05/19/2014 City Council meeting

The city council delved into two vastly different issues during its May 19 special meeting: finance software and water resource areas.

Financial software

In its first course of action, the city council unanimously authorized the city manager to enter into a contract for new financial software.

Currently, the city of West Linn owns H.T.E. financial software marketed by SunGard. They have used this software since before 2000 for financials, personnel and project accounting needs. This product runs on older technology servers and has not been able to keep up with efficient accounting and reporting needs.

In 2013, the city’s current software company, as part of its annual maintenance agreement, offered an upgrade of H.T.E. to one of its newer products called “Navaline.” Staff reviewed the upgraded product and determined that although this was newer technology, it still did not meet the city’s requirements, and did not pursue the upgrade.

West Linn now has an intergovernmental agreement with the Lake Oswego IT Department to provide IT support and consultation services, and with their help, it now makes sense to convert financial software.

The cost of the new software is a one-time licensing fee of $76,837 plus ongoing maintenance and servicing costs of $36,865 per year, which will be offset by the $65,000 annual software maintenance costs currently being paid to SunGard for H.T.E. To implement the new software costs, professional implementation costs are estimated at $192,025.

The new software, Incode, has been used by Lake Oswego for 11 years and Milwaukie for 15 years, and West Linn already uses two of its modules: municipal court and centralized cash collections.

Lake Oswego Chief Technology Officer Chip Larouche was on hand at the city council meeting and gave the software a high satisfaction rating.

“We’ve been very happy with this software. It’s done all the things we’ve asked of it,” Larouche said.

Though councilors debated the benefits and potential risks of investing in the software’s “cloud” storage and placing the city’s sensitive and confidential financial information in a virtual environment, they opted not to pursue that route as of yet and will use the system’s tradition and less expensive in-house hosted system.

Councilor Jody Carson moved to authorize the city manager to enter into a contract with Tyler Technologies for new Incode financial software. Mike Jones seconded it. It passed unanimously.

“We want to make sure we get this right,” Mayor John Kovash said. “We trust we will have a smooth implementation.”

Water Resource Area

In the works since 2010, the city council is now nearing completion of a repeal and replacement of Community Development Code Chapter 32: Water Resource Area. The city council held a public hearing regarding the chapter during the special meeting.

The WRA boundary comprises all streams, wetlands and riparian areas plus an additional distance or setback to reduce the likelihood of eroded material (soil, pollutants, etc.) from getting into the stream or wetland.

West Linn has about 26 lineal miles of streams, wetlands and riparian corridors, not counting the Tualatin and Willamette rivers.

The city needs to protect WRAs to be in compliance with state goals, to maintain water quality, to aid in flood mitigation, to protect wildlife habitat and to add recreation/aesthetic value to West Linn.

Since its adoption in 2007, the water resource area chapter in the city’s community development code has been beset with problems which gave rise to Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals decisions, having to purchase property to avoid a takings claim and continued difficulty by city council, planning commission, staff and the public in the use and interpretation of the WRA chapter.

The planning commission initiated a review of the chapter in 2010. In that time, an ad hoc group met 24 times (resulting in a rewrite of the chapter), 1,700 Measure 56 notices were sent to affected homeowners (having received a Measure 56 notice, Mayor John Kovash recused himself from this portion of the meeting), the planning commission held public hearings in January and February, and Metro staff has reviewed the language three times.

“It wasn’t a fast process, but it was a thorough process though,” Planner Peter Spir said.

To address these problems, the planning commission is recommending that CDC Chapter 32: WRA, be repealed and replaced by with new language.

Proposed changes to the CDC chapter include altering how all streams are regarded, mapping, increased flexibility in setbacks, more definitions and illustrations, additional hardship provisions, encouragement of habitat-friendly practices, and mitigation and re-vegetation.

The city council held a work session on these amendments on May 5. At that time, staff explained the benefits of the planning commission's recommended version:

  • Simplify the review process
  • Adopt a map specific to WRAs and eliminate the use of the public works department's surface water management plan map to identify WRAs
  • Allow "reasonable use" of hardship properties and allow the development of 5,000 square feet or 30% of the WRA, whichever is greater
  • Provide continued protection of the resources through setbacks
  • Provide the option for property owners to hire wetland biologists or similarly trained professionals to propose WRA setbacks specific to the value and function of the WRA
  • Include Metro's "Habitat Friendly Development Practices." Property owners can make simple modifications to their development proposals to improve water quality and habitat protection (e.g., use of water permeable pavers)
  • Exempt temporarily disturbed areas from counting against the maximum amount of water resource area that a property owner can develop. TDAs are areas that are completely restored to natural grade and re-vegetated with native plants after the property is developed and disturbance is caused to the area
  • Increase exemptions from the permitting process
  • Provide more definitions of terms
  • Provide more illustrations that better communicate of how WRA setbacks should be measured
  • Create an incentive to daylight piped streams
  • Create procedures for the re-alignment of streams
  • Introduce low flow ephemeral stream category with commensurately reduced setbacks
  • Increase mitigation and re-vegetation standards

The revamping of the chapter is expected to save the city money with reduced staff time needed to manage the WRA program.

After a short presentation from Spir, the council opened up for public testimony. Thirteen people addressed the council, both in support of the revisions and against them.

After listening to the testimony and accepting new written testimony, the council opted to continue the hearing until June 9 in order to consider and review all testimony. Additional written comments may be submitted until June 2, but there will be no verbal testimony accepted at the June 9 meeting.

“Your comments have been helpful,” Carson told the audience.

The city council will next meet June 9 at 6:30 p.m. at city hall, 22500 Salamo Road.