Longview officials Thursday evening told concerned residents there’s not much they can do about a planned “Oxford House” in the Columbia Valley Garden neighborhood.
Oxford House is a national transitional housing program that often works with the state Department of Corrections to house people leaving prison after finishing their sentence.
One man who said he borders the transition home told the council he didn’t get notice about the proposal. He said he’s concerned about the neighborhood’s security.
Another neighbor told the council although she’s supportive of the program, she was frustrated about the short notice.
City Attorney Jim McNamara said notification process begins with the DOC contacting the police chief and giving the city a chance to respond. The city then notifies neighbors. John Brickey, community development director, said there was a miscommunication and the city didn’t receive the DOC’s first notice.
McNamara said Oxford Houses are just a form of a shared living arrangement and aren’t subject to additional city regulations.
There will not be any sex offenders at the planned Oxford House, Brickey said. He said although he can’t speak to the character of the residents, the organization “runs a pretty tight ship.”
In other business, Jim Kambeitz was sworn in as Longview fire chief.
“I’m honored to continue to serve in the Longview Fire Department,” Kambeitz told the audience, which included about 20 firefighters and law enforcement officers. “I’m very confident in our members’ skill, professionalism and ability to carry out their mission for the citizens of Longview.”
Kambeitz was appointed interim fire chief in September after former chief Phil Jurmu stepped down to become the director of Cowlitz County’s new 911 emergency communications agency.
Before that, Kambeitz had been the city’s fire marshal for more than 15 years. He started with the fire service in 1987, serving as a firefighter, hazmat technician, fire inspector and deputy fire marshal.
“(When Jurmu stepped down), we felt confident the city had within its ranks someone who possessed the skills and leadership to be the next fire chief,” City Manager Kurt Sacha told the council. He added that Kambeitz is well respected throughout the community.
Kambeitz thanked the City Council, fire department, other city departments and his family. His wife, daughter, stepfather and mom were all present. His mother pinned on his new badge.
In other business, about a dozen people testified to the council about the city’s lingering homelessness problem and the city’s decision not to award Love Overwhelming about $9,000 for its operation of an emergency cold weather shelter.
Multiple people Thursday night asked the council to do something to address the homeless people who camp overnight at the Lions Shelter at Lake Sacajawea.
“We’re paying lots of money in taxes and we don’t want to be a detriment to the community and call the police to run out there every other day,” Longview resident Robert Butler told the council.
Meanwhile, Love Overwhelming board member Shawn Nyman told the council that LO had been following its Good Neighbor Plan, which was required for the $9,000, and was working to address the complaints from neighboring businesses when it learned the city had denied the funds.
Love Overwhelming closed its severe weather shelter last week after learning the city denied its application for the funds due to complaints from neighboring businesses. The shelter had been open for 31 days in a row during an unusually long spate of cold weather.
“The city manager said testimony provided during public comments at a City Council meeting weighed heavily on his decision to deny funding, without LO having an opportunity to respond,” Nyman said. “Love Overwhelming should be afforded a thorough, non-biased review regarding reimbursed funding for the severe weather shelter.”
A woman told the council that LO helped her when she became homeless after being injured at work.
“When I was sleeping in my car, waking up to ice in my car, LO opened their doors,” she said. “I’ve never done a drug in my life. I don’t drink. I want to go back to work. Is anybody going to help me get that?”
The council also:
- Opted not to increase garbage collection fees for businesses that keep their bins behind gates.
- Approved the annexation of 237 acres in West Longview and zoned the land for a mixture of residential and commercial uses.
- Awarded $25,000 in Neighborhood Park Grant funding
- Gave the Mint Valley Golf Course an additional $1,000 for its cash working fund for a total of $1,500.