City donates to USS Oregon; makes first use of MUPTE

In a 3-2 vote, the Cottage Grove City Council opted to contribute $1,000 to support the commissioning ceremony of the newly-named USS Oregon (SSN 793) submarine.

“If we do contribute, we can be named as the ‘City of Cottage Grove’ on the plaque that’s inside the boat so that the crew will recognize those entities or communities that are part of Oregon,” explained City Manager Richard Meyers before the vote.

According to a letter sent to the City of Cottage Grove by the USS Oregon (SSN 793) Commissioning Committee, a part of the Navy League of the United States Portland Council, “The U.S. Navy conducts a formal commissioning ceremony, but is prohibited from funding all the traditional celebrations and customs that welcome a new ship into the fleet.”

The committee aims to raise $200,000 to honor the vessel.

The submarine was built in Groton, Conn., where it was christened last fall.

The U.S. Navy is slated to commission the Virginia-class nuclear submarine in the summer of 2021. It will be the second ship ever to be named after the State of Oregon.

The memorandum presented to the Cottage Grove City Council suggested pulling funds from the Community Promotions Department to make the contribution.

During the meeting, Councilor Greg Ervin expressed his support in making the $1,000 level donation.

Councilor Jake Boone, however, did not see the contribution as beneficial.

“I am not in support of a donation for this,” he said, citing a lack of relevance to the Cottage Grove community.

“It’s a submarine that has been built in Connecticut, so I’m sure it helped the economy in Groton, Connecticut,” he said.

Boone suggested the State of Oregon, not Cottage Grove, should be contributing to the ceremony.

“It’s owned by the U.S. Navy, which is not known for its budget shortfalls,” he said. “We are a small, local government and I feel like this is the wrong direction for money to be flowing at this time. If anything, if we’re going to be giving away money for good purposes, we just had five of our fellow Oregon cities destroyed by wildfires. 

“I would rather send that money somewhere more useful than getting our name on a plaque on a boat for literally hundreds of people to see and largely ignore.”

Councilor Mike Fleck said he was understanding of Boone’s comments and agreed to an extent, but referred to the size of the city’s roughly $40 million budget.

“A thousand dollars in our budget isn’t a huge amount of money and it’s supporting our military,” he said.

Councilor Kenneth Roberts agreed with Boone’s sentiments, saying he was unable to see how the contribution would be of benefit.

“With the budget being $1.6 million less than it was the year before, I think we need to make sure that our [funds] are in use for stuff that’s more of a lasting benefit for our community,” he said.

Boone added that the U.S. Navy has a $161 billion budget for 2021.

“I think that they can probably afford the party without us,” he said.

Ervin then motioned for the city to make the $1,000 contribution “for the namesake of Cottage Grove in the eyes of those sailors.”

While Ervin, Fleck and Mayor Jeff Gowing voted for the contribution, Roberts and Boone voted against. Councilor Candace Solesbee was absent from the council meeting.

According to the USS Oregon Commissioning Committee website, options for donation levels range from $100 to $25,000 and above.

The $1,000 donation awards the city:

• Recognition in the Commemorative Program

• Website mention

• Honorary Plank Owner’s Plaque

• USS Oregon Challenge Coin

• Two USS Oregon lapel pins

For the commissioning ceremony, the city is given

• Two invitations to the Chairman’s Reception

• Two VIP seats

• Post-commissioning lunch or an invitation to the chairman’s reception/simulcast in Oregon of the commissioning ceremony

In other city council news:

MUPTE Program

The city granted the first use of its Multiple-Unit Property Tax Exemption (MUPTE) Program to JDL Construction on behalf of Dave and Carol Rogers, whose iconic house at 1308 E. Main St. burned down in a fire in August 2019.

While the phased construction project includes both a residential development and commercial space, the commercial space is not eligible under the MUPTE program.

The program requires an applicant to provide design elements benefitting the general public. 

In meeting this qualification, the project is proposed to dedicate 2.5 feet as a right-of-way for code compliant eight-foot-wide sidewalks.

In addition, the applicant has proposed to install the new eight-foot-wide sidewalks in front of each of the tax lots as well as a fully ADA (American with Disabilities Act) compliant ramp at the northwest corner of E. Main Street and N. 14th Street.

The total approximated value of the public benefits is $16,000.

Estimates performed by staff show that the city will be waiving approximately $29,000 to $31,000 over the ten-year period of the tax exemption. At the end of the exemption period, the city will receive approximately $3,900 annually on the improvement area.

The MUPTE program was adopted as part of the Cottage Grove Municipal Code in December 2019 in order to increase the development of new multi-family housing in Cottage Grove. 

PUC Complaint

Councilors voted to file a complaint with Oregon Public Utilities Commission (PUC) against telecom company CenturyLink for not maintaining its facilities within city rights-of-way.

At a previous city council meeting, councilors discussed the company’s improper installation, maintenance and lack of corrective action of telecom infrastructure over the last 18 months.

As a result, Councilor Fleck wrote a letter to the PUC complaining of CenturyLink’s failure to make necessary repairs. City staff have received a response from PUC acknowledging receipt of the complaint. Monday’s resolution was added as part of the complaint in order to express the city’s concern in a “more significant manner.”

According to the complaint, at issue are telephone poles placed by CenturyLink on W Main Street within the city’s right-of-way. The poles have begun to lean, in part, because of last year’s snow storm and temporary cables were attached to a resident’s oak tree to stabilize the poles.

The cables, however, are thought to be strangulating the tree and one of the poles continues to lean to the point its attached street light shines into the resident’s house and its lines are lying on the branches of another tree.

The city maintains that CenturyLink has not sufficiently responded to requests to correct these issues for the past 18 months.

VFW Permit

The city council approved issuing a permit to the Carl M. Kebekbeck VFW Post 3473 to place its coffee wagon in city parks and solicit donations. 

The organization is eyeing in particular the Row River Nature Park entrance in hopes to catch traffic passing the park heading to Dorena lake. 

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