By Paul Daquilante • Staff Writer • 

Willamina residents spend ‘Willabucks’

“Willabucks,” the $100 scrips created to spur commerce and help families during the coronavirus pandemic, are being spent as intended, city officials say.
City Manager Kenna West, who introduced the Willamina Community Assistance Fund at the July council meeting along with City Councilor Bob Burr, told a story at Tuesday evening’s council meeting of parents and their children coming to city hall to obtain their Willabucks.

“A young family that was having some difficulties and was struggling,” West said.

An office employee saw the family go into a nearby market and return with armloads of groceries. They had put their Willabucks to perfect use, according to West. “It’s a great program.”

The Willamina Money Project is providing the $100 in “Willabucks” on a first-come, first-served basis, and each household can obtain three $20s, two $10s and four $5s, to be spent at more than a dozen local businesses.

Burr and his wife, Rita, West, Mayor Ila Skyberg and a group of business owners who spearheaded the project set out to raise $10,000 through donations, allowing each family to receive $100. Bob Burr said at Tuesday night’s council meeting that donations have reached $9,800.

Participating businesses where “Willabucks” can be spent is wide-ranging. They include an automotive shop, beauty salon, coffee stand, gas station, hardware store, hotel, insurance agency and thrift store.

They can be used for anything except alcohol, tobacco products and lottery games. They have no actual cash value and no change is given when one is redeemed.

Burr said what has excited him about the program has been the response from the community toward those who can benefit from the assistance.
“Willabucks” will expire at midnight Wednesday, Sept. 30.

To participate in the program, residents complete an application available at city hall or on the city’s website, They were also mailed with utility bills. They can be returned to city hall, or left in a payment box near the front door when city hall is closed or during non-business hours.

Applications continue to be received by the city. The main criteria for receiving “Willabucks” is for an applicant to be a city resident. 

If donations exceed the $10,000 mark, and it appears that’s going to happen, the program will continue to benefit families up to next month’s deadline.
In other business:

* The council voted to extend West’s contract through Aug. 15, 2021, at an annual salary of $99,800. An active member of the Oregon State Bar, she has served as the city manager for three years.

She has been paid less than the average comparable city manager’s salary. A recent city administrator salary survey completed last April of cities with populations under 5,000 found that the average salary is $100,446 annually. The contract also notes that for those cities whose city manager has similar years of experience the average salary is $105,595.

Skyberg negotiated the contract on behalf of the city with assistance from Burr and legal counsel. “We just want to sign this,” she said. Burr said, “We want to keep you here.” Councilor Craig Johnson said colleagues hold West in high regard.
West removed her name from consideration for the same position in the much larger Polk County community of Monmouth earlier this year. She was one of two finalists.

* McMinnville artist Natalie Fletcher will paint a downtown mural. She proposed the idea at Tuesday night’s meeting, and received the council’s overwhelming support. It will resemble a postcard, but the exact look is unknown at this time. She will paint next month.

“I love to paint and I love this town,” Fletcher said. Her “6 feet apart” sidewalk art is featured in downtown McMinnville.

* Yamhill County Sheriff Tim Svenson honored councilor Rita Baller for her years of service to small cities on the Yamhill Communications Agency Executive Board. She received a plaque.

The council will meet next at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 8 at the West Valley Fire District main station.


[Updated to correct Rita Baller as the recipient of the award from  Yamhill Communications Agency Executive Board]


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