The Salem City Council will consider applying to a grant that could bring more trees to Salem’s neighborhoods during its Monday meeting, and will also vote on an ordinance that would repeal its ban on sitting or laying on sidewalks during the day.
The council meets Monday, May 22, at 6 p.m. in-person at the city council chambers, 555 Liberty St. S.E. room 220, with the meeting also available to watch online. The meeting will be livestreamed on Capital Community Media’s YouTube channel, with translation to Spanish and American Sign Language available.
To comment remotely, sign up on the city website between 8 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Monday.
For written comments, email [email protected] before 5 p.m. on Monday, or on paper to the city recorder’s office at the Civic Center, 555 Liberty St. S.E., Room 225. Include a statement indicating the comment is for the public record.
READ IT: AGENDA
Grant application for more trees in more places
On Monday, councilors will consider applying to a $9 million federal grant to grow Salem’s tree canopy.
If approved, the city would develop a school tree-planting program and forestry apprenticeship program to bring more trees to Salem’s neighborhoods.
The funding would come from the federal Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, which is offering funding to develop multi-year tree planting and management programs.
City staff are developing a grant proposal, and would focus the entirety of the funds on socioeconomically disadvantaged communities which have less access to trees, according to a staff report from Brian Martin, acting public works director.
Nationwide, low-income areas and neighborhoods with majority people of color have fewer trees, which improve air quality, stormwater and can cool temperatures and reduce energy usage.
Staff will be using tools including Tree Equity Score mapping to determine areas in need.
The funding would hire a program coordinator to help schools, churches and other institutions in low income areas plant more trees by hiring contractors, finding locations and monitoring existing tree health and teaching students. That portion of the proposal is projected to cost $5.5 million over five years.
Martin’s report also proposes an Urban and Community Forestry Apprenticeship program to teach people from local schools and community partners to become certified arborists. The program is expected to cost $3.5 million over 5 years.
“Apprentices would work to identify and overcome barriers to establishing and maintaining tree canopy in disadvantaged communities with low canopy, engage with local residents and private property owners, and provide support to the City’s Yard Tree Pilot Program,” the report reads.
If the city council approves, the city manager’s office would apply for the grant by June 1.
The city will consider signing an agreement with the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office to establish the terms of a $10,000 investment into the city fire department for wildfire education and preparedness.
Under the agreement, the city would host “Wildfire Awareness Days” and “Wildfire Preparedness Days” to educate the community.
The department would also use the funds to sign up for Everbridge, an emergency response software system, and would plan future evacuation information, said department spokesman Brian Carrara in an email to Salem Reporter.
He said that they would focus the programs on rural areas.
The agreement would last until June 30, 2024, when any leftover funds would be returned to the state office.
The council will also have its second reading of an ordinance repealing the city’s ban on sitting or laying on sidewalks during the day.
The ordinance follows federal court decisions Blake v. City of Grants Pass and Martin v. Boise, which found that ordinances designed to prevent people without shelter from sleeping outside violated their constitutional rights.
State bills that came after, effective July 1, require that the city give 72 hour notice before removing an established camp, that any personal property the city collects be preserved, and that people who are homeless must have reasonable access to public areas.
Current city code prohibits camping on all public property and restricts sitting or laying on sidewalks during the day. People also cannot leave personal property unattended on sidewalks for over two hours, which the city said has already not been enforced, according to a report from City Attorney Dan Atchison.
The proposed changes to city code would repeal the above restrictions, but would maintain camping restrictions in parks, near vision clearance areas and building entrances, residential zones, near existing shelters and “areas designated by City Manager as no camping,” according to the report.
More potential places to put murals
The council will have its first reading of an ordinance to change the city’s definition of “building” and “public mural.”
The changes would allow public murals to be added to curved buildings, such as silos or water towers, according to the staff report.
A new blower
Public works department leaders are asking the city council to approve a new project to replace a blower at the Willow Lake Water Pollution Control Facility at 5915 Windsor Island Rd. N. in Keizer.
In the wastewater treatment process, blowers add air to help the organic solids break down. Willow lake serves an over 60-mile area, and can process 200 million gallons per day. The city replaced a blower there in 2017, according to the staff report.
A study by the Energy Trust of Oregon found that a new blower would have significant annual savings by limiting energy use.
The total project is estimated to cost $485,000, “however, the energy savings and incentive will offset the cost within just a few years,” Martin said in the staff report.
Estimated savings are $58,000 per year, according to the report.
If approved, the move would add a new project to the Wastewater Non-Assessed fund, paid by utility rates, and the city would also apply to a $300,000 grant from Energy Trust.
The city council will also hear several information reports that won’t require action from them on Monday.
Councilors will see a monthly purchasing activity report for contracts awarded, renewed or modified in April.
April’s spending totalled $2.5 million, around half from the capital improvement fund. Major contracts include $569,000 for signal improvements on Southeast Commercial Street and $347,339 for a family friendly bikeway on Northeast Union Street.
The council will also review the city planning department’s approval of a 436 unit apartment complex at the 2100 block of Northwest Doaks Ferry Road in west Salem.
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.