Nikki Messenger will become Roseburg’s new city manager starting Sept. 1.

The Roseburg City Council moved to adopt her contract at the regular meeting on Monday. Her starting annual salary will be $155,000.

City councilors congratulated Messenger from their seats before two rounds of applause.

“It’s been a long process, but with that long process it was well worth it, and we do have a great city manager,” Mayor Larry Rich said. “She’ll do an excellent job.”

The decision comes almost one year after former City Manager Lance Colley announced his retirement. Messenger has been serving as the interim city manager since Colley left the city at the end of April.

The celebratory atmosphere quickly ended when a Roseburg resident brought up what City Council President Tom Ryan said was the biggest issue facing the city: homelessness.

Janet Lamm urged councilors during the audience participation to do more to address the issue. Lamm lives on the South Umpqua River and said unsheltered people camping along the river near her property have been a burden for years.

“It has been out of control this year,” Lamm said. “I cannot express to you the destruction, the violence, the absolute fright that I have in the middle of the night when our dogs bark and our motion lights start going on. I no longer feel safe. I am blaming the city.”

Roseburg Police Chief Gary Klopfenstein discussed the city’s efforts to move unsheltered people off city property using county cleanup crews and issuing offensive littering charges.

Ryan said the issue will be a priority for the City Council as the new city manager takes her position and the city holds goal-setting sessions.

“This is an addiction problem, it’s not a homeless problem,” Ryan said. The comment is at odds with homeless advocacy groups, including Housing First Umpqua in Roseburg, which cite research suggesting issues surrounding homelessness are best addressed by helping people secure housing first.

City Councilor Ashley Hicks thanked Lamm for her comments and said she has scheduled a cleanup along the river later this month.

City councilors also reviewed plans that might turn the Flegel Center into an athletic facility and dormitory for Umpqua Community College athletes.

The Flegel Center is a former armory located on Southeast Oak Avenue in downtown Roseburg that was built in 1914. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.

City land-use code currently prohibits the building from being used to house UCC students because the Flegel Center is within the central business district.

Councilors suspended City Council rules and held two readings of a land-use code amendment that would permit the use of the building by UCC. Councilors suspended the rules, which would have delayed a vote until the next meeting, because UCC wants to renovate the building in time for the coming school year. The vote was unanimous to adopt the changes.

Community Development Director Stuart Cowie discussed UCC’s growing need to house students from outside the region in the city. Cowie told commissioners UCC Athletic Director Craig Jackson and UCC board chair Steve Loosley approached the city with a proposal to use the Flegel Center to house athletes because there is a housing shortage in the area, and students struggle to find housing.

City planner John Lazur told Planning Commission members at a meeting in July one room in the building is currently used by a sewing shop. Jackson said the college is currently working on a lease agreement with the private owner of the building.

The Flegel Center would be used to house 35 members of the men’s baseball team, according to meeting minutes. The college would use a gymnasium in the building for team practices, add a weight room for strength training and convert the basement and several existing office spaces into dormitories.

City councilors also authorized the city manager to sign an agreement with the Oregon Emergency Management Department for reimbursement of costs associated with damage from a snowstorm in February.

In May, the Trump Administration approved Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to be used to assist local governments with damage costs.

Falling trees damaged city property, including multiple fences in and around city water reservoirs. Additionally, the roof of the abandoned reservoir on Reservoir Hill collapsed.

The city would receive up to 75% of the $367,000 estimated costs for Roseburg.

City councilors also ratified a contract between the city and the International Association of Firefighters Local 1110 for wage increases.

After the union asked to renegotiate wages with the city in February 2018, the city and the union were not able to reach an agreement after multiple bargaining sessions. The city entered mediation and then arbitration with the union. The union’s last best offer was awarded through the arbitration process.

The arbitrator’s award is for a three-year contract, retroactive to July 1, 2018. The compensation package includes: across the board pay increases of 4.25% on July 1, 2018, and 2019, and 3% on July 1, 2020.

Max Egener can be reached at megener@nrtoday.com and 541-957-4217. Or follow him on Twitter

@maxegener.

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City Reporter

Max Egener is the city reporter for The News-Review. He has a master's degree from the University of Oregon, and is an avid skier and backpacker.

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