JOSEPH — The city of Joseph is fully staffed — except for a couple vacant council seats — the city council was told last week during a virtual meeting.

Pro-Tem City Administrator Brock Eckstein informed the council on Thursday, Sept. 2, that two utility workers, a utility biller and an ordinance officer had been hired.

Michael Harshfield and Damion Salerno were hired as utility workers, Michelle Brock was hired as a utility biller, and Douglas McKinnis was hired as the city’s ordinance officer.

“We’re still working on getting an administrator in here,” he said of the need to fill his position on a permanent basis.

The city has engaged a professional service that regularly finds management people in the Northwest, he said.

As for the vacant council seats, several applications have been received and the city will continue to take them until Oct. 4. The council will consider the applications at its next meeting, Oct. 7, at which time the council will elect a new mayor pro-tem to replace Lisa Collier, who was sworn in as mayor last week to replace Belinda Buswell, who resigned because she was moving out of town.

Eckstein said he doesn’t yet know if the October council meeting will be virtual or in person.

“It just depends on how the COVID stuff shakes out,” he said.

In another matter, the council held the second of two public hearings on the method the city uses to calculate Systems Development Charges for the city’s water and sewer systems. As Eckstein explained, when a new house or business is built, the owner pays charges to connect to the water and sewer systems. The fees can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars, he said. The range is based on recommendations by the city engineer.

The hearings are to give the public the chance to comment on the fees. One person spoke at the August meeting, but no one spoke at this month’s meeting. The public will have another chance to comment at the October meeting, after which the council is expected to vote to approve the methods for calculating the SDCs — or not, Eckstein said.

“People get confused,” he said. “They think we’re trying to assess SDCs right now. But it’s the method we could go down if we chose to establish the range of the fees we would implement and give the public the chance to speak.”

The council also heard a presentation by Howard Postovit, of the Oregon Department of Transportation, on the ongoing plans for handicapped-accessible curbs to be installed. Eckstein said the council was pleased with the presentation.

“It gave kind of a good, ‘warm-and-fuzzy’ on the whole project,” he said.

The city’s Main Street Motif Committee will now meet with ODOT to finalize the plans.

In other matters, the council:

• Approved a resolution authorizing the city’s participation in the League of Oregon Cities’ Legal Advice Program. Eckstein said the program provides 20 free hours of legal advice each year.

• Approved a $14,000 bid by Brian Walker’s Executive Tree Care to prune or eliminate 86 trees on Main Street and at the city park.

• Approved Eckstein’s request to sell as surplus the city’s 1998 Toyota Tacoma pickup. The city plans to replace it and others with some of the American Rescue Plan Act funds the city is receiving.

• Heard a brief presentation on the city’s ongoing public works projects from Lucas Stangel of Anderson Perry Engineers.

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