Mayor Chas Jones called proposed improvements to the Clemens Primary School student pickup area on South 19th Street a “no-brainer.” (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The Philomath City Council determined that it needs more information before it can allocate more than $160,000 in remaining federal pandemic funding.

During a council work session Monday night, City Manager Chris Workman was asked to create a prioritized list of potential projects for a council meeting on Aug. 28. (The council will hold only one meeting in August due to scheduling conflicts.)

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Top contenders include:

• New striping and other safety improvements for the student pickup area at Clemens Primary School.

• New playground equipment at Shelter No. 2 at Philomath City Park, including accessible equipment and surfaces.

• A backup power supply for water pumps for the Starlight Summit neighborhood.

• Replacing existing lights on North 13th Street with the same style of street lights used downtown.

The City Council wanted cost estimates for projects, as well as an idea of alternative sources of funding available, such as grants.

Councilors agreed with Mayor Chas Jones that improvements to the school pickup area, estimated to cost $2,000, was a “no-brainer.”

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 is a $1.9 trillion bill designed to support communities across the United States struggling with health and economic impacts during the COVID-19 pandemic. The city of Philomath received about $1.3 million in ARPA federal funding.

In February 2022, the City Council allotted roughly $1.1 million in ARPA money for a sewer line project on 16th, 17th and 18th streets. The council also approved City Hall improvements of about $30,000 for hybrid and live-streaming meeting capacity, Workman said.

In April the council voted to approve three additional projects totaling nearly $20,000: Laserfiche electronic document archiving ($6,750); a new kiosk at City Hall ($1,000); and new holiday decorations for downtown light poles ($12,000).

The city held a public survey from late April through early June to gauge the public’s interest in how the remaining $160,000 should be spent.

“A total of 278 responses were received, which is roughly 5% of the total population and a relatively low sample size,” reads a June 12 staff summary regarding the survey and ARPA funds.

“The surveys are helpful but they shouldn’t be used to dictate policy,” Workman told the council.

Skirvin Park restrooms were a project that ranked high in the survey, but Workman and councilors thought that other sources of funding would be available, such as the city’s transient lodging tax. Coordinating on such a project with the Philomath Frolic and Rodeo, which leases the park and could mobilize volunteers and attract in-kind donations, also was deemed preferable.

In other news, the City Council unanimously approved a new contract for eight public works and water employees. The contract, the result of negotiations described as amicable, includes cost-of-living increases, adds longevity pay, introduces new job descriptions and modernizes language, among other changes.   

Kyle Odegard, who graduated from Lebanon High School and earned a degree from Portland State University, has been covering covering news as a reporter and editor in Oregon for a quarter of a century.