23 February 2011 by Published in: News No comments yet

Late February Arctic Blast Predicted

BLANKETING THE HILLS was a fresh snowfall Tuesday morning, with motorists braving the slippery conditions on Highway 47 between Clatskanie and Mist.

Clatskanie schools were on snow routes in several areas on Tuesday: Cedar Grove, Clatskanie Heights, Lindberg and Palm Creek Roads.

A winter storm watch was in effect through Thursday. The National Weather Service predicted possible snow down to the valley floor Wednesday with heavier snowfall occurring on Thursday and tapering off Friday, when temperatures are expected to drop even more. The weather service warns drivers to be prepared for snow covered roads, limited visibility and to use caution while driving.   Chief Photo by Cindy Bloomer

Cascade Kelly Hopes to Restart Port Westward Ethanol Plant

by Deborah Steele Hazen

Cascade Kelly Holdings LLC announced last week that it hopes to restart the ethanol plant at the Port Westward Energy Park near Clatskanie as early as this summer.

Formerly called Cascade Grain, the ethanol plant, which cost approximately $190 million to build,  was shutdown two years ago after only about six months of operation,

In late January of 2009, the former owners filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. That was later changed to a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Last year, JH Kelly LLC Ethanol, a joint venture between The Industrial Company and JH Kelly, the general contractors for the plant, were the successful bidders in a U.S. Bankruptcy Court auction, buying the 108 million-gallons-per-year-capacity ethanol plant for $15 million. JH Kelly had a $33 million construction lien on the facility.

Currently, JH Kelly, based in Longview, is the sole owner of the plant. It has tried to sell it, but interested buyers haven’t been able to come up with the necessary capital, a Kelly spokesperson said.

Company officials believe the plant will attract better-funded buyers if they prove it can operate profitably.

The slim margins between the price of corn, the raw material for the ethanol produced at the plant, and the price of ethanol in late 2008, plus mechanical problems at the plant, were blamed by Cascade Grain Products for the shutdown and bankruptcy.

Kelly has contended that the plant, located on approximately 44 acres at Port Westward, does operate properly.

Currently, work is underway to get the plant ready to restart, including upgrades to the water treatment system.

The planned restart of the ethanol plant is dependent on Kelly being able to obtain the $5.5 million in state business energy tax credits the original operators were granted, a Kelly spokesperson said. Talks are underway between the company and the Oregon Department of Energy.

Assuming the ethanol plant does get up and running again, approximately 60 persons would be employed on a full-time basis. As before, corn would be brought in by rail, and the ethanol would be shipped out by barge.

Kelley has hired Ocean Park Advisors, based in Los Angeles, to market the plant. A spokesman for that agency told the press that over the last year ethanol markets have been strong.

Ethanol is used both as an alternative fuel and as a non-polluting additive to gasoline.

Robert Keyser, president of the Port of St. Helens commission which owns the Port Westward property,  said: “We are encouraged by the announcement. The port has appreciated working closely with JH Kelly since they took over.”

“We view this as a very positive step, and hope that it will lead to the successful long term operation of the plant and permanent job creation for our community,” Keyser said.

“Twelve More Miles to Clatskanie” Free Concert March 4

“Kathy Boyd and Phoenix Rising,” the bluegrass group which won the international Internet-based “City Love” songwriting contest with their song “Twelve More Miles to Clatskanie” will present a free concert on Friday, March 4, at 7:30 p.m. at the Donavon Wooley Performing Arts Center at Clatskanie Middle/High School, 471 SW BelAir Drive.

The song was written by Tom Tower, a banjo player with “Kathy  Boyd and Phoenix Rising,” an “original roots” bluegrass group. Kathy (Jackson) Boyd grew up in Clatskanie, and Tower has frequently visited here.

“Twelve More Miles to Clatskanie” received more votes in the Internet “City Love” songwriting contest than songs about such cities as Paris, Los Angeles and Sydney, Australia.

“This people’s choice award owes its success to the love the citizens of Clatskanie have for their town,” said Boyd.

“Somehow that green ODOT (Oregon Department of Transportation) sign that marks 12 more miles to Clatskanie also marks the boundary between the rush, push and self-absorption of the city and the serenity and self-acceptance of the country,”  said Tower, the author of the song.

As the winner of the contest, Tower received $10,000, part of which he is using to put on the free concert here.

“Kathy Boyd and Phoenix Rising”  performed here several years ago as part of the Clatskanie Arts Commission’s (CAC) Performing Arts Series. CAC is helping to organize the March 4th concert.

Benefit for I.O.O.F. Hall Restoration Project

While the concert is free to the public, donations will be accepted towards the restoration of the Clatskanie I.O.O.F. Hall/Avalon Theatre.

In 2006, the Clatskanie Foundation, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 1998, received a $500,000 bequest from the estate of C. Keith Birkenfeld.  While he did not reside in the Clatskanie area, Birkenfeld’s family roots were here. An educator, philanthropist and world traveler, Birkenfeld was deeply interested in music, architecture, history, politics and education.

Although the Clatskanie Foundation had previously concentrated on the administration of scholarship funds and contributions in support of community programs, the terms of the Birkenfeld bequest specifically required that the money be spent on a “bricks and mortar” project.

Built in 1926 by Ernst Kroner, an early 20th century architect who designed numerous public buildings, lodge halls, and churches in Portland and the outlying area, the Clatskanie I.O.O.F. Hall/Avalon Theatre building was once the centerpiece of the town’s historic district, but had become an eyesore and was being used as a warehouse.

In 2007, the Clatskanie Foundation board of directors negotiated a purchase agreement with the building’s owner, and the sale was completed.

Ankrom Moisan Associated Architects of Portland was hired to prepare a feasibility and rehabilitation plan, final plans for the restoration of the exterior facade, and preliminary floor plans for the interior.

The exterior facade restoration was completed in the first half of 2010 along with preliminary seismic stabilization work. For the second half of 2010, the focus was on emptying the building, a task completed with the help of local volunteers and businesspeople.

The entire Birkenfeld bequest has been spent on the work done so far.    A small portion of a $200,000 bequest from the late Dr. Charles Grayson, a longtime Clatskanie resident, has also been used for the project. A fundraising campaign for the interior restoration project is expected to get underway soon.

Both the City of Clatskanie and the Clatskanie Arts Commission have expressed interest in being tenants of the building and have been working with the Clatskanie Foundation in the development of the architectural plans and in the grant-seeking process.

The preliminary floor plans reflect their input in regard to city offices, restoration of a 150-seat multi-purpose theater, and the ballroom. The approximately 13,500-square-foot building also includes retail space.

Tax deductible contributions may be sent to the Clatskanie Foundation I.O.O.F. Hall Restoration Project, P.O. Box 243, Clatskanie, OR 97016.

Filings Slow So Far for Special District Seats

A few incumbents have filed for re-election, but otherwise filings have been slow for the numerous special district positions which will be filled in the May 17th election.

The Clatskanie School District, Rainier School District, Clatskanie Rural Fire Protection District (CRFPD), Columbia River Fire and Rescue (CRF&R), Mist-Birkenfeld Rural Fire Protection District (M-BRFPD), Clatskanie Library, Clatskanie Park and Recreation District (Park and Rec), Port of St. Helens, Columbia 9-1-1 Communications District, and Rainier Cemetery District all have board of directors positions up for election.

Candidates for any of the offices listed below must file a declaration of candidacy accompanied by a filing fee of $10 or a petition for nomination signed by at least 25 registered voters residing in the election district for the office, with the Elections Department of Columbia County  no later than 5 p.m. on March 17.

Following are the seats up for election with the incumbents listed in parentheses, notations if they have filed for re-election or have indicated they are not seeking re-election, and the precincts from which they are elected.

Clatskanie School District 6J: Positions 1 (Stuart Haas) and  2  (David True), Position 3 (2 year term) (Michael Moravec) – elected at large from Clatskanie 1-3, North Clatskanie, South Clatskanie, Marshland, Quincy and portions of Clatsop County. Haas and True have both indicated they will not seek re-election.

Rainier School District 13: Candidates must live in and be nominated by zone; elected by entire district. Zone 2 (2 year term) (Bob Wimmer) and Zone 3 (4 year term) (Rodney Harding) – Rainier 1, Rainier 2, West Rainier, East Rainier and that portion excepted from Zone 1. Zone 4 (4 year term) (Alison Dale-Moore) – Goble and Prescott , and Zone 6 (4 year term) (Penny Blahm) – at large. Dale-Moore has filed for re-election.

Clatskanie RFPD: Positions 4 (Robert Keyser) and 5 (Earl Fisher) (4 year term) – at large from Clatskanie 1-3, North Clatskanie, South Clatskanie, Marshland, Quincy, portions of South Delena and North Delena and portion of Clatsop County. Fisher has indicated he will not seek re-election. Keyser has filed for re-election

CRF&R: Positions 1 (Mark Kreutzer) and  2 (Jim Huff) and 3 (Robert Braud) (4 year terms) – South Milton, North Milton, South McNulty, North McNulty, Rainier 1, Rainier 2, West Rainier, East Rainier, North Warren, St. Helens 1-9, South St. Helens, Prescott, Columbia City and portions of South Delena,  North Delena, Goble, South Warren, Yankton, Apiary, South Deer Island, North Deer Island and East Chapman. Huff has indicated he will not run for re-election. Kruetzer has filed for re-election.

M-BRFPD: Positions 1 (vacant), Position 2 (Donna Adams), Position 5 (Allen Tuck), South and North Mist. Adams and Tuck have filed for re-election.

Clatskanie Library: Positions 3 (David Willey), 4  (Colleen Moore) and 5 (Nancy Tosh)  (4 year terms) – Clatskanie 1-3, North Clatskanie, Marshland, Quincy and portions of South Clatskanie, South Delena, North Delena and Apiary.

Clatskanie Park & Rec: Position 1 (2 year term) (Ryan Tompkins), and Positions 2 (Katrina Kynsi) and 3 (Roger Jolma)  (4 year terms) – Clatskanie 1-3, North Clatskanie, Marshland, Quincy and portions of South Clatskanie, South Delena, North Delena and Apiary.

Port of St. Helens: Positions 1 (Robert Keyser), 2 (Mike Avent) and 3 (Colleen DeShazer) (4 year terms) – all of Columbia County except Vernonia 1-5, South Mist, North Mist and portions of North Clatskanie, South Clatskanie, South Delena, Yankton, Apiary, Chapman, South Deer Island and North Deer Island. Keyser has filed for re-election.

Columbia 9-1-1 Communications District: Candidates must live in, be nominated and elected by zone.

Zone 1 (Dee Wooley) (4 year term) – Clatskanie 1-3, North Clatskanie, South Clatskanie, South Delena, North Delena, Marshland, Quincy, Apiary .

Zone 2 (Wes McMahan) (4 year term) – Goble, Rainier 1, Rainier 2, West Rainier, East Rainier, Yankton, South Deer Island, North Deer Island, Prescott, Columbia City.

Zone 4 (Katharine Denckla) (4 year term) – South McNulty, North McNulty, South Warren, North Warren, Vernonia 1-5, Chapman, South Mist, North Mist, East Chapman. Denckla has filed for re-election.

Rainier Cemetery District: Positions 1 (Janice Carstensen) (4 year term) – South Delena, North Delena, Quincy, Rainier 1, Rainier 2, West Rainier, East Rainier, Prescott and portions of North Clatskanie, Goble, Apiary and North Deer Island.

In Split Decision…
Clatskanie School Board to Seek Interim Superintendent

by Deborah Steele Hazen

At a special meeting Monday night, Feb. 21, the Clatskanie School District board of directors voted in a split decision to seek an interim superintendent for the coming school year to temporarily replace retiring Superintendent Ed Serra.

In a motion by Stuart Haas, seconded by Michael Moravec, and also supported by Karen George, the board voted 3-2 to contact the Oregon School Boards Association (OSBA) to institute a search for an interim superintendent with  further definition as to whether the interim position would be full-time or part-time to be determined at a later date.

School board chair Janet Willey and Dave True voted against the motion. During the discussion that preceded it, they argued in favor of conducting a search for a full-time permanent superintendent, saying they believed the district needed strong leadership in coming years.

“An interim would be just a placeholder – basically we lose a year,” said Willey.

Moravec agreed that an interim superintendent would be a “placeholder,” but  because of the need to more fully understand the budget situation, allow time to thoroughly discuss what the district needs in a superintendent in the future and to receive input from the staff and the public, he said he favored hiring an interim superintendent for one year “with backup from our other administrators.”

Haas and George also spoke in favor of the interim idea.

“I’ve been involved in superintendent searches before,” said Haas. “Right now is not the time to go out for a full-time, permanent superintendent. We should find an interim, and get our house in order. We’re looking at some serious cuts in this budget cycle. We have a lot of work to do on the budget. We have union negotiations. We’d be better off  at this time to bring in an interim with experience.”

Haas added that with two current board members, himself and True, going off the board as of July 1, it made sense to him to give new board members a voice in hiring a superintendent. Haas and True have both indicated they will not be seeking re-election to the board. Moravec has indicated he will run. (See the separate story on election filings for more information.)

“We have a good strong administrative staff right now,” Moravec added. “I do believe we need a superintendent, but in the interim, this gives us more time to focus and find out what we really want.”

“The administrators have enough to do without asking them to do more,” True responded.

One of those administrators, Clatskanie Elementary School Principal Yolanda Brackman said, “we’re all willing to add to our plate, but it’s our negotiation time, too…When Mary (special education director Mary Mitchell) said that she was interested, we all talked about how we could do it…If we’re talking about having someone (an interim superintendent) three or four days a week…there’s a whole bunch of things we’ll have to work out.”

After a brief executive session at the beginning of the meeting, school board chair Janet Willey announced “It is the consensus of the board that we not appoint from within the district at this time, and we strongly encourage the administrator who expressed interest to apply for our job.”

Moravec stressed that he wanted input from the administrators in regard to the superintendent situation.

“I think we would just like to be a part of the process,” said Clatskanie Middle/High School Principal Jeff Baughman. “We would like to be able to give some input and some insights.” He said that the administrators had prepared a list “of what we think are important,” in a new superintendent.

“I would like to see that list,” Moravec emphasized.

Meeting with Rainier Board Planned Feb. 28

While the idea of possibly sharing a superintendent with Rainier was removed from consideration by the Rainier school board because of the “division among the Clatskanie board members concerning the concept,” the two districts and their staffs are continuing to work on ways in which they might share services and programs.

Both school boards have agreed to a joint meeting next Monday, Feb. 28, at 5 p.m., in the Clatskanie administrative offices, 555 SW Bryant Street. The meeting is open to the public.

After discussing two different versions of a resolution concerning cooperation between the two districts, the school board unanimously adopted wording suggested by Moravec, which did not include a timetable and “sunset” of the cooperative plan, as was included in wording proposed by Serra.

The resolution reads:

“Whereas, the Clatskanie School District (‘Clatskanie’) and the Rainier School District (‘Rainier’) are small rural school districts located in close proximity to one another; and

“Whereas, as small rural school districts, they are unable to offer the variety of high school programs they would desire to; and

“Whereas, Clatskanie and Rainier have discussed ways of cooperating so as to increase the number of shared programs available to their students for a number of years with limited success;

“Whereas, the Clatskanie School Board believes that their students’ access to a quality education should come before local politics and school rivalries;

“Now, therefore, it is hereby resolved by the Clatskanie School Board as follows:

“1. The Clatskanie School District shall use all reasonable resources and make all reasonable compromises in an effort to work with the Rainier School District in formulating a shared services program.

“2. The Clatskanie School District’s Superintendent shall be given strict instructions to facilitate a shared services program with the Rainier School District.

“3. This resolution shall not be deemed an invitation or offer by Clatskanie to merge with Rainier.

“Therefore, be it resolved that the Clatskanie School District Board hereby adopts this resolution.”

Clatskanie School Board Meeting Monday

Following its meeting with the Rainier board next Monday, Feb. 28, the Clatskanie school board will hold its regular monthly meeting.

Agenda items include: the superintendent’s evaluation, the maintenance fund policy, Division 22 assurances, the superintendent search,  the audit of the district’s books, a proclamation for Classified Employee Week, renewal of licensed personnel for 2011-12, and budget priorities.

Rainier Council Hears Citizens’ Concerns; Discusses Budget, Sewer Rates

by Deborah Steele Hazen

Complaints about items being sold at a store in west Rainier, presentation of preliminary budget information and discussion of sewer rates kept the Rainier city council busy at its meeting Tuesday, Feb. 22.

The meeting opened with several citizens expressing their concerns about drug paraphernalia and pornography being sold at Fat Jack’s Tobacco Shop which opened recently on Rockcrest Street in west Rainier.

One of the concerned citizens, Billie Martin, presented the council with several items of drug paraphernalia she bought at the store for the purpose of showing the council. Another citizen, Kathleen Miller, who is involved with addiction recovery, explained that the items were used for “crack” and heroin.

About 20 people – virtually the entire audience – raised their hands when Mayor Jerry Cole asked how many in attendance were concerned about the sale of those items.

Jeff McCracken, senior pastor at the Rainier Assembly of God, located across the street from the shop, said he had been contacted by the Oregon Liquor Control Commision (OLCC) when the liquor store was moved to that area. The city planning commission asked his opinion regarding the Oregon Shepherd insulation manufacturing facility, and he offered his strong support.

But, he said, he was not asked about the new tobacco shop which sells drug paraphernalia and pornography across the street from the church, and “I don’t think that’s what you want to draw people to our community.”

McCracken noted that approximately 50 young people attend services at the church three times a week.

“I’m concerned about the youth in our community,” said Miller.

Several of those in attendance acknowledged that they owned or were employed by other tobacco shops in west Rainier. They emphasized that it was not the fact of another tobacco shop that they objected to, but the other items being sold there.

“I’m very concerned about our kids,” Martin said.

The city councilors said they shared the citizens’ concerns and “are looking into ways it can be regulated.”

“We have to tiptoe into it,” said Mayor Cole. “Rest assured we’ll move forward to look into it.”

It was suggested that a petition and protests might convince the store owner not to stock the offensive items.

Budget, Sewer Rates Discussed

“The point I want to make once again is how important it is that the sewer fund be self-supporting,” said city administrator Lars Gare at the beginning of Tuesday’s budget and sewer rate discussion.

“General fund revenues can’t support the shortfall caused by the sewer debt service for the $2.7 million revenue bond.”

Information provided by public works director Darrel Lockard shows that if the sewer rates remain at their current levels, the fund will be $128,000 short of balancing by the end of the 2011-12 fiscal year.

Similarly to last year’s budget season, Lockard provided various scenarios for raising rates and percentages of equivalent dwelling units (EDUs) paid by multi-unit housing.

Noting that the public works crew had been working with Rainier School District personnel to monitor consumption and detect leaks, Lockard suggested raising the school district’s base rate from $2300 per month to $2737 per month to help balance the sewer fund. The district currently pays only a base rate.

Rainier School Superintendent Michael Carter, who was present at the meeting, told the council that the school district also has been looking at ways to address the sewer costs in a manner which would be acceptable to both the district and the city.

The school district has its own well, so it does not purchase water from the city, but it is on the city’s sewer system and accounts for about 12 percent of the usage.

Carter proposed an agreement based on a formula which takes into account student population, a percentage of the residential base rate and a consumption rate that would see the school district (at its current consumption and population) paying more than Lockard proposed – a total of about $36,000 per year.

The school district proposes to have the agreement for a minimum of three years – “we’d prefer five years.” The school district would benefit from having more certainty in regard to its sewer costs over the next five years.

The council thanked Carter for the proposal and took it under advisement.

“I appreciate the fact that you’re here today to try to get us through this process,” said Councilor Sloan Nelson.

During the budget discussion, Councilor Mike Avent noted that the cost of Rainier’s city government has been “growing at about 19 percent over the past four years.” In addition to raising rates,  Avent stated his belief that the council needs to look at cutting back on costs where possible. “I want to be able to look them (the citizens) in the eye and say we did everything we could to keep rates low.”

“This is not a fat budget,” Gare said.

Lockard noted that the public works department is “down a person since I got here.”

According to information provided by finance manager Debbie Dudley, the proposed cost-of-living increase based on the contract for public works is 2 percent, while the police department is scheduled for a 2.5 percent increase.

Depending on what Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) program they qualify for, PERS costs will increase for city employees from 2.11 percent to 9.39 percent.

Increases for health insurance are not available yet, Dudley said. The property tax projections were just received, but the amounts are being confirmed through the assessor’s office because they are “significantly less” than last year, she said.

Renaming Highway for Chief Painter Proposed

Mayor Cole announced that State Representatives Brad Witt, of Clatskanie, and Jeff Barker, of Portland, have introduced House Bill 3354 which would rename the portion of Highway 30 between St. Helens and Rainier, the Chief Ralph Painter Memorial Highway, in honor of the Rainier police chief who was killed in the line of duty Jan. 5.

State Senator Betsy Johnson is backing the bill on the senate side.

Also related to the death of Painter, the council approved the payment of health insurance premiums for his widow and young son through April, not to exceed $1500 per month.

Councilor Concerns

Councilor Nelson reported that the Rainier diking district is continuing to struggle with the issue of dike certification. “If and when the Rainier dike doesn’t get certified – all that property becomes flood prone,” Nelson reminded the rest of the council. “That means you can’t build anything…I’d like to see what we can do to help.

Nelson also asked about a $1,000 fine the city received for a late report to the state fire marshal’s office. Lockard acknowledged that he had called the fire marshal’s office with a question about the report. He didn’t get a response, and consequently forgot to file the report before the deadline.

Lockard was also asked about one of the public employees wrecking the city’s 3/4 ton truck.

“As a councilor, I’d like to know about these things,” Nelson said.

Councilor Scott Cooper spoke about the need for the city to investigate state law regarding e-mail retention.

Councilor Bill Vilardi agreed to serve as liaison to the library board.

REDCO Executive Session

Meeting as the board of the Rainier Economic Development Council (REDCO), the council met with attorneys during an almost two-hour-long executive session prior to the city council meeting.

Meeting for Rainier Days Planning Set March 1

A meeting is set Tuesday, March 1, at 6 p.m. at the Rainier City Hall for all who are interested in helping organize the Rainier Days in the Park celebration.

Rainier Mayor Jerry Cole announced at the Tuesday, Feb. 22nd meeting of the city council that the Rainier Eagles, who have sponsored and organized the celebration for the past 14 years, are no longer going to be chairing it.

However, he stressed, the Eagles have assured him that they will be there to advise the new group. The carnival and midway are already scheduled to return for the celebration held the second weekend in July.

Cole expressed appreciation for the “great job” the Eagles have done over the years.

“What I would like to see out of the meeting on March 1, is that we would form a Days in the Park Committee, people from multiple groups and agencies to spearhead the event.

I see the city’s role as being an avenue to help find volunteers and keep the celebration alive.”

Cole urged all interested in helping with Rainier Days in the Park to attend the meeting March 1.

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