How do you make a global pandemic more interesting, add an earthquake! What a week. I’ve been on a lot of conference calls. The good news is communication is going very well in this state. Our state senators and representatives, governors’ office and federal agencies have been actively involved in the various state and regional calls that are being hosted each week.
COVID-19 – The social distancing measures are working in Oregon. Idaho quickly surpassed Oregon even with a significantly lower population this week. Oregon is not the threat to Ontario, Boise is. It’s going to come from Boise.
We have been trying to keep up with all of the information by updating our website. Peter has done a fantastic job of getting things up fast and organizing the topics as the resources come in. Also, we want our citizens to go to the Malheur County Health Department to follow the latest recommendations from the CDC and the Oregon Health Authority.
The White House released some modeling based on the University of Washington’s modeling earlier this week. Both believe the deaths in the US will be between 100,000 to 240,000. That is a very sobering number. The wide range in those numbers will largely depend on the extent to which social distancing is followed.
I spent a lot of time out in the community, in my car, observing things. I made several trips to the dispensaries and also to Walmart and Home Depot. All of our retail stores are taking positive steps for the social distancing. Home Depot took some aggressive moves this week nationally by limiting the number of people in the store at one time. It looked to me like Walmart was doing the same or at least setting up to do the same.
We have pushed out a few public service announcements this week, which we want to continue to do with the city council. I’ll be working with Councilman Rodriguez on Monday for a PSA.
We are just on the brink of this getting bad. As a globe we hit 1 million this week. That will double this next week. This is the time for big decisions to be made.
Homeless Shelter – The shelter finally started taking occupants on Friday. Community in Action will be filling them up over the next week. I spent some time over at the shelter today and talked with some of the people moving in. They were eager to do their share of help in maintaining the community.
Capital Projects - I went through our capital projects with the City Engineer (Betsy). We are making great progress on all of our projects. The TVC Trail is going really well. They poured the curb on Park Avenue and the channel for the trail goes all the way from SW 11th Avenue to the connection at Park and 9th Avenue. The South Oregon Project is getting close to bid. We are meeting next Wednesday to talk about scheduling of construction and how we are impacted by COVID-19.
Budget – We are very fortunate that we finished our budget committee in March. The cities in the rest of the state are scrambling to figure out how to do a budget committee during social distancing. They are seeking special legislative permission because most haven’t even started the process. Ours will come for Council approval this month. https://www.ontariooregon.org/covid-19.html
TSP – We met to move the transportation system plan forward. We have a large group of committed folks.
Energy Audit – Ameresco will be ready to present the audit grade energy analysis. What that means is they believe they have a project that will self-fund. There is a fee for the audit, but we don’t pay it directly unless we decide not to do a project. They aren’t in the business of doing audits, they are in the business of doing projects, so if they have gotten to this point, they have a high assurance that they can save us money.
The Ontario Municipal Airport remains open, and despite the earthshaking Tuesday, airplanes are still able to land, fuel, and takeoff.
The good news for the week is that the Federal Aviation Administration has acquired funding through the CARES act (stimulus package) which will be directed to Ontario‘s airport because it qualifies as a shovel ready project. This means that we can take the project that was pushed back until next year because of the lack of funding and put it back on schedule this year with full funding for the project. They are giving us over $350,000. And, in talking with the FAA, it appears that we will be able to keep our entitlement funds as well.
We are also looking into setting up charter flights from Ontario for those wanting to utilize that service.
The grass is growing on our new runway sparking interest in holding a major “STOL”, short takeoff and landing, event in the future. Currently these events are held in Colorado, Texas, Nevada, and Alaska.
Fire & Rescue
3/31 Some of the staff participated in the weekly Covid-19 Ontario ICS planning / OPS meeting. 4/2 Chief joined Peter and John Forsyth for planning on SAIF benefits available and processes necessary. 4/2 Malheur County Emergency Management Team held their weekly Covid-19 MAC teleconference that was attend by many from Ontario’s staff. 4/2 Ontario Rural Fire Protection Board held their Budget Committee meeting both locally and on teleconference and followed by their monthly board meeting.
3/31 The fire staff did safety inspections at the Annex, Apartments, and Station 2. 3/31 Chief Leighton did a walk-through inspection of city hall after the earthquake to see if there was any additional damage to the building from what was in the past.
3/31 The staff did remote training over ZOOM and had Haz-Mat refresher with an emphasis on COVID-19 virus. 4/2 Chief participated in an SDAO teleconference on COVID-19 and respiratory diseases.
Thankfully some people are listening to the requests to stay home and stay safe, this has caused our call volume to be down slightly. Our staff is responding to numerous breathing difficulty calls and are taking extra precautions with extra PPE personal protective equipment on all calls. Currently we are wearing gloves, masks and eye protection on all calls. R1 responded on a smoke detector activation at 995 Manor Way, this just involved resetting the alarm. On Sunday morning early the staff responded to a barn fire that was started from a wood stove that caught the attic on fire.
Mar 30th-Chief Romero continues to conduct an executive analysis of current animal control, parking control, and abatement ordinances and policies. Chief Romero will be submitting a proposed ordinance and/or policy change-modification for these topics to the city manager in the future. The purpose is to seek updates and improvements in our older or obsolete policies that are not in balance with modern- day best practices or statutory authority.
March 31th- Chief Romero conducted a planning and analysis meeting with OPD staff to discuss potential changes to the OPD evidence handling policies and current protocol. Chief Romero seeks to improve the system’s efficiency while providing a higher level of legal protection for the department and city. Chief Romero is working on a policy modification for this area of OPD responsibility.
April 01st-Chief Romero completed the OPD- (2020, Q1 report) for presentation at the next city council session.
OPD staff that instruct traffic school activities have cancelled services until June 6th, 2020. Public notice has been issued by staff.
This week OPD saw an increase in domestic violence related calls. This is likely to the increase interaction between household members that are at home more often, due to the COVID-19 stay home requirements.
Mar 30th- Under the direction of Chief Romero, CEO’s are assisting the chief with the development of more efficient and effective means for gaining public compliance for ordinance violations. Chief Romero and CM Brown reviewed and approved the use of a new OPD, Pre-abatement notice, that will be issued to the public which encourages home improvement and clean up, during this time where many homeowners and renters are at home and not at work.
April 1st- Under the direction of Chief Romero, CEO’s, public works, and the chief met to discuss a more effective and efficient method for responding to graffiti incidents. This meeting led to the formal proposal of creating the “Ontario Graffiti Action Team” (OGAT) which could lead to a productive and collaborative public-private initiative that would assist in reporting and responding swiftly to graffiti through out the city. As of now, the written proposal authored by the code enforcement officers is being reviewed by the chief. The proposal is developed with cost savings in mind to the city, OPD, and public works.
We experienced an earthquake on 3/30/20 at approximately 5:52 (6.4 on the Richter scale), the epicenter was located 70 miles north east of Boise. Staff inspected all infrastructure throughout the community immediately after the event. We did not observe any issues throughout the utility related to this event. Crews worked well into the evening to confirm normal operations.
We changed schedules for all crews in response to the COVID-19 concerns. As much work as possible is being done remotely and other operations are being modified to limit exposure to those that must be in the field. Weekly checks on staff and operations related to the pandemic are in place.
Weekly maintenance checks on lift stations and sewer cleaning took place. A new fire hydrant was installed at West Idaho Avenue. New cross walks signs at the middle school were installed. We also replaced a no parking sign at the Ontario Truck Wash. Staff painted over graffiti on the old Vape shop Idaho Ave/Oregon St intersection.
City-wide street sweeping continues throughout the community. Streets were swept downtown and at the underpass Friday morning.
Lift station checks took place. All emergency generators were filled with fuel (all our lift stations have backup systems). We checked problems at the sewers. The West Idaho lift station plugged again Sunday night (adult wipes again). Any other issues that come in will be taken care of.
Water inventories are at target level. System demands are normal for this time of year. The treatment plant is operating well. The dive team that was here last week and the new Scada improvements have made a real difference in stability of operations.
Well 15 was taken offline. The well will be videoed. It may have to be taken offline and rehabbed. This well provided 2.5 million gallons a day when well systems are being used so it is imperative this be addressed and repaired as soon as practical.
Cleaning of the sloughs at the water treatment plan was approved by USACE and will begin shortly.
Weekly inspections of the equipment and buildings including maintenance and troubleshooting took place.
We are experiencing some odor issues. These odors can be attributed to spring lagoon warmups which happens on a yearly basis. We are working to mine solids from our primary lagoon, a whole series of steps are involved, we will keep all appraised as to the status on this work in progress.
NPDES permit sampling continues as per DEQ requirements.
Repairs to the irrigation system for Malheur and Skyline have been underway prior to planting seasons.
Parks and Cemeteries
Downtown flowerpots were watered, and trash receptacles were emptied throughout town. Staff will start irrigation systems in both parks and cemeteries. Spring cleanup at the cemeteries began this week and will continue. We are troubleshooting the new irrigation system for the East Idaho Avenue tree project.
A new shower and toilet were installed in the fire staff’s workout room.
Our engineering team is working on the Water Master Plan, South Oregon Street project, NPDES work on pH adjustment system at the wastewater treatment plant, and solids removal from the wastewater treatment plant.
Each week, City Manager Adam Brown brings you up to date on the comings and goings of the City of Ontario in The Weekend Update.