.

The above referenced Downtown Master Plan lists ODOT’s access spacing requirements (174); before these hundreds of apartments were built there were already far too many access points on Highway 211, as noted in the Plan.

Why didn’t ODOT stand by its initial requirement that the west driveway, created without ODOT approval or planning input, be a gated emergency only access?

This is also an example of Molalla’s failure to take over jurisdiction of Highway 211. ODOT has made multiple offers, including one in 2016, to do a degree of improvement and give Molalla a million dollars to take over jurisdiction. Molalla always refuses on the grounds it can’t afford to maintain the Highway (which is Main Street), yet it constantly bashes ODOT about conditions on the Highway:  http://cni.pmgnews.com/mop/157-news/303142-181168-odot-offers-molalla-a-deal-on-maintenance-of-hwy-211-

FOUR CORNERS INDUSTRIAL PARK

A 2006  $17,400 feasibility study for a “Four Corners Industrial Park” showed that it would take over 3 million dollars to fully develop the “park” – money Molalla did not have. In 2007 ODOT granted $281,000 toward the development of Molalla’s Four Corners Industrial Park.  In total, the public outlay from Clackamas County, ODOT and Business Oregon was $600,000. As of today the “industrial park” consists of a meager 850 foot dead end road with half street improvements and only two low paying businesses that located in 2007.  Molalla was supposed to complete the “park” and was sued by a landowner who traded land for infrastructure that Molalla failed to provide.

Further, per a forensic audit of missing SDC funds, it was found that Molalla illegally used SDCs for the Industrial Park: “About $1.5 million of the development charges between 2005 and 2008 went toward an industrial business park called Four Corners, a project not included in the city’s plan. In addition, the funds were used to pay for a citizen lawsuit.” (Oregonian March 29, 2012)

http://www.oregonlive.com/clackamascounty/index.ssf/2012/03/post_65.html

Currently, the totally stalled “park” is advertised as “approximately 38 developable acres; comprises 19 parcels with 14 property owners” yet there is no road access to most of the “developable acres”.

 Why did ODOT fail to check what was allowable in Molalla’s plans when it donated money to “Four Corners”? Why did ODOT fail to check to see if Molalla had the financial capacity to finish the “park”?

SHIRLEY BANK DEVELOPMENT / REFUSAL TO FOLLOW CODES

 The most recent example of Molalla failing to honor its own and State codes, violating hearing procedures, not accepting ODOT’s “recommend” letters and wasting endless ODOT staff time was the 2016 “Shirley Bank” seven house development proposed on Highway 211 on east Molalla city limits.

ODOT’s August 2016 “recommend” letter called for the developer to pay for curbs, gutters and sidewalks on the west side of Highway 211. Molalla’s staff report supported the “recommend”, yet after testimony was closed in the October hearing, Molalla’s Public Works Director told the novice Planning Commission that the developer didn’t want to pay for the highway improvements and suggested a waiver of remonstrance. The PC voted for the waiver and for a solid wall around the development. The hearing was closed, no continuance and no capacity for further input was granted.

After the closed hearing, ODOT rep Gail Curtis assured me in numerous emails that ODOT would not back down on requiring Molalla to follow codes (Ms. Curtis noted “developer’s obligation”, “We are not backing down”, “instructing the city to follow their own requirements”, “point out to the city what their own Transportation System Plan includes”)

 In a 11/2/16  letter (ODOT Case No: 6972) Seth Brumley Development Review Planner, ODOT Region 1, wrote a detailed letter the PC, including code requirements and cross section drawings, noting:“Because there is no certainty with a LID [local improvement district] the city would risk being out of compliance with the TSP (and state provisions) if sidewalks are not required as part of the subdivision development…Oregon administrative rule 660-012-0045 requires local governments to adopt regulations within urban areas that provide safe and convenient pedestrian connections to neighborhood activity centers within ½ mile of new subdivisions…”

The PC briefly (and illegally) re-opened the hearing in Dec., the developer to asked for the waiver (and the City Manager noted that the developer was at the hearing but that ODOT was not!). The City provided no handouts of the ODOT/ Brumley letter; the PC did not discuss the letter, and signed the plans allowing the waiver and solid wall.

ODOT’s Jon Makler then visited City Manager Huff; per a post visit phone call from Makler, Makler said Huff claimed an appeal to the City Council would not reverse the waiver (LID) so ODOT backed down and only appealed the lack of connectivity through the wall. At the appeal hearing in Feb., the City Council initially voted to limit the hearing to ODOT’s connectivity appeal. Then, violating hearing procedure, the Council ended up addressing the waiver and decided to follow code, requiring the developer to pay and for connectivity through the wall. It took seven months and an appeal hearing that violated process for Molalla to accept it needed to follow its own codes and plans.

How much ODOT staff time was spent and how much money did that wasted staff time cost the public?

 ODOT clearly spent a great deal of staff time from the initial “recommend” letter issued in August 2016 to the appeal hearing in mid-February on issues an ethical city would never have caused, i.e. the waiver of remonstrance (LID) for much needed highway improvements in a city that lacks connectivity and lacks sidewalks/curbs and gutters on much of Highway 211.

 Why did ODOT fail to appeal the waiver of remonstrance (LID); why did ODOT take the City Manager’s word that the waiver could not be reversed on appeal? Why did ODOT appeal for connectivity while ignoring the fact that without sidewalks a pedestrian would land in a ditch on unimproved highway?

 LACK OF ADEQUATE SYSTEM DEVELOPMENT CHARGES

With all the grants and plans, ODOT’s staff has ignored Molalla’s decades of failure to charge or collect SDCs capable of supporting transportation development. In 2008 (after the grandiose Downtown Master Plan was created) The Home Builder’s Association of Metropolitan Portland (2008) noted that Molalla had the lowest SDCs in the Portland Metro Area: “Based on a $200,000 home, SDC’s in the Portland Metro Area range from 2% of the cost of a new $200,000 home (City of Molalla) to 16% (City of Gresham, Springwater expansion area).  The average SDC in the Portland Metro Area is equal to $14,332 or 7% of the total cost of a new home.” The Homebuilders said Molalla’s 2008 SDC chart was:

$0  Transportation, $3,903  Sewer $0 Storm $0 Water $0  Parks  total $3,903

The forensic audit of 2012 proved that 2.5 million of SDCs were not properly accounted for or had been misspent (Oregonian March 29, 2012, link furnished above): “…investigation revealed a bigger issue: the city had used system development charges…to finance projects not included in the city’s capital improvement plan, a violation of the law. The city misspent street development charges, alone, to the tune of $1.77 million…Oregon law requires cities repay misused system development charges [2.5 million was found missing in the Molalla audit] within a year of when the violations were discovered.”

 Molalla has refused to reveal if or how it fully restored the 2.5 million dollars.

In Dec. 2016, a new SDC structure was proposed but the total SDC and the transportation SDC will keep Molalla on the low end of what cities charge: Transportation: Proposed methodology recommends a $4,000 SDC; Total SDCs for residential  $13,413

Molalla has been struggling for years to stay solvent. When Molalla hired Ellen Barnes as City Manager in 2012, she triggered the above mentioned forensic audit and began to cut jobs and services to try to correct Molalla’s slide into insolvency. Molalla stopped running its Adult Center, closed the City pool and cut many staff positions. Molalla has to carefully manage its budgets to stay in the black. “The mistakes piled up, the options narrowed, and the towns faced insolvency…I didn’t think a city could get like this,” Barnes said. “Where were the state oversight agencies?” (Oregonian April 15, 2012) http://www.oregonlive.com/clackamascounty/index.ssf/2012/04/with_lax_oversight_mismanaged.html

Why is ODOT continuing to endow Molalla with grants and plans when Molalla has failed to collect and account for SDCs to build enough funds for needed transportation improvements? Why have ODOT grant raters failed to note Molalla’s financial problems and its ongoing struggles to keep its budget balanced?

 SUMMARY

There is a demonstrable lack of coordination between ODOT departments to understand whether or not cities are using plans and codes properly, are cooperating willingly with ODOT’s “recommendations”, have the financial capacity and SDC’s needed to implement plans and have stable staff, planning commissions and enough civic involvement to be capable of understanding and implementing plans according to State and local codes.

ODOT is failing, when rating grant applications, to honestly evaluate a city’s history of implementing past plans and ability to implement new plans. ODOT’s staff fails to honestly consider a city’s financial ability to implement plans and whether there is stable city staff with enough depth to manage plans. ODOT has wasted public funds over and over again on “aspirational” transportation plans for Molalla which have little to no chance of being implemented.

ODOT needs to look at value received to the public from previous grants and to consider whether or not a city has cooperated with ODOT in good faith in development projects before future public funds are granted.

ODOT needs to decide what “recommend” really means: If “recommend” means “must/is necessary to meet State and local codes” then ODOT must be prepared to appeal all and any violations to the “recommend” letters. If “recommend” means “we wish you would do it but we won’t hold you to it” then ODOT should stop wasting staff time and public money writing “recommend” letters and just let bad development/ dangerous access and fee waivers to continue in Molalla, which has a record of doing everything possible to ignore ODOT’s “recommend” letters.

Molalla’s ongoing interest in fostering cheap development as it fails to upgrade infrastructure and fails provide quality of life features does not make it a willing ODOT “partner”.

 

 

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