State of the City

St. Helens Police Chief Brian Greenway addresses the State of the City meeting at St. Helens Middle School.

St. Helens Mayor Rick Scholl has his list.

Scholl said the top challenges facing the city in 2020 will be waterfront development, public works issues dealing with roads, sewer and water, and the city’s industrial properties.

“The waterfront is not a challenge, but it is a continuation of a theme,” he said. “First and foremost the waterfront needs expansion of the park and a boardwalk. It needs to be open to the public and it is coming to be no matter what.”

Scholl also said he hopes the waterfront development includes buildings three to four stories all with commercial businesses below and perhaps housing above with rooftop viewing.

“That property is absolutely a selling point for the city of St. Helens,” he said.

Industrial property within the city limits is also a key economic driver, according to Scholl.

“The industry is what kept the city alive for many, many years” he said. “It’s gone. So now we are trying to redevelop that property.”

Scholl said the challenge is to develop the infrastructure needed for the industrial property allowing the city to offer portions of the property to major developers and companies.

“That is almost 300 acres. That’s huge,” he said.

Development of recreation programs in St. Helens was a key accomplishment for the City in 2019, according to Scholl.

“It gives the kids a place to go,” he said.

Scholl spoke with The Chronicle Saturday morning, Jan. 11, directly after the State of the City presentation at St. Helens Middle School. During the event, individual city agencies presented updates of projects and visions for the New Year.

2019 achievements - 2020 vision

City officials also presented two graphs that illustrated the City’s revenues at $24.5 million and the City’s expenses at $25.7 million. Public Works officials outline investments in storm drainage systems, a South 10th Street project to ease flooding, and branding and way finding sign placements as highlights of 2019. Sidewalks for Vernonia Road, improvements at South 1st Street and St. Helens Road, Safe Routes to School Upgrades, and updating the City’s master plans for storm and sanitary sewer as projects for 2020.

City library officials outline highways of 2019 that included a $20,000 grant to expand after-school science programs for youth 7-12, merging library catalogs with the Scappoose Library to reduce costs, and creating the “Library of Things,” which includes WiFi hotspots, robots and cultural passes. In 2020 the city library will look for options for a courier service between the St. Helens Library and the Scappoose Library and explore creation of a maker lab for continued hands-on science and tech programs and equipment.

Parks and Rec officials cited Grey Cliffs Park parking improvements and non-motorized launch upgrades, Veterans Memorial Plaza expansion, active “Friends” group events at Nob Hill and Dalton Lake Nature Preserve as well as a successful 3rd annual Citizens Day in the Park. Projects for parks and rec in 2020 include Godfrey Park upgrades, improvements at Campbell Park, urban trail and broad walk construction connecting Nob Hill Nature Park to Tualatin Street, and a kiosk, trail markers, interpretive signs and bike racks at Dalton Lake Nature Preserve.

City code enforcement officials outlined work on abandoned vehicles, tall grass, grab and junk violations. In 2020 code enforcement will include officers attempting to gain voluntary compliance, citations issued, abatement process to begin, and city council may declare a nuisance. Police Chief Brian Greenway outlined the need to continue planning for a new police station, training of employees, reducing crime by five percent within the community, and increasing traffic safety and reducing traffic accidents by five percent.

The address was held at the middle school’s auditorium where city officials had placed a series of poster boards with examples of city projects. One board featured the City Council Goals. On that list is Goal 1: Effective Organizational Structure. Goal 2: Enhance Community Engagement. Goal 3: Support and Enhance a safe and livable environment. Goal 4: Economic Development and Goal: 5 Long-Term Planning.

Messaging Out

Following the meeting, Greenway said that the City needs to do a better job of “messaging out.”

“Even though we have social media and we have community meetings, we just need to continue to push that,” he said. “What the mayor and city council message out, we have to continue to beat that drum and reinforce it, because not everybody understands the message. We need to make the message clear and simple and tell residents what we are doing, because we work for them and we serve them.”

City officials also encouraged those attending the Saturday morning meeting to fill out a survey that they will use to best determine the needs of the community. Residents can access the survey online at the City’s website at https://www.ci.st-helens.or.us/

See the full St. Helens State of the City power point presentation attached with this story.

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