The Salem City Council on Monday will consider spending millions on terminal upgrades and staffing needed to resume commercial air service at the city-owned airport.
Councilors will first hear an update before voting on a $2.36 million transfer from the city’s general fund to pay for operational and capital costs, including airport staffing and renovation, according to the agenda.
Before commercial air service can begin, the city must make improvements to the passenger terminal building, add police, fire and airport staffing and develop a new airport security program, according to the agenda.
The vote comes as Salem faces a tight timeline to retain interest from at least one airline that’s expressed intent to serve the city. Business leaders with Fly Salem, the group pushing to return commercial air travel to the city, previously told the council one airline would be ready to begin flights May 1 and might seek out other cities if the terminal isn’t ready by that date.
As of the Jan. 9 agenda, 30% of the terminal has been completed. The improvement cost estimate totals $1.88 million, and is scheduled to be completed in May 2023 according to the staff report.
The council’s agenda also includes votes on transit spending, grants applications for culvert improvement and the swearing in of newly elected members.
It’s the first meeting of the year, and the first in person meeting since the pandemic began.
At the start of the council meeting, city officers elected in November will take their oaths of office. They include Mayor Chris Hoy, Municipal Court Judge Eleanor Beatty and city councilors Linda Nishioka, Deanna Gwyn, Julie Hoy and Micki Varney.
The council will vote on appointing or reappointing members of nine boards and commissions, including parks, police, and the library.
Appointments to several additional commissions will be announced at the meeting, including Center 50+ and the Human Rights Commission.
On Monday, councilors will consider a transfer of funds within the city’s fiscal year 2023 budget to pay attorney fees awarded by the state’s Land Use Board of Appeals.
In May of 2022, the council voted to deny a conditional land use permit for a multi-family apartment complex in a commercial zone on the 4900 block of State Street, affirming an appealed decision by a hearing officer.
The applicant appealed to the State Land Use Board of Appeals, who reversed the council’s decision, stating that the city did not have clear and objective conditional use standards.
The board ordered the city to pay attorney fees to the applicant totaling $47,384, according to the staff report. The city has since updated its land use code to allow multifamily housing in commercial zones within mixed use buildings.
The city will also vote on whether to accept the Federal Emergency Management Agency performance grant to support the city’s emergency management program for the 2022-23 fiscal year.
FEMA grant funds for the program total $129,901. The city will match with funds included in the fire department’s annual budget. The program mitigates and responds to emergencies and disasters such as power outages, flooding and earthquakes.
The council will also vote on whether to authorize its agreement with the Salem Area Mass Transit District, contributing funds to its Youth Fare Program.
The council approved $150,000 in funding for the program while adopting the 2023 budget. Cherriots’ program, a pilot for the next year, provides free rides to everyone under 18.
The money comes from the city’s general fund, according to the agreement. It asks for data from Cherriots including monthly ridership numbers and comparisons to prior years.
The council will also consider whether to apply for grant funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation for several culvert projects. The grant applies to projects replacing, removing or repairing culverts and weirs, a type of dam, salmon and trout use to migrate.
The city identified three projects with a total estimated cost of $10.6 million. The grant would fund $8.48 million of the projects, according to the staff report.
The three selected culverts are located at Southeast Railroad and McGilchrist Street, Southeast Ratcliff Drive and Northeast Deerhaven Drive.
The meeting begins Monday Jan. 9 at 6 p.m. and will be hybrid, meaning it can be attended both in person or remotely.
Salemites who would like to comment in person can sign up on the rosters at the entrance of the Chambers before the meeting starts.
To comment remotely, sign up on the city website between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Monday. The meeting will be livestreamed on the City of Salem YouTube channel, with translation to Spanish and American Sign Language available.
Contact reporter Abbey McDonald: [email protected] or 503-704-0355.
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Abbey McDonald joined the Salem Reporter in 2022. She previously worked as the business reporter at The Astorian, where she covered labor issues, health care and social services. A University of Oregon grad, she has also reported for the Malheur Enterprise, The News-Review and Willamette Week.