The Corvallis City Council took a deeper dive Thursday into plans for a new Benton County-led advisory group that will deal with homelessness.
Councilors reviewed the international government agreement and bylaws for the new group, called the Housing Opportunity Planning Equity (HOPE) board at its work session, held at the Madison Avenue Meeting Room.
No major changes were suggested in the two documents (see the website for the full text of the bylaws) and councilors will consider adopting them at their Sept. 16 meeting.
The council will have two representatives on HOPE’s seven-person executive committee, and Mayor Biff Traber announced his intent to nominate Ward 2’s Charles Maughan and Ward 1’s Jan Napack to the two city positions. Ward 6’s Nancy Wyse also has expressed interest in serving, with council likely to decide the matter Sept. 16.
The executive committee will be a subset of the 21-member advisory board. Two councilors, one as-yet-unannounced member of the Benton County Board of Commissioners, a representative of the Community Services Consortium and a local business person will be the five “role members” of the executive committee.
Two more members, who will serve as co-chairs, still need to be appointed
Councilors noted at the meeting that the list of groups and types of individuals from which the remaining advisory board members will be chosen is much broader than those in the Housing Opportunities Action Council, the previous city-county group focusing on homelessness.
HOAC, Napack noted, consisted mainly of social service providers.
The first meeting of the new board likely will occur in early October, Traber said. One other key piece that must be resolved is the county’s hiring of a project manager for HOPE. The two finalists, Kate Veiga of West Virginia, and Julie Arena of California, participated in a Wednesday meet-and-greet at the Sunset Building.
Regardless of how the personnel moves are resolved, the community should not expect the livability problems related to homelessness to disappear anytime soon.
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That was the message delivered by downtown physical therapist Maggie Cooper, who in recent weeks has been meeting with Benton County Commissioner Xan Augerot as well as downtown business people, residents and property owners.
“There’s no relief for us anytime soon,” Cooper said was the conclusion of those meeting with Augerot. Illegal behaviors and property crimes were the problems cited most often, with participants also concerned about the lack of consequences for offenders because of capacity issues at the Benton County Jail.
“The jail is too small,” Cooper said, “and we have a time challenge. It will take years for a new jail to be voted on and designed and built. People are looking for answers that would mitigate these behaviors. When will there be relief?”
Councilors took on one other agenda item at the work session, continuing their July 18 discussion of their advisory boards.
Ward 8 Councilor Ed Junkins, who was not present at the earlier session, led the way by advocating for basing any revamping of city boards on the city’s vision plan and the city’s strategic operational plan (SOP).
Councilors sometimes struggled during the session, with Mayor Biff Traber noting at one point “we’re not making progress here … we’re not crystallizing here.”
Ultimately, City Manager Mark Shepard agreed to discuss the issue with department directors and bring back some ideas to the council. Alignment with the vision and SOP, boosting public involvement and work efficiencies will be the key principles.
No timetable was set for further discussions, with Junkins noting at one point, “Right now it feels like we’ll still be here in a year.”
Former councilor and longtime advisory board volunteer Karyle Butcher, who worked with two other community members on a report on advisory boards, testified during the community comments portion of the meeting.
She urged councilors to “be bold. I would be heartbroken if you just tweaked it around the edges.”