City planner ‘no longer employed’

One of Cottage Grove’s senior city planners, Amanda Ferguson, is “no longer employed with the city,” said Human Resources Specialist Mandy Biehler on Thursday (Sept. 16).

On Aug. 20, 2021, in accordance with city policy, Ferguson was placed on paid temporary administrative leave pending the conclusion of an investigation, which ultimately resulted in her separation from city employment.

A city source said that an employee had been let go for a “violation of city policies,” but the city would not elaborate on which policy or policies.

“Because this involves a personnel investigation, not all aspects of the investigation may be made public at this time,” said City Manager Richard Meyers to The Sentinel. “The city wants to reassure the public that its commitment to providing a high level of public service continues during this time.”

Ferguson had not responded to a request to comment as of press time.

For almost two decades, Ferguson had been working for the City of Cottage Grove, putting her fingerprint on or being a key actor in coordinating numerous projects and programs.

Last year, for instance, Ferguson helped secure federal funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Local Foods, Local Places program. In response to Ferguson’s application, the agency selected Cottage Grove to participate in the program, marking the city as the first community in Oregon to receive the opportunity.

The program committed a total of $25,000 in direct assistance to be made available to the city as well as a formalized structure to work with a broad range of agricultural, environmental, public health, architectural and economic development experts to help develop an action plan, set goals and identify local assets that can support the local food economy and contribute to downtown and neighborhood revitalization.

Over the years, Ferguson has been behind several other projects such as: the preparation of the state’s model Development Code for adoption by the Cottage Grove City Council; the creation of a Historic Preservation program (which included the establishment of the Historic Landmarks Commission); achieving a national historic designation of the Cottage Grove Armory; the establishment of a floodplain management program; coordination of the development of the Main Street Refinement Plan and All-America City Park Refinement Plan; and assistance in developing the city’s stormwater management plan and Transit Development Plan.

Well-known for her grant-writing ability, she also worked on or assisted with a number of grants which helped fund projects such as the Safe Route to Schools program, South Lane Wheels transportation, Highway 99 and Main Street transportation and growth management, Armory exterior and renovation work, downtown historic preservation, bicycle and pedestrian path funding and federal trail maintenance.

In 2014, the city received the Heritage Excellence Award from the State of Oregon for preservation work. Ferguson had helped the city gain a Certified Local Government designation, which opened up grant funding opportunities for preservation projects in the community.

With the loss of Ferguson, the city is left with just one senior city planner.

In July, as the new fiscal year began, Assistant City Planner Eric Mongan was promoted to a senior position, enabling a strategy in which one senior planner would focus on current work while the other would focus on long-range planning and grants.

Public Works and Development Director Faye Stewart could not elaborate on the replacement process, but acknowledged that in the meantime, the loss of a city planner may pose some challenges as work will likely shift to other individuals.

“[We’re] working with formulating how to repurpose the work, to make sure that it all gets done,” said Stewart. “There’s a lot of grant work. There’s a lot of reporting on various different things that I’ll probably find myself doing most of in the short term.”

Functions such as Planning Commission work will proceed without disruption, Stewart added.

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