May, 2011

Preparations for Memorial Day

LOCAL VETERANS from the Clatskanie Louis Larsen American Legion Post 68 and Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2994 cleaned the Clatskanie Veterans Memorial in the Library Park on Tuesday in preparation for the annual Memorial Day service Monday at 11 a.m.  American Legion commander Gerald Simmons and past commander Rick Rowland are pictured above. Other veterans working at the memorial Tuesday were Michael Simmons, Terry Erickson, Jack Holmes and Chris Angel.

Twenty-seven names of recently-deceased Clatskanie area veterans were added to the memorial earlier this month, along with completion of covering the monument with granite. It is estimated that space should be available for veterans names to be added for approximately 25 years.

Contributions to the maintenance of the memorial and the continuation of adding the names of deceased veterans are always welcome and may be made to the Clatskanie Veterans Memorial Fund at Wauna Federal Credit Union. Chief Photo by Deborah Steele Hazen

Memorial Day Observances Include Breakfasts, Services, Decorating at Cemeteries

Memorial Day will be observed in Clatskanie and Rainier with breakfasts, services and the decoration of graves.

Clatskanie Louis Larsen American Legion Auxiliary Unit 68 will be selling poppies around town on Thursday and Friday, May 26 and 27.

For over 70 years, the American Legion Auxiliary has sponsored “Poppy Day” to remind Americans “that millions have sacrificed their lives to keep our nation strong and free.” The image of poppies blooming on the battlefields of World War I was brought home from Europe by American soldiers.

The American Legion Auxiliary poppy contributions are devoted entirely to rehabilitation and assistance for veterans and their families.

Clatskanie Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 2994 will be selling poppies at the Evergreen Shopping Center on Friday and Saturday, May 27-28.

Local veterans organizations will be busy Friday and Saturday placing flags on veterans graves in local cemeteries.

Clatskanie Boy Scout Troop #241 is assisting the veterans with placing the flags at the Clatskanie area cemeteries. Extra flags will be available. If visitors to the cemeteries over the holiday weekend notice that a flag has not been placed at a veterans’ grave, they are encouraged to put a flag on the grave. It was pointed out that there are many veterans’ graves and few hands to place the flags. Any omission is accidental.

56th Annual Breakfast and Services in Clatskanie

Memorial Day observances on Monday, May 30, will begin with the 56th annual Memorial Day Breakfast in  Clatskanie, sponsored by Clatskanie Louis Larsen American Legion Post 68, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2994, and the Clatskanie Kiwanis Club.

The breakfast will be held from 7 to 10 a.m. at the American Legion Hall, 930 NE 5th Street, and will include pancakes, sausage and eggs. Cost is $5 for adults, $3 for age 10 and under.

Following the breakfast in Clatskanie, the annual Memorial Day service will be held at 11 a.m. at the Clatskanie Veterans Memorial in the library park on Lillich Street, conducted by the Clatskanie VFW with Ed Serra as the featured speaker.

The services will conclude with the lowering of a wreath by members of the American Legion onto the Clatskanie River from the Nehalem Street bridge.

An avenue of flags will be erected at Clatskanie’s Murray Hill Cemetery, weather permitting.

Breakfast, Service at Rainier

Beaver Valley Grange #306 will serve a pancake breakfast from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the grange hall on Larson Road across from the Hudson Cemetery at the top of the Rainier Hill.

The menu will include pancakes, scrambled eggs, ham or sausage, juice, milk and coffee or tea for $5.for adults. Children 10 and under eat free.

Following the breakfast, the grange hall will remain open for refreshments after the memorial services that will be conducted at 11 a.m. by Columbia River VFW Post 1909 and Auxiliary at the Veterans Memorial in Hudson Cemetery on Larson Road.

Clatskanie School Board Votes to Close CEC, Raise Lunch Prices

by Deborah Steele Hazen

In steps aimed at helping to close a $671,467 hole in the 2011-12 budget, the Clatskanie School District board of directors voted at its meeting Tuesday, May 24, to close the Community Education Center, move the district office, and raise lunch prices by 15 cents.

Tuesday’s school board meeting was preceded by a budget committee session where committee members pored over the budget and administrative suggestions for reductions to meet the funding gap.

Not hiring a full-time superintendent will save $100,000. The position, from which current Superintendent Ed Serra is retiring at the end of this school year currently costs the district $154,573 – $100,000 in salary, $17,923 in health insurance and $36,650 in payroll expenses.

Following an executive session at the end of the meeting, the school board approved extended work contracts for Mary Mitchell, the special education director who will serve as interim part-time superintendent, with assistance from three other members of the administrative team.

The extended work contracts are based on adding days to the administrative team’s contracts for the coming year only.

Mitchell who currently works 210 days at a salary of $77,293, will work 45 more days at a daily rate of $368, adding $16,563, bringing her salary for 2011-12 to $93,856.

Clatskanie Middle/High School principal Jeff Baughman will add 23 days to his current 225 day schedule, at a per diem rate of $343, taking his salary from $77,250 to $85,157.

CMHS assistant principal and athletic director Annikke Olson will add 23 days to her current 215 at $311 per diem, bringing her salary from $66,950 to $74,112, and Clatskanie Elementary School principal Yolanda Brackman will add 23 days to her current 225 at $339 per diem, bringing her salary from $76,220 to $84,011.

Counting additional payroll expenses, the extended work contracts will cost the district $53,858, but will save $100,715 over the cost of a full-time superintendent.

The motion to approve the extended work contracts also included raising Mitchell’s cell phone stipend from the current $50 per month to $100 per month.

The motion passed unanimously.

CEC to Close

Savings are less clear from the closure of the Community Education Center, originally housing the high school, then the middle school, and currently the home of the district office, Tigger Town Preschool, the Clatskanie Together Coalition, Columbia Community Mental Health, the Clatskanie Historical Society, the Columbia County Justice Court, chess club meetings and other community activities.

In 2009-10, the actual costs for utilities, repairs and maintenance of the building was $45,908. As of April of 2011, $40,454 has been expended.

Business manager Janine Salisbury estimates that it will cost about $24,800 just to maintain the vacant building, and it is estimated it will cost at least $10,000 to relocate the district office into the CMHS building.

However, by unanimous vote of the school board and the consensus of the budget committee, it was agreed that it was time to close the building – an alternative that has repeatedly surfaced at budget-cutting time during the past several years.

“If we would have closed it four years ago, we would have saved considerably more by now,” said budget committee chair Sarah Rice.

Food Service Savings Suggested

During the budget committee session, Rainier food services director and nutritionist Debby Webster made a presentation of suggestions to save a projected $39,500 from the $57,000 deficit in Clatskanie’s breakfast and lunch program.

Rather than eliminating the CMHS meal program, as had been previously proposed, Webster explained that she and the Clatskanie food service staff had identified $24,600 in potential savings from changes in food purchasing, including buying cooperatively with Rainier and other nearby school districts, paper cost reductions, and a decrease in labor by 1.5 hours.

Additionally, Webster suggested increasing the lunch price by 10 cents, making it the same as Rainier and the standard recognized by the Oregon Department of Education; starting an ala carte menu, offering a second entrée for an additional price, and closing campus, adding the purchase of an estimated 60 meals per day.

However, during the school board meeting that followed the budget committee session, Baughman again expressed his opposition to closing the campus, noting that he would rather spend the estimated $17,000 it would cost for extra supervision to keep students on campus during the lunch hour for other needs.

According to Webster’s plan, that $17,000 would come from the estimated $26,000 additional revenues projected if students had no choice but to eat lunch at school.

Board member Michael Moravecc said he favored closing the campus – for reasons separate from the lunch program – “I don’t know of any reason why 7th through 11th grade students need to leave campus during their lunch hour.”

However, other board members argued in favor of trying the other food service suggestions first and not implementing the closed campus for next year.

A motion to raise the lunch price by 15 cents – rather than the 10 cents suggested – and to keep the campus open passed by a 4-1 vote, despite the fact that Salisbury pointed out that a 15 cents lunch increase exceeded the ODE standards. Moravec voted against the motion.

Athletic Budget in Doubt

Also recommended for cutting by Serra is the $75,000 transfer from the general fund for extracurricular activities.

Baughman argued strongly in favor of keeping funding for athletics, noting Clatskanie’s many scholar/athletes, high state rankings for grade point averages of sports teams, and successful sports records.

Numerous staff and budget committee members spoke in support of the sports programs, including Serra, noting that eliminating sports would probably result in the loss of some students which would cause a drop in per student state funding.

The school board asked Baughman and Olson to come back to the budget committee at its June 6th meeting with a proposal for finding some savings in the program, including an increase in “pay-to-play” fees, and economies in transportation, including possibly cooperating with Rainier in transporting teams to events.

Transportation Cuts

Also during the budget committee meeting, transportation supervisor Paul Simmons made a presentation on how to cut $17,500 from the transportation budget by combining duties and saving two and a quarter hours per day, and eliminating one kindergarten bus run.

Simmons noted that many people asked about buses that were only carrying  a few students, sometimes even only one or two. He explained that most of those cases were students with special needs and the district is mandated to provide them with special transport if necessary.

Other Recommended Cuts

Other cuts recommended by Serra to meet the $671,467 shortfall include: changing the administrative health insurance plan to save $26,000; cutting three educational aides, $100,000; eliminating one custodian, $52,400; reducing the technology assistant position to .5 full-time equivalent (FTE), $24,500; reducing the technology budget by 30 percent, $24,150; eliminating two teaching positions, $125,817; .2 FTE teaching position at the teacher’s request, $18,200; cutting $31,900 in textbooks, and $34,000 in supplies.

It has not been announced which two teaching positions would be eliminated.

Brackman and CES teacher Sarah Thorud reported that they have been looking at different scenarios if CES is reduced from its current 14.5 teaching positions to 13.

With only 13 teachers for kindergarten through sixth grade next year, kindergarten classes, with a projected low student enrollment, would be at 20; however there would be 29 in first grade classes, 22 in second grade, 35 per class in third grade, 28 in fourth grade classes, 30 in fifth grade and 35 in sixth grade classes.

Other Business

In other business at Tuesday’s school board meeting, a resolution was approved to bring the district into compliance with the Governmental Auditing and Standards Board (GASB) fund balance reporting requirements.

Under the consent agenda, the school board accepted the resignation of longtime Clatskanie Elementary School head custodian Diane Mausen.

Clatskanie PUD Board Takes No Action on Proposed BPA Settlement

by Deborah Steele Hazen

After a long executive session with attorneys from the Cable Huston law firm, the Clatskanie People’s Utility District (PUD) board of directors, at its May 18th meeting, opted to take no action on the proposed Bonne-ville Power Administration (BPA) residential exchange program settlement agreement.

The proposed settlement agreement is aimed at resolving ongoing litigation related to the residential exchange program, under which ratepayers of consumer-owned utilities, including the Clatskanie PUD, make payments to lower the bills of residential and small farm customers of investor-owned utilities (IOUs), such as Portland General Electric.

The Clatskanie PUD board and management has long fought for a settlement that would be the least costly for PUD customers, and has also challenged other aspects of the agreement and the process that led to it.

“The economics are probably okay,” Clatskanie PUD general manager Greg Booth said in open session at last week’s meeting. “There are utilities on both sides” of whether or not to approve it. “We’ve graded it about a C minus.” However, Booth noted, the agreement failed to get 91 percent support from the affected utilities – a benchmark the BPA had set.

“We did not proceed at that point because of the other considerations and lawsuits regarding breaches of contract on their (the BPA’s) part. However, there was no interest by BPA to settle on all of these together,” Booth said.

Now, the BPA has lowered the level of approval for the residential exchange agreement to 75 percent, “instead of addressing the problems,” according to Booth.

“I believe it’s bad public policy and sends the wrong message.” However, Booth stated, “I do believe it will likely pass.” If the agreement is adopted the Clatskanie PUD will be covered under it, “until and if” it is successfully challenged.

After the executive session with the attorneys, Booth placed three options before the board. Accept the agreement as proposed. Reject it, which “would imply we would vigorously oppose it and intend to intervene,” or take no action, which still keeps open the right to appeal.

“We have to have a lot more information before we take any action,” commented PUD director Don Hooper.

Digger-Derrick Bid Accepted

In the only action item of the night, the board accepted a bid from Terex for a digger derrick truck at a cost of $271,830. The unit will replace a 1992 truck which is “becoming a safety concern,” according to engineering and operations manager Leo Quiachon.

The bid from Terex, the only responsible bidder to respond to the request for bids, was higher than the $241,000 that had been budgeted for the truck. However, “we do have the money to pay for it,” the board was assured.

New Headquarters Open House Rescheduled

Last week’s meeting was the first held in the PUD’s new headquarters, and compliments were received from representatives of Georgia-Pacific’s Wauna Mill and citizens in attendance.

PUD board members also thanked the staff for their work in planning and overseeing the construction of the facility and moving into it.

An open house at the new headquarters located at 495 E. Columbia River Highway, previously scheduled for June 8, has now been rescheduled for Wednesday, June 29, during the late afternoon and evening.

Quiachon reported that, with the final change orders, the cost of the facility under the contract with P&C Construction, the general contractors for the project, was $7.9 million, compared to the original $7.3 million, but still within the budgeted contingency.

That amount does not include the acquisition of the property and the cost of fill and site preparation. Final figures for the entire cost are being compiled, Quiachon said.

PUD Thanked, Power Report

A letter was read from the Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB) acknowledging and thanking Booth for the personal contact offering mutual aid help after a windstorm in March. While EWEB did not require assistance, the Clatskanie PUD did send a crew to help Lane Electric restore power.

Power manager Joe Taffe reported that the Arrowrock Dam hydroelectric project has been using all the water going through the dam to create electricity, and the PUD, which owns the power from the plant, has been selling “consistent pieces of power around the clock and extra on peak.”

“We have been meeting our targets for wholesale power sales, and that should help the budget.” Taffe explained that this year “the price is soft, but there’s plenty of power.” Last year both the supply of hydropower and the price were low.

The PUD uses proceeds from wholesale power sales to help lower customers’ bills

Wauna Mill Report

Paulette Morris of the Wauna Mill reported that the recovery boiler, which produces steam for the co-generation plant was due to be started on May 23, following a maintenance outage.

Georgia-Pacific, the Clatskanie PUD and EWEB are partners in the co-generation plant, which sells power to the BPA system, the proceeds from which also show up as credits on customers’ bills.

The Wauna Mill’s public affairs manager Kristi Ward reported on the efforts to recover from the April 22nd incident when a ship, the Susaki Wing, crashed into the Wauna Mill dock.

The mill is continuing to ship its products by truck, Ward reported. “Our employees have done a fantastic job switching over from barge loading to truck loading and all of the additional procedures it entails.”

The barge has been removed from the dock, and “we continue to work on engineering design plans for the dock rebuild.”

Mill employees are in the process of removing damaged parts on the transit shed and are working to get one of the barge ramps operational, which would help alleviate some of the truck shipments, Ward said.

Flood Watch on Lower Columbia

Minor flooding in lowland areas along the Columbia River is expected this week, as the river level rises slowly from increased snowmelt in the Cascades.

Wet weather anticipated during the week may result in addition river rises, according to the National Weather Service’s Portland office, which has issued a flood watch for the lower Columbia.

Affecting Multnomah, Columbia and Clatsop counties in Oregon, the Columbia was expected to remain at or above the 16-foot flood stage throughout the week.

Residents were warned to expect some flooding in lowland areas, along the banks and islands of the river. Since the Columbia River tides back-up into the Clatskanie River, the possibility of some flooding along the Clatskanie also exists. Last week, the Clatskanie city park flooded with the high tides.

According to the National Weather Service, “river currents will be particularly strong and the water temperatures are very cold. It is dangerous to try to swim in these waters.”

Rainier School Budget Approved; Sharing Concerns Voiced

by Deborah Steele Hazen

Rainier School District’s budget committee approved an $11,483,658 budget for 2011-12 at a meeting Monday, May 23.

The budget adds back $135,000 from the original proposal presented to the budget committee, and brings back 2.2 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions. But, 15.13 jobs have been cut.

Finance manager Lil Guisinger explained that Rainier recently learned that it now qualifies for a small high school grant of $55,000.

Also, the Rainier Education Association has agreed to cut two days from its contract saving $70,000, and the district added $10,000 from the ending fund balance to increase the revenue side by $135,000. That allows the add-back of a total of 2.2 FTE – a half-time band position and another half-time teaching position, plus a half-time secretary/half-time fiscal services position, and .2 FTE to the technology director, restoring that position to full-time.

However, in balancing the 2011-12 budget, Rainier cut 8.13 certified positions, and seven classified jobs.

Much of the discussion at Monday’s Rainier school budget meeting centered around the plans for sharing programs with Clatskanie, which will offer more elective and advanced placement opportunities for students from both schools than either could afford on its own.

Rainier Superintendent Michael Carter said that it is planned to have six shared programs at Rainier High School and 10 at Clatskanie. He emphasized that the sharing concept “will not save us money, but it will give more opportunities.”

“Without sharing next year, the offerings in the high school are bleak,” said teacher Dale Taylor.

But board members Rod Harding, Dale Archibald and Bill Scholten all expressed their disappointment that Rainier was forced to hire back a part-time band teacher because Clatskanie’s music teacher declined to drive to Rainier to teach part of the day. In the other shared programs, students will be transported from one school to the other, but because of the number of students involved, Rainier had requested that Clatskanie’s band teacher, Bob Emminger, drive to Rainier to meet with its band.

“This has really put a bump in the road with sharing prospects,” said Harding. “I would like to explore every possibility to be self-sufficient in Rainier.”

“I agree,” said Scholten. “I want to see more proof from them that they want to do this sharing.”

“I appreciate your candor,” Carter replied. “But I don’t want to close the door on it… We’ll know more by Thursday” following a meeting of the sharing committees from both school districts set for Wednesday evening at 6 p.m. in the Clatskanie School District office. “I was assured by the (Clatskanie) administration that they really want to share,” Carter said.

“Are we better off with it than without it?” budget committee chair George Evans asked. “Without sharing you cut down on the amount of opportunity the kids have.” He suggested that the budget committee pass the budget with sharing in mind.

However, Carter was asked to have a back-up plan to present, if necessary, by the second week in June, if all the sharing issues are not worked out by then.

“I understand that there are some hard feelings among the Rainier board. That’s unfortunate,” said Clatskanie school board member Michael Moravec during Tuesday’s Clatskanie school board meeting. “Hopefully we can continue to move forward.”

Clatskanie School Superintendent Ed Serra said Tuesday that “my high school staff has done everything in their power” to facilitate the sharing program. The teacher contract allows for “no change of working condition,” Serra said, referring to the traveling issue.

Clatskanie school board member Stuart Haas asked teachers’ union representatives in attendance to consider how they would approach the possibility of teachers traveling between the two districts in the future.

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