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Council celebrates city staff, programs

Tuesday evening’s McMinnville city council meeting was marked by celebrating various events and programs, kicked off with a proclamation of Hands and Words Are Not For Hurting Day.

Mayor Rick Olson also took the opportunity to present the Governor’s Council on Fitness and Sports award for Fitness Leadership to Recreational Sports Manager Dan Homeres, saying that Homeres has affected thousands of children and teenagers in the years he has worked for the city. Homeres retired in June.

The council voted unanimously to authorize the city to apply for a loan for its share of money to begin construction of the Newberg-Dundee bypass, and agreed by consent to appoint members of three new advisory committees.

It spent the remainder of the evening hearing reports about the city parks ranger program, and fire safety programs.

At the end of June, the city laid off Fire Marshal Eric McMullen, part of a package of reduced staff hours and layoffs, to cut costs.

However, Fire Chief Rich Leipfert assured the council, the department retained its array of educational programs, code enforcement duties and fire investigation responsibilities. It did so by assigning most of McMullen’s workload to his deputy marshal, Debbie McDermott.

After several years of success with the city volunteer Park Rangers program, Parks and Recreation Director Jay Pearson told the council how the city began seeing more behavioral problems that the rangers were having trouble controlling. In response, it teamed up with the police department to revamp the program. Captain Dennis Marks was assigned the job of hiring and training rangers, who were sworn in by Police Chief Ron Noble, and given some limited enforcement authority, along with radios for direct contact with police. In addition, the department contributed a retired patrol car, no longer suitable for the hard usage of road patrol, but still acceptable for lighter duty.

Those measures made a marked difference, Marks and Noble said. The rangers took an early tough stance, excluding trouble-makers temporarily from the parks, and handing out citations. Since then, he said, as some of the people formerly excluded have been allowed back in, they have successfully formed relationships with them.

Pearson said the Parks Maintenance Department is reporting less vandalism, and is happy with the results, and that he is hearing positive comments from parks users.

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