By Don Iler • News Editor • 

Chief tells council crime is up in Mac

However, he said the increase was slight, only 4.2 percent. And he said the rate of violent crime has remained flat the past five years.

Scales said the increase in investigations could be a result of using social media to develop more intelligence and leads. He said manpower had been shifted from patrol to investigations to handle the increased case load.

As the department looks to the coming year, Scales said it would continue with its outreach to all elements of the community, including the growing Latino component.

Last year, the department held meetings in apartment buildings and at St. James Church with Unidos Bridging Community. It has also held have coffee with a cop meetings to allow people the chance to speak with officers about whatever is on their minds. 

Scales said the department is now deploying narcan, a highly effective drug overdose antidote, with officers in the field. He said the step was taken in response to a continuing and worrisome rise in heroin use in McMinnville.

Scales said the drug’s presence in the community has risen dramatically the past few years, to the point where its impact is beginning to rival that of methamphetamine. He blamed growing abuse of opioid prescription painkillers and the low street price, making heroin an attractive substitute.

Scales said the scheduled 2017 completion of the Newberg-Dundee Bypass had the potential to spur population growth and community change, and he warned that could be accompanied by an increase in crime.

The council also heard from McMinnville Economic Development Partnership Director Jodie Christensen.

Christensen said she would soon be approaching the council with a request for an additional $19,000 in funding. She said it was needed to develop a better inventory of available lots and their state of development readiness.

MEDP is tasked with promoting economic development within the city. It receives about $40,000 annually from the city to further than mission.

The council asked whether the money would be put toward additional staff, as Christensen and a part-time assistant are its only paid employees. She said it would not.

In other business, the council:

* Heard presentations from Mark Davis and J.W. Millegan on the dearth of affordable housing. Millegan accused the city of being too willing to rezone land for lower-density development. He said higher densities serve to keep housing prices down and need to be protected.

* Appointed Zack Geary of Cellar Ridge Construction to the planning commission. Geary mounted an unsuccessful bid for city council last year. 

* Voted to approve new, higher sewer rates on a 4-1 vote. Councilor Remy Drabkin voted no because the measure also served to shift some of the burden from industrial customers to residential, and she said that undercut the city’s push to keep housing affordable.

* Awarded an easement to Online Northwest for placement of fiber optic cable. 

* Authorized an intergovernmental agreement with the city of Amity for the stationing of a McMinnville Fire Department ambulance in Amity. Amity will supply a facility for the ambulance and $10,000, while McMinnville will provide the ambulance and staffing. The council was told the move should improve response times and potentially save lives. 

The council is slated to launch its annual goalsetting session at 7 p.m. Friday at A Tuscan Estate and continue it at 8 a.m. Saturday at the McMinnville Fire Station.