May, 2010

Joe Harrison is Sentenced to 180 Days in Jail for Stealing Prescription Drugs from Clatskanie Homes

Former Clatskanie police officer Joseph Lee Harrison was sentenced in Columbia County Circuit Court Wednesday to 180 days in jail after pleading guilty to burglary and official misconduct.

“Law enforcement officers have enormous responsibility and power and must be held accountable     when they break the law,” said Attorney General John Kroger. The Oregon Department of Justice prosecuted the case.

Harrison, 35, pleaded guilty in Columbia County Circuit Court to two counts of Burglary in the First Degree, a Class A Felony, and one count of Official Misconduct, a Class A Misdemeanor.

In addition to jail, Harrison was sentenced to three years probation. If he violates the terms of his probation, he faces up to 19 months in prison. Harrison will receive credit for time served in drug rehabilitation – 95 days- following his arrest last August on charges that he illegally entered three Clatskanie homes in April and July in order to steal Vicodin and OxyContin.

During the first incident, Harrison was on duty and in uniform when he obtained keys to an apartment from the owner by means of deception. In the subsequent incidents, Harrison illegally entered unoccupied residences in order to steal prescription pain medications.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Dan Wendel prosecuted the case for the Oregon Department of Justice.

Newly Crowned Princesses to Reign Over Clatskanie Heritage Days Events

RECEIVING THEIR TIARAS at a “crowning dessert” Monday, May 24, at The Blue Nutria were Clatskanie Heritage Days princesses from left: Mikkelann Briggs, the daughter of Dr. John and Julie Briggs; Annie Hulegaard, the daughter of Bob Hulegaard and Robin FouchŽ ; Chelsea Backlin, the daughter of Susan Marshall and Greg and Tammy Backlin, and Kierra Kallunki, the daughter of Kerry and Kathy Kallunki.

The newly-crowned princesses will be making their first appearance at the “Honoring Our Heritage” Girl’s Night Out Dessert sponsored by Stonecroft Ministries, Wednesday, June 2, 7 p.m., at Hump’s Restaurant. (See story inside for more information).

A princess-in-training event for 5 through 10 year-old girls is planned June 19. (See the story on page 4 for more information). Clatskanie’s annual Heritage Days events will begin Saturday, June 26, with the 20th annual Clatskanie Cruisers’ Heritage Cruise Car Show and will continue July 1st-4th with a host of events. Watch upcoming issues of The Chief for more information. Chief Photo by Amanda Gail Moravec

Memorial Day Breakfast, Services Set Monday

The 55th annual Memorial Day breakfast is scheduled Monday, May 31, from 7 to 10 a.m. at the Clatskanie American Legion Hall, 930 NE 5th Street in Clatskanie.

The event is sponsored by Clatskanie’s American Legion Louis Larsen Post 68 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2994, and the Clatskanie Kiwanis Club.

Pancakes, sausage and eggs will be served to adults for $5 and to children 10 and under for $3.

Proceeds from the breakfast benefit the Clatskanie Veterans Memorial Fund.

A Memorial Day service will be held at 11 a.m. at the Clatskanie Veterans Memorial on Lillich Street under the auspices of the American Legion. First Vice Commander Gerald Simmons will be conducting the ceremony.

The Clatskanie Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2994 will then conduct a brief ceremony honoring those lost at sea on the Nehalem Street bridge, within a short walk from the veterans’ memorial.

On Friday and Saturday members of the American Legion will be placing flags on the graves of local veterans at the Murray Hill, Maplewod and Cedar Hill cemeteries, while the VFW, with assistance from local boy scouts, will be placing flags on veterans’ graves at the Westport, Stewart Creek and Mayger cemeteries.

Representatives of local veterans’ organizations will also be selling poppies to commemorate Memorial Day this week.

Rainier VFW Plans Memorial Ceremony at Hudson Park

Columbia River Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1909 and its auxiliary of Rainier will hold its annual Memorial Day service at 11 a.m. on Monday, May 31, at the Veterans Memorial located at Hudson Cemetery.

Steve Berry of the Alston Assembly of God church will be the guest speaker.

The public is invited to attend.

Beaver Valley Grange Hosts Memorial Day Pancake Breakfast

Beaver Valley Grange #306 will hold a pancake breakfast on Memorial Day, Monday, May 31, from 8-11 a.m.

Breakfast includes pancakes, scrambled eggs, ham or sausage, juice, milk, coffee and tea.

Cost is $5 for adults and children 10 and younger are free.

Following breakfast, the hall will remain open for refreshments following the 11 a.m. VFW memorial service across the road at Hudson Cemetery.


State Shortfall May Require More Clatskanie School District Budget Cuts

by Deborah Steele Hazen

Clatskanie School District’s budget committee adopted a $7,457,911 budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year at a meeting Monday evening, May 24, about 18 hours before the state announced a $560 million budget shortfall and a nine percent across-the-board budget cut.

The Clatskanie school budget is built on the $6 billion state school funding formula that had been promised by the legislature, but the Oregon School Boards Association (OSBA) and the Confederation of School Administrators (COSA) were predicting that the state school funding for the 2009-11 biennium would now come in at about $5.76 billion. Some believe it may ultimately be lower than that. (See the Rainier school budget story for more information).

Each $100 million of state school funding translates to roughly $80,000 for the Clatskanie School District, so the shortfall could mean the necessity to cut another $200,000 or more from the local school budget.

As adopted Monday, Clatskanie’s 2010-11 budget necessitates the cutting of five teaching positions – three at Clatskanie Middle/High School (CMHS) and two at Clatskanie Elementary School (CES) – plus 3.75 classified positions and other reductions to technology, maintenance and transportation as reported in detail in the May 13th edition.

The budget at the $6 billion state funding level allows for just $148,000 in contingency and no ending fund balance.

Step increases as called for in the existing union contracts are built into the budget, but there is no allowance for cost of living increases, Superintendent Ed Serra said.

On Tuesday, Serra was waiting for more information regarding the state funding shortfall.

School Board Okays Fitness Trail, Hears Reports

At a regular meeting of the school board that followed Monday’s budget committee meeting the board members gave the okay to a plan by the CES Parents Supporting Education Association (PSEA) to build an asphalt walking path around the lower field with fitness areas at intervals along the trail.

The PSEA plans to begin a fundraising effort and complete the project at no cost to the district.

In making the presentation to the board PSEA fitness trail coordinator Gretchen Moore noted that the field at the elementary school “is a jewel, but of very little use because of it being wet and muddy most of the year.”

On other topics…

Serra reported that the district had received an exemption for lead-based paint under latex paint on the exterior of the Community Education Center building which houses the district office and various community programs. The exemption was allowed because the building does not house students on a continuous basis.

CMHS Principal Jeff Baughman reported on a grant received through MTC Works which will fund the hiring of six students to work on the high school grounds during the summer.

Baughman and Serra have been working with the Clatsop Economic Development Council for training at-risk youth in the Westport area who are enrolled in the Clatskanie School District. The program is partially funded by the Georgia-Pacific Wauna Mill, Clatsop Community College and Clatsop County.

CES Principal Yolanda Brackman reported on the bikes for books program sponsored by the Clatskanie Masonic Lodge. The bikes will be presented to the winning students May 28. She also reported on the recent second grade play on “Character Matters,” the upcoming county spelling bee, and other good things happening at the school.

A grant for $53,000 has been received to train teachers from Columbia, Clatsop, Tillamook and Lincoln counties in the GLAD (guided language acquisition design) program. The training will take place this summer at CES with three Clatskanie teachers taking part at no expense to he district. The program will also involve some first and second graders in a science camp.

Special Education Director Mary Mitchell noted that a grant had been received to train new teachers.

“We have become recognized by the ESD (Northwest Regional Education Service District) as a district that is really moving well in school improvement projects,” Serra told the board. “Clatskanie is being asked to apply for grants because we are being recognized for all the hard work our staff is doing.”

Reports and congratulations were given on the accomplishments of the various sports teams. (See page 9). Director Karen George gave “Kudos to the track coaches. They did a great job. The kids were well-behaved and encouraged each other.”


Haven Acres Water Line Issue, Water Rates Studied by Clatskanie City Council

by Deborah Steele Hazen

The Haven Acres water system was on the minds of about 15 members of the public in attendance at the May 19th meeting of the Clatskanie city council.

Although the council consulted with legal counsel during a long executive session that followed the regular meeting, there was little discussion about the issue in public.

Members of the Haven Acres community, which is outside the city limits on the hillside northeast of Clatskanie, and representatives of the city met May 17.

At the May 19th public meeting of the city council, Steve Sharek, one of 18 homeowners on the Haven Acres water system, presented a letter from Bill Harrah, another of the homeowners.

Seven of the 18 homeowners have hired an attorney to represent them, and the city has hired an attorney who specializes in water-related issues.

The Haven Acres water system was installed about 40 years ago by the private developers of the housing subdivision. The city has supplied water to the pumphouse, and installed water meters at the houses, but has stated that it is not responsible for the water lines between the pumphouse and the homeowners.

Gary Leinonen, the last of the original developers, has been maintaining the line for years, but has recently given notice that he is no longer able to maintain it.

The city has recently done some repairs on the line between the pumphouse and the development so that the homeowners would have water, but has billed those repairs to Leinonen. The city has also sent a letter to Leinonen, with copies to the homeowners, that after June 1 it will no longer repair the line.

The letter from Harrah stated: “It is our contention that the City bears ultimate legal and ethical responsibility for the Haven Acres water system. As the entity that encouraged the development, facilitated it, and became its water supplier, the City has nonetheless denied having assumed ownership of the water distribution infrastructure at the completion of the development’s construction, as is normally done. The public record from that era (1969-70), insofar as it has been discovered by us, is not helpful in clarifying the existence or nature of any contracts which may have been forged or implied between the City and the developer in that regard.

“In the absence of any such contract, the City then failed to require of the developer any fiduciary mechanism or instruments to provide for the sustainability of the system, but simply proceeded to supply water through that system (ostensibly assuming it would just last forever on its own), and let the developer walk away. Somehow and thereafter, Mr. Leinonen ostensibly but non-contractually assumed authority to ‘maintain’ the system.

“Of the facts that remain indisputable, one is that the Haven Acres water customers don’t have, nor have ever had, any contractual or otherwise legal stake in ownership or liability for a ‘private’ water distribution system. Most of us didn’t even know we were on such a system until after our real estate purchases.”

Harrah’s letter went on to state:

“We realize the current City administration had little hand in precipitating the present situation. What we do object to from this administration is the pattern of patronizing, disingenuousness, and implied threats with which they’ve engaged the Haven Acres customers, especially over the last three years. Informing us of their walking away from 40 years of mishandled responsibility as water supplier and billing Mr. Leinonen through the master meter, without a purchasing contract, is only the most recent and, in our view, pathetically desperate example.

“From time to time cities, like all perpetual legal entities, need to call themselves or be called to account for the ‘sins of the fathers’ – to redress the mistakes and mismanagement of previous administrations. Your opportunity for that is now. Repeatedly badgering us to form an association and mortgage a Local Improvement District to replace a system we never owned has absolutely zero receptivity with us…

“The proposal to site the third reservoir on the north hill, conceived by city engineer True and supported by city manager Polasek in 2007, remains the most elegant solution to dealing with the City’s treated water capacity shortfall – because it does so much more: It most ideally hydraulically balances the entire municipal water system; improves fire protection city-wide; opens a vast swath of property to the north and northeast of us to future development and annexation; and, just incidentally, goes a long way in solving the Haven Acres water mess.”

The city has long-planned a third water reservoir to meet federal water standards for drinking water storage. The estimate to build it on the northern hillside is approximately $800,000, while it could be built for an estimated $500,000 next to one of the existing water reservoirs on the south side of town.

The city has earmarked an approximately $500,000 – its share of an enterprise zone property tax reimbursement from Georgia-Pacific – to use for the new water reservoir, but it is also facing other major capital projects including the moving of a sewer pump station near the intersection of Highway 30 and Van Street which is being required by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), and the replacement of the wastewater treatment plant headworks.

The council has suggested that the Haven Acres property owners could form a Local Improvement District (LID) to help fund the approximately $200,000 cost of replacing the aging and problem-ridden water line. The Haven Acres neighborhood is not within the city limits so property owners there do not pay city property taxes. However, they do pay double water rates.

Water Rate Raise Studied

On the topic of water rates, the council continued to discuss raising rates to get the water fund to a point where its operation will be self-sustaining.

The 2010-11 city budget has been built on a five percent water increase going into effect Sept. 1 and a five percent sewer rate effective Jan. 1.

The council asked finance manager Sharry Hilton to prepare information regarding a 7.5 percent and 10 percent water rate increase.

“If we do five percent now, we’re going to do more next year,” said Councilor Jim Morgan. “We need to try to get our water system paying for itself,” rather than continuing to bolster it from the general fund. The general fund is supported by property taxes paid by city residents and is the only source of funding for the police department.

Currently in-city water customers pay $20.25 for a base charge plus $1.35 per 100 cubic feet of water used. The impact of a five percent increase on an average user (one who uses 1000 cubic feet per month) would be about a $2 per month increase; 7.5 percent would mean about $3 more per month, and 10 percent would mean about $4 more. Those increases would double for out-of-city users.

The last time the city raised water rates was in 2006. The previous increase was in 2001.

There were no public comments on the proposed rate increase, and the council did not take action at last week’s meeting.

Nuisance Crime

Ordinance Adopted

The council held a second reading and adopted a nuisance crime property ordinance.

The ordinance, identical to that being considered by other jurisdictions around the county, provides for fines and abatement for real properties that are the sites of repeated criminal or nuisance activity that is detrimental to the civil peace of the city, and to the health, safety and welfare of the public.

Headworks Replacement

Public Works Superintendent Dave True reported that the lead time for ordering the headworks equipment needed at the city’s wastewater treatment plant is about 20 weeks. The engineering for the project is mainly done.

True and City Manager Greg Hinkelman recommended that the project be done with a loan from the timber infrastructure improvement fund (TIIF) to be paid back by a sewer surcharge.

The staff recommended to do the approximately $700,000 project in the 2011-12 budget cycle.

In the meantime city staff will continue to clean the headworks manually.

Van Street/Highway 30 Realignment Discussed

Also under discussion at last week’s meeting were changes planned to the intersection of Highway 30 and Van Street by the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) as part of the work it is planning to do on the highway through town.

ODOT, at the city’s request, is adding a turn lane between the Highway 30 bridge and Van Street, but that will require a wider easement on both sides of the highway (the walking path will be rebuilt) and a widening of the entrance of Van Street.

With the addition of the turn lane and the widening of the Van Street intersection, ODOT is recommending only right turns in and out of the entrance to Eastside Plaza and the Northwoods Inn.

However, True said, ODOT is also considering realigning the intersection so that the entrance to the businesses would be directly opposite Van Street. That would allow for left turns in and out.

The widening of the Van Street entrance requires the city to move its sewer lift station near the intersection at an estimated cost of $65,000. The city also needs to replace the sewer trunk line across the highway between BelAir and Bryant streets as part of the highway project at an estimated cost of $60,000.


Rainier School District Passes Budget Based on $5.8 Billion State Level

by Deborah Steele Hazen

Rainier School District’s budget committee passed an $11,636,375 budget which is based on a $5.8 billion statewide biennial school funding level at a meeting Tuesday evening, May 25.

In passing the budget, the committee recommended – in light of the quarterly revenue forecast issued by the state economist Tuesday morning – that the administration develop a “cut list” at $100,000 increments.

The budget, as passed by the committee, restores the music position to full-time from the .67 full-time equivalent (FTE) which had originally been proposed, but cuts four and one-third certified positions.

Rainier School Superintendent Michael Carter opened the meeting with the recommendation to restore both the music position and the vocational agriculture position, both of which had been cut to .67 FTE, to full-time.

The committee restored the music position to full-time after a plea from music teacher Michael LaTorre, a performance by two of his students and testimony from a third student.

In asking for the “cut list,” the school board was reacting to Tuesday’s revenue forecast and an announcement by Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski that he was exercising his “allotment authority,” which requires across-the-board reductions in equal proportions in all programs.

Kulongoski announced a nine percent across-the-board cut to all state agency budgets including schools. Nine percent from the statewide $6 billion figure which the legislature had budgeted for school funding, would bring that down to $5.46 billion.

However, the Oregon School Boards Association and the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators were estimating a $5.76 billion state school funding level on Tuesday afternoon.

But, Carter warned the budget committee that he believed that could drop closer to $5.5 billion.

It was the consensus of the budget committee to adopt the budget built at $5.8 billion, but prepare for possible further cuts.

The budget committee also recommended that the school board consider requiring student athletes to pay more in pay-to-play fees, and to allow $5,000 for outdoor school.

While the budget is based on the “traditional” school calendar with two weeks off during the winter break, the committee recommended that “subject to negotiations” with the teachers’ and classified unions that an extended winter break, as was done this year, be instituted for the 2010-11 school year.

Administrative Position Explained

Teacher Dale Taylor repeated his concern, expressed in a recent letter to the editor in The Chief, that “I don’t understand why the school district is finding it necessary to reduce teachers, yet is adding the equivalent of a half-time administrator.”

Carter repeated the response that he had provided to The Chief, but which had been unintentionally omitted from publication: “The ‘new’ half-time administrator position is actually a reclassification of a current TOSA (teacher on special assignment) position (.50 FTE dean of students), which is not in the classroom already. It is not an additional reduction of a classroom teacher nor is it additional ‘help’ for the administrators. The reason for the reclassification is because we also have a .50 FTE opening for a special education director and it is very hard to fill a half-time administrative position. The goal is that by combining both half-time positions into a full 1.0 FTE position (as part special education director and part dean of students) we will be able to find a well-qualified administrator to fill both positions. In addition, this should not cost the district any more than we are currently paying this year for our half-time special ed director who is being contracted through the ESD (education service district) at $62,034 currently and next year it is scheduled at $64,684 and the half-time TOSA position.”

At the close of Tuesday’s meeting, school board member Rod Harding stated: “Everybody in this district from top to bottom is doing more with less, and everyone has done a commendable job. I’d like to say it is well-appreciated and we should continue to appreciate the staff for what they’re doing. It does not appear that we are at the end of that scenario (doing more with less). But I want them to know it’s appreciated.”

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