Philomath City Hall
Philomath City Hall (File photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)
Correction: A previous version of the story reported that there was no testimony given at the public hearing on the Parks and Trails Master Plan. One citizen, however, did have one quick statement — which initially was not perceived as public hearing testimony — and referred councilors to written comments that had been submitted. The News regrets the error.

Meeting for the first time this calendar year, Philomath Mayor Chas Jones opted to make changes to the City Council’s standing committees — and those decisions were not popular with councilors Jessica Andrade and Catherine Biscoe.

The two councilors at Monday night’s meeting wanted Jones to explain why they were both being removed from the Public Works Committee. Andrade confronted the mayor on the question, pointing out that Biscoe had been the committee’s chair and why did he choose to allow Ruth Causey to remain.

“Both Chair Biscoe and I selected this committee as our first- and second-preferred assignments, respectively,” she said. “So why would you remove us?”

Jones said he believed it was time for others on the council to have an opportunity to sit on the Public Works Committee.

“There were others — in fact, it was the most in-demand committee with folks having that as their No. 1 (preference),” Jones said, “and so just as being fair to folks, this is how it worked out.”

Andrade again challenged Jones on the point.

“I would like to point out that all of the other committee chairs remained on the committee they chaired,” Andrade said. “So why was Chair Biscoe the only chair removed from their committee?”


Jones said he “did not take that into consideration … I think that has no relevance whatsoever.”

Biscoe said that in her submitted list of preferences, Public Works was No. 1 and the Police Committee, to which she was assigned, was No. 4.

“Given all of the alternatives and the considerations that were given and the fact that I am one of two councilors who are on one committee only, I think it is a statement,” Biscoe said. “I would say that the information that was provided and the work that was done by the Public Works Committee was — considering the difficulties of barriers provided by staff — I think it was exceptional work and I think that was represented in the work session this evening as well.

“So I object to being removed as the chair and being removed from the No. 1 committee that I requested,” she added.

Jones responded to Biscoe that he appreciated her work on the committee and acknowledged that she “brought some great information there.”

But he added, “These are my recommendations for how we move forward with the city,” Jones said. “I think you’re going to do great work for the Police Committee and I’m really looking forward to the input that you’re going to have there.”

Andrade challenged the process by citing Philomath Municipal Code 2.10.050 which in part reads, “… the mayor shall, after consultation with and consent of the members affected, appoint the members of the council to the council’s standing committees and evenly assign representative responsibilities to the council members.”

Said Andrade, “I don’t see how your changing of the removal of service from myself from the Public Works Committee falls within Philomath Municipal Code.”

City Attorney Jim Brewer was called upon.

“Assuming that you’ve asked people and that they’ve made their requests, that you’ve taken those into account and if the council agrees, I think that’s what the code calls for,” Brewer said.

City Manager Chris Workman pointed out that as it states in the agenda item summary, Jones presents the committee assignments “and seeks council’s consent by way of consensus.” As a result, if there was not a consensus, the council could then determine if another way was appropriate — taking a vote, for example, he added.

“I read it as the individuals affected and the language about approving by consensus is not in the municipal code,” Andrade said.

The mayor made the following appointments:

• Finance and Administration Committee — Causey, Jones, David Low.

• Police Committee — Biscoe, Matt Lehman, Teresa Nielson.

• Public Works Committee — Causey, Lehman, Low.

Membership on special committees, including the Inclusivity Ad Hoc Committee, is determined by the City Council. The mayor recommended that the Inclusivity committee remain the same with Andrade, Jones and Nielson, which nobody opposed.

“I see that there’s a lot of good work to be done on the Inclusivity committee and I’m excited to have councilors Andrade, Nielsen and myself working on that,” Jones said.

As the discussion wrapped up, Jones reiterated that the standing committee assignments were “within the purview of the mayor.” Causey followed with a motion to approve, seconded by Nielson, and it passed on a 5-2 vote (Andrade, Biscoe nay).

Committee volunteer appointments

The City Council turned its attention to the appointment of volunteers to fill vacancies on the Planning Commission, Budget Committee and Park Advisory Board.

Three citizens — Michael Hansen, Darlene Rose and Jeff Schminsky — submitted applications for the Planning Commission vacancy, which was created at the end of December when longtime volunteer Steve Boggs completed a four-year term.

Following comments from each candidate and other discussion, councilors emailed their top two choices to the city recorder. Through that process, Hansen and Rose remained under consideration. Councilors then voted for their final choice and Rose was awarded the seat. The council approved Rose on a unanimous vote.

“Philomath has changed and grown but still maintains the small-town feel,” Rose said in her application. “Planning is vital to ensure we have the type of growth, economic opportunities and public safety that enables families and the city to thrive.”

The council then transitioned into Budget Committee appointments with Christopher McMorran and Kathi Harwood listed as two applicants for three vacancies. Harwood’s application was submitted after the city’s deadline, which prompted discussion on whether she should be considered.

Workman said that since “we had more positions than people applying at this point,” Harwood’s name was included in the list of those willing to volunteer.

Andrade suggested approving McMorran, holding onto the Harwood application and “then reopen it to others because there are several people that wanted to apply but when they found out the deadline passed, they didn’t apply.”

The council moved forward with a vote to approve both applications and it passed on a 4-3 vote.

As Jones attempted to move on to the Park Advisory Board appointments, Biscoe echoed the points that Andrade had made earlier.

“As much as I want to support Kathi Harwood for the Budget Committee, I have an issue with an application that came in seven days later,” Biscoe said. “I, too, know individuals, actually, two individuals, who were interested in applying but did not do so because the deadline had passed.”

Biscoe added that she didn’t think the council should set a precedent in such situations and wanted a cleaner process. She made a motion to reconsider the previous vote and open it up again to other applicants.

The councilors approved 4-3 to reconsider the previous motion but not before more discussion, including clarification about how long the positions had been advertised and remained open. The city recorder issued a press release on Dec. 1 and the positions were open until Dec. 29.

The council later followed with a second vote on the original motion that had passed. This time, it failed unanimously.

A final motion was made to approve McMorran only and reopen the application period until midnight on Jan. 24 with appointments to be considered at a February meeting.

The final appointments of the evening involved the Park Advisory Board. The city received two applications for the three open positions. Izzie Elliott and Yvonne McMillan were appointed on a 5-0-2 vote (Andrade, Biscoe abstained). Lindy Young had completed her final term and was not eligible for reappointment unless there were not enough applicants.

Workman was to reach out to Young to see if she would be interested in continuing on the board. If she prefers to not be considered, the position would open up with the same Jan. 24 deadline as the Budget Committee posting.

Streetscape bioswale project

Councilors listened to a detailed presentation by Sam Debell, Murraysmith civil engineer, on the Downtown Safety and Streetscape Improvement Project’s bioswale, a proposed solution for requirements related to treating stormwater. A bioswale is a channel designed to convey stormwater runoff while removing debris and pollution.

Debell went through various components of the project, including methods and locations that had been considered. All councilors had questions of those on hand for the presentation, which also included ODOT’s Adam Roberts, Bill Ness and Savannah Crawford, and Murraysmith’s Chris Link.

A particular concern to at least three councilors was related to the removal of trees in the excavation area — a number calculated to be 93 trees. Causey brought up the possibility of relocating trees elsewhere in Philomath, possibly a sort of adopt-a-tree program. Link said that option would be something to look into while working through possibilities with the hired contractor.

As far as a timeline, changes to the plan would set back the streetscapes project at least a year, Crawford estimated, with a bidding process not scheduled until May. A part of a delay would involve required permits that would need to be in hand before moving forward.

No action was required of the council following the presentation.

Parks and Trails Master Plan

The meeting opened with a public hearing on the proposed Philomath Parks and Trails Master Plan, which is seeing its first update since 2016. The contractor hired to assist with the plan update, MIG, was on hand to provide information and answer questions.

MIG gathered information, collected data and drafted a plan while coming up with a recommendation for “a renewed direction for the future of Philomath’s parks and recreation system,” according to a report prepared by Chelsea Starner, assistant city manager.

MIG’s Jon Pheanis went through a detailed presentation, which included a 10-year capital project list — two new neighborhood parks, a new community park, the Millpond Crossing park, a downtown park, a new skate park, a new fenced off-leash dog area and new off-street trails. Priority projects in the next one to five years were identified as the replacement of the skate park at Philomath City Park and developing Paul J. Cochran Veterans Memorial Park, located on the corner of College and North 16th streets. Other priorities include ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) upgrades at Marys River Park and Triangle Park (700 College St.), an invasive species vegetation project at Reservoir Park (3100 Applegate St.) and individual items needed in various parks, such as new lighting, shade trees, trash cans and seating.

The public hearing included no extended testimony but one citizen did comment, “I guess I’m neutral” and referred councilors to written comments that had been submitted. The city also received materials from one other citizen. Following deliberation, a resolution to adopt the plan passed on a 6-0-1 vote (Biscoe abstained).

In other news out of the Jan. 10 meeting:

• The council opened the meeting by passing a motion intended to limit the amount of time that councilors spend debating issues. 

• The council approved a motion to add an agenda item on the topic of the proposed North 11th Street Local Improvement District, which had been discussed in a 90-minute work session prior to the regular meeting. Although the agenda item was added, the council was not able to fit in the discussion before the meeting was adjourned.

• Nobody spoke during the visitors and petitions portion of the meeting.

• The mayor tabled a vote on the consent agenda until the council’s next meeting, which is scheduled for Jan. 24.

• The council approved the city manager’s hiring of Mike Murzynsky as the city’s new finance director. Murzynsky comes to Philomath after serving in the same position for the city of Newport.

• The city announced certificates of appreciation for various volunteers that completed committee terms — Izzie Elliott (Park Advisory Board), Margie Brown (Budget Committee), Noelle Cummings (Budget Committee), Steve Boggs (Planning Commission) and Lindy Young (Park Advisory Board).

• The council approved 6-1 on a roll-call vote a resolution to amend the city code section on “Council Rules.” Earlier, the council had approved on separate votes wording changes and to replace gendered language with gender neutral references. “Not everyone identifies as he or she and I think it’s important that we not alienate people; it’s all about protecting others … it’s just the right thing to do,” said Andrade, who made the latter motion. Nielson suggested that the gender neutral language be offered as an option to avoid excluding those who do identify as he or she. Andrade said she feels it’s common anyway to use “they” in reference to others and stood by her motion, which passed on a 5-1-1 vote. Since the first reading of the Council Rules was not unanimous, a second vote will be required for final approval.

• The council approved required revisions to municipal code related to stormwater utility and a stormwater management plan based on new control measures in place for Department of Environmental Quality permit approvals.

• The council approved a system development charge rate schedule for 2022. Rates are tied to what is known as the Engineering News Review index to keep pace in construction-related labor and materials costs. The index has seen a 3.05% increase, which was applied to all of the city’s SDCs. For a typical residential property, the total SDCs see an increase from $27,368 to $28,048.

• The council scheduled a Budget Committee meeting for Feb. 28 to discuss options for spending Philomath’s allocation of American Rescue Plan Act funds. The city is expecting to receive approximately $1,250,000 in funding from the Oregon Department of Administrative Services. Some councilors expressed concern that the public would not be involved in the process but Workman said the Feb. 28 meeting is only a brainstorming session on how to move forward, a discussion that will include public outreach possibilities.

• The council discussed nominations for the 2022 Samaritan Awards, an event sponsored by the Philomath Area Chamber of Commerce. Various individuals in different categories were considered.

• With the hour growing later and the meeting beyond the previous 10:30 p.m. limit that had been established, Jones made a motion to extend the meeting by 10 minutes to continue the conversation on the North 11th Street Local Improvement District that had earlier been added to the agenda. Biscoe strongly opposed the idea and asked for the meeting to end and be rescheduled. Said Lehman, “I think we could talk about this for six more hours and still not come to a conclusion so I’m going to vote no.” The motion failed and the meeting adjourned.

Following is a list of votes taken by the Philomath City Council at its Jan. 10 meeting:
• To limit debate, given the City Council’s extensive agenda, to two comments on a given topic and no more than five minutes in length for the meeting. Motion: Causey. Seconded: Nielson. Vote: Passes 5-2 (Yes—Causey, Jones, Lehman, Low, Nielson; No—Andrade, Biscoe).
• To add an item at the end of the agenda’s new business section to have a followup conversation on the proposed North 11th Street Local Improvement District. Motion: Low. Seconded: Causey. Vote: Passes 5-2 (Yes—Biscoe, Causey, Jones, Low, Nielson; No—Andrade, Lehman).
• To approve Resolution 22-01 to adopt the Parks and Trails Master Plan. Motion: Causey. Seconded: Lehman. Vote: Passes 6-0-1 (Yes—Andrade, Causey, Jones, Lehman, Low, Nielson; Abstained—Biscoe).
• To approve the city manager’s new finance director appointment. Motion: Lehman. Seconded: Causey. Vote: Passes 7-0 (Yes—Andrade, Biscoe, Causey, Jones, Lehman, Low, Nielson).
• To approve standing committee assignments and the Inclusivity ad hoc committee membership as presented. Motion: Causey. Seconded: Nielson. Vote: Passes 5-2 (Yes—Causey, Jones, Lehman, Low, Nielson; No—Andrade, Biscoe).
• To waive the two-week waiting period and appoint Darlene Rose to the Philomath Planning Commission. Motion: Nielson. Seconded: Causey. Vote: Passes 7-0 (Yes—Andrade, Biscoe, Causey, Jones, Lehman, Low, Nielson).
• To waive the two-week waiting period and appoint Christopher McMorran and Kathi Harwood to fill two of the three-year terms to the Budget Committee, and re-advertise for additional applicants for the third position. Motion: Lehman. Seconded: Low. Vote: Passes 4-3 (Yes—Jones, Lehman, Low, Nielson; No—Andrade, Biscoe, Causey).
• To reconsider the previous motion. Motion: Biscoe. Seconded: Andrade. Vote: Passes 4-3 (Yes—Andrade, Biscoe, Causey, Lehman; No—Jones, Low, Nielson).
• A re-vote to appoint Christopher McMorran and Kathi Harwood to fill two of the three-year terms to the Budget Committee, and re-advertise for additional applicants for the third position. Vote: Fails 7-0 (No—Andrade, Biscoe, Causey, Jones, Lehman, Low, Nielson).
• To waive the two-week waiting period and appoint Christopher McMorran to fill one of the three-year terms to the Budget Committee, and re-advertise for additional applicants for the other two positions with a deadline of Jan. 24. Motion: Lehman. Seconded: Low. Vote: Passes 7-0 (Yes—Andrade, Biscoe, Causey, Jones, Lehman, Low, Nielson).
• To confirm the mayor’s appointments to the Park Advisory Board as presented. Motion: Causey. Seconded: Nielson. Vote: Passes 5-0-2 (Yes—Causey, Jones, Lehman, Low, Nielson; No—Andrade, Biscoe).
• To continue the meeting until 10:30 p.m. Motion: Jones. Seconded: Low. Vote: Passes 5-2 (Yes—Causey, Jones, Lehman, Low, Nielson; No—Andrade, Biscoe).
• To approve suggested wording changes to Ordinance 860 to amend Philomath Municipal Code Chapter 2.10, Council Rules. Motion: Biscoe. Seconded: Lehman. Vote: Passes 7-0 (Yes—Andrade, Biscoe, Causey, Jones, Lehman, Low, Nielson).
• To change any gendered language in Philomath Municipal Code Chapter 2.10, Council Rules to nongendered, nonbinary. Motion: Andrade. Seconded: Biscoe. Vote: Passes 5-1-1 (Yes—Andrade, Biscoe, Causey, Jones, Lehman; No—Nielson; Abstained—Low).
• To adopt Ordinance 860 to amend Philomath Municipal Code Chapter 2.10, Council Rules, as amended. Roll-call vote: Passes 6-1 (Yes—Andrade, Biscoe, Causey, Jones, Lehman, Low; No—Nielson).
• To adopt Ordinance 861 to enact Philomath Municipal Code 13.40 Stormwater Utility and 13.45 Stormwater Management Plan and declaring an emergency. Roll-call vote: Passes 7-0 (Yes—Andrade, Biscoe, Causey, Jones, Lehman, Low, Nielson).
• To approve Resolution 22-02 to establish the 2022 system development charge rates. Motion: Nielson. Seconded: Causey. Vote: Passes 7-0 (Yes—Andrade, Biscoe, Causey, Jones, Lehman, Low, Nielson).
• To schedule a special meeting of the Budget Committee on Feb. 28 at 5 p.m. to review recommendations for spending American Rescue Plan Act funds. Motion: Jones. Seconded: Low. Vote: Passes 6-1 (Yes—Andrade, Biscoe, Causey, Jones, Low, Nielson; No—Lehman).
• To extend the meeting for another 10 minutes. Motion: Jones. Seconded: Causey. Vote: Fails 7-0 (No—Andrade, Biscoe, Causey, Jones, Lehman, Low, Nielson).