King City officials deliver optimistic State-of-the-City message

King City’s annual State of the City presentation by multiple officials on June 16 stressed how King City has thrived in a year made difficult by the COVID pandemic and is facing the future with optimism.

Speaking via Zoom to several dozen people that included City, county and state officials plus City volunteers and local residents, City Councilor Kate Mohr noted that “the past 1 ½ years have been a challenge, but I was pleased to see last spring King City reach out to local businesses… There has been a lot of really wonderful collaboration.”

City Councilor Shawna Thompson outlined her vision for the city’s urban growth boundary area that would include bike paths and walking trails that connect Community Park with the future Town Center, where there would be a thriving commercial area along with amenities like fountains and splash pads and maybe a King City library.

City Councilor Smart Ocholi talked about the importance of homeowners’ associations in the city, pointing out they are an interface between the city and homeowners, and City Councilor Micah Paulsen discussed past and future improvements to King City Community Park, where he and his family spend a lot of time.

City Councilor David Platt encouraged “public participation in our City Council, Planning Commission and stakeholder meetings.”

Council President Jaimie Fender said she is hopeful about the future and continuing to bring cohesion and a sense of community to the city’s two factions – the “mature” population (in the King City Civic Association) and the Edgewater community – “as we grow and come out of the isolation of COVID.”

Chief Ernie Happala, who is in his 14th year serving in the King City Police Department, thanked the city staff, City Council and citizens of King City for their collective efforts to keep the city safe this past year.

He said police reform legislation is coming in Oregon, and locally, big changes are coming in King City with a new officer on duty and possibly another one being hired. And officers in King City are all getting body cameras.

City Manager Mike Weston said the past year “has been a struggle and a strain on the staff, so it has not been the easiest time. I applaud my staff for their hard work and efforts over the past year.

“We have a small staff so everyone has to be here… We’re definitely excited to get back to some semblance of normalcy. I am looking forward to our first in-person council meeting on Aug. 18.”

Regarding Kingston Terrace being developed in the urban growth boundary area, Weston said, “We are half-way through the master plan and will be going over a lot of detail in the next six months… We will hopefully have an actionable plan that we can adopt for the growth and development we know is coming.”

However, Weston pointed out that “there is a lot of strain that goes along with this for the people already living in these areas and the impact (development) will have on them.”

According to Weston, the American Rescue Plan Act is providing King City with $1 million. “For us, that is huge amount,” he said. “We can do a lot of things, not only for King City but our residents. We have talked with Clean Water Services about extending a purple line to use recycled water in Community Park instead of running our sprinklers with Tualatin River water that clogs them.

“There will be opportunities to help King City Senior Village and Avamere – we have talked about a grant program for employees who worked during the pandemic. We want to work on how to get to people who need it the most.”

According to Weston, the city also is looking into creating a broadband loop to tie into Sherwood.

“It’s a very exciting time,” he said. “The future is bright.”

Mayor Ken Gibson added that he doesn’t think King City residents could have a better team on the City Council than they do now.

“We’ve made good decisions, but they haven’t always been popular decisions,” he said. “The City Council is made up of people who volunteer their time to make King City the best it can be… We are you. We live in this community.

“I want to make sure as mayor that I defend our City Council and staff when they’re under attack for just trying to do the right thing and make this community the best it can be. In reality, it already is, but I know we can do better.”

Gibson said he appreciated the willingness of the citizens to follow the rules and regulations during the pandemic.

“Growth is an exciting thing,” he said. “How our community can thrive in a new town center – that’s exciting to me. I’m excited about the possibilities.”

A recorded version of the State of the City event is available to watch at youtu.be/K2ZOtyiSjW8.