21 November 2012 by Published in: News No comments yet

Storm Brings Minor Flooding

OVER FOUR INCHES OF RAIN in 48 hours caused heavy run-off and local streams to rise. These photos taken early Monday afternoon show flooding of Highway 30 and the Portland and Western rail line between Marshland and Woodson west of Clatskanie. City of Clatskanie crews measured 3.25 inches of rain at 8 a.m. Monday morning, reflecting the amount of precipitation for the preceding 24 hours. Another .88 of an inch fell between 8 a.m. Monday and 8 a.m. Tuesday.  The storm resulted in two small mudslides on Swedetown Road, plus flooding roads and fields, and power outages throughout the area. (See the story elsewhere in this issue for further outage details). Chief Photos by Adam J. Wehrley

Shop Locally Campaign Kicks-Off Holiday Season

The weather outside might be frightful, but the holiday season is beginning in north Columbia County with a round of seasonal activities and events.

Kicking off the holiday shopping season in Clatskanie is the Chamber of Commerce’s “Spirit of Christmas in Clatskanie” shop locally promotion beginning this Friday, Nov. 23, and Saturday, Nov. 24, which is being promoted nationally as “Small Business Saturday.”

Participating local businesses will have “Spirit” cards to hand out to shoppers. The cards will have 30 boxes on them. For each $10 spent in a participating business, store personnel will mark a box.

When all 30 boxes are filled, the completed “Spirit” cards may be turned in at the Clatskanie People’s Utility District (PUD) headquarters no later than 5 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 28.

A drawing for first, second and third prizes of $100, $50 and $30 in Clatskanie Chamber Checks, which can be used as gift certificates at Chamber businesses, as well as other gifts, will be held on Monday, Dec. 31.

Thanksgiving Service

A community Thanksgiving service was scheduled in Clatskanie on Wednesday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m., at Faith Lutheran Church, 1010 NE 5th Street.

Toy ‘n Joy Breakfast 

Rainier United Methodist Church’s annual Toy ‘n Joy breakfast is scheduled Saturday, Dec. 1, from 7:30-10:30 a.m. at the church located on the corner of 1st and C streets in Rainier.

Donations will benefit Rainier’s Toy ‘n Joy program.

The menu includes all-you-can-eat buttermilk or blueberry pancakes, ham, scrambled eggs, applesauce, orange juice and coffee.

A bake and craft sale, including a white elephant table, is planned. Proceeds will benefit church mission projects.

Turning Point Christmas Giving

Turning Point Community Services Center has efforts in motion to provide low-income families in the Clatskanie area with Christmas dinner baskets and gifts for their children.

Tags listing a child’s age and gift request will be distributed on Monday, Nov. 26, to U.S. Bank, Sterling Bank, Wauna Federal Credit Union, Clatskanie PUD and Hi-School Pharmacy.

Those who wish to purchase a gift for a child may request a tag or select from ones displayed on Christmas “giving trees.” Return the gift along with the tag by Monday, Dec. 17, to Turning Point or Clatskanie PUD.

Turning Point is also seeking donations of food to fill holiday food baskets. The one item Turning Point is having trouble obtaining this year is the traditional turkey, according to a Turning Point spokesperson.

In addition, Turning Point reports that the average cost of providing a family holiday basket has risen in the last few years to $65.

Those who wish to make food or monetary donations may contact Turning Point, located at 220 E. Columbia River Highway, or call 503 728-3126. Financial donations may be mailed to Turning Point, P.O. Box 773, Clatskanie, OR 97016.

Applications are now being accepted through Dec. 12 for holiday dinner baskets and gifts. Families must reside within the 97016 zip code area.

Rainier Christmas Bazaar Set Dec. 1

A Rainier community Christmas bazaar is scheduled Saturday, Dec. 1, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Riverside Community Church, 305 West C Street in Rainier.

In addition to a variety of handcrafted items and gifts, there will be snacks and drinks available for purchase. Bounce houses are planned for the children, said an event organizer.

Vendors may contact Terry Deaton at 503 369-2245.

Boy Scout Food Drives

Clatskanie and Rainier boy scouts will participate in “Scouting for Food Day” on Saturday, Dec. 1, collecting food donations for local food banks.

Clatskanie boy scouts will deliver grocery bags around the community on Tuesday, Nov. 27, in preparation for the Dec. 1st pickup.

Clatskanie Boy Scout Troop 241, along with Cub Scout Pack 241 and Clatskanie girl scouts will go door-to-door collecting canned food from 9 a.m. to 12 noon Dec. 1 to support Turning Point.

As part of the food drive, cub scouts will have a table in front of Hi-School Pharmacy in Clatskanie to collect donations of food from 10 a.m. to 12 noon.

Rainier Food Drive

Rainier Boy Scout Troop 332 will be “scouting for food” in downtown Rainier Saturday, Dec. 1, to benefit H.O.P.E., Rainier’s community food bank.

Scouts will begin collecting donations at 9 a.m. Those who wish to contribute are asked to leave a bag of food on their porch for scouts to pick up. If donations are not picked up by 1 p.m., residents are asked to call H.O.P.E. to arrange pickup.

Candelight Memorial Service 

Families are invited to join together to remember Christmases past and the loved ones who have shared them in the annual Candlelight Memorial Service, sponsored by Groulx Family Mortuary, on Sunday, Dec. 2, at 2 p.m. at the Alston’s Corner Assembly of God Church.

The service will include local ministers of various faiths, special music, a candlelighting ceremony, trees decorated with ornaments featuring loved ones’ names, a Power Point presentation and refreshments.

Names of deceased loved ones may be submitted by local residents to be included on Christmas ornaments. This year’s ornament theme is “the wings of an angel.” The memorial ornaments are free of charge and will adorn lighted trees in the sanctuary.

Photo submissions for the Power Point presentation must be mailed or e-mailed to Groulx Family Mortuary by Nov. 26, and names for ornaments must be received by Nov. 30.

Mail to Groulx Family Mortuary, 25381 Wonderly Road, Rainier, OR 97048 or e-mail to groulxfm@qwestoffice.net.

Those with questions may call Lynn or Jackie at the mortuary, 503 556-2323.

Kiwanis Gala

“A Caribbean Holiday” is the theme of the Clatskanie Kiwanis 13th annual gala and auction to be held Saturday, Dec. 8, at the Clatksanie Middle/High School commons, 471 SW BelAir Drive.

The evening will begin with a silent auction at 5 p.m. Dinner will be served at 6 p.m., followed by an auction.

Tickets are $25 and may be purchased at Sterling Bank or from Kiwanis members.

CES Christmas Programs

Clatskanie Elementary School (CES) kindergarten students will present a Christmas program on Thursday, Dec. 13.

Programs will be held featuring the morning kindergarten students at 10:30 a.m., and the afternoon students at 2:30 p.m.

The Christmas program for first through sixth grade CES students will be held Thursday, Dec. 20, at 1 p.m.

The program will be presented using the format of an old-fashioned radio show, said a CES spokesperson.

Victorian Evening at the Castle

An “Elegant Victorian Evening at the Castle” featuring a five-course meal and wine bar will be held Friday and Saturday, Dec. 14-15, at the Flippin Castle National Historic Site which serves as the Clatskanie Senior Center.

The evening will begin with a no-host wine bar at 6 p.m. with dinner served at 7 p.m.

An additional dinner has been added this year due to the early sell-out of last year’s premier, said Bes Savage who is organizing the event.

Dinner will begin with a spinach salad with pears and toasted walnuts, smokey tomato basil soup and fresh sorbet. The main course is pork medallions with winter apple cider sauce served with chive duchess potatoes and lemon butter asparagus, followed by old-fashioned yule logs.

Tickets are $30 and available for purchase at the Castle, 620 SW Tichenor Street.

For more information call the Castle at 503 728-3608 or e-mail castle@clatskanie.com.

Donut Day Fundraiser

Clatskanie police will hold their annual Donut Day fundraiser on Saturday, Dec. 15, selling Krispy Kreme donuts in front of Safeway in Clatskanie, beginning at 7 a.m. until sold out.

Proceeds will benefit Turning Point communitiy food bank.

CMHS Winter Concert

The Clatskanie Middle/High School (CMHS) winter concert is scheduled Wednesday, Dec. 19, at 7 p.m., in the Donavon Wooley Performing Arts Center at CMHS, located at 471 SW BelAir Drive.

Christmas Religious Services and Programs

Rainier Assembly of God Church will present its children’s Christmas program on Sunday, Dec. 2, at 6 p.m. The church, located at 74950 Rockcrest Street in Rainier, will host a family Christmas gathering titled “Night Divine” on Sunday, Dec. 23, at 6 p.m.

Faith Lutheran Church in Clatskanie has scheduled a series of Advent services, beginning Wednesday evening, Dec. 5, and continuing each Wednesday until Christmas at the church, 1010 NE 5th Street. Services will begin with a soup supper at 6 p.m., followed by observances at 7 p.m.

Members of Faith Lutheran will be caroling at The Amber assisted living facility in Clatskanie on Sunday, Dec. 9, at 12 noon.

Faith Lutheran’s Christmas program will be held during the Sunday morning service Dec. 23 at 10 a.m. Candlelight Christmas Eve services are set Dec. 24 at 7 p.m. and 11 p.m.

Clatskanie and Rainier Methodist churches are starting a Christmas-themed Bible study called “The Journey,” which will be held weekly through December.

In Clatskanie, Bible study sessions begin Wednesday, Nov. 28, from 10 a.m. to 12 noon, and continue through Dec. 26. Clatskanie United Methodist Church is located at 290 S. Nehalem Street.

Rainier United Methodist Church, 101 East C Street, will hold Bible studies on Thursdays, beginning Nov. 29 from 7-9 p.m. and running through Dec. 27.

Those interested in attending the studies are asked to call 503 556-3440 to arrange for Bible study materials.

Christmas Eve services are scheduled Dec. 24 at the Methodist churches in Clatskanie at 5 p.m., and in Rainier at 7 p.m.

Community Christmas Dinner Dec. 25

Clatskanie Baptist Church will serve Christmas dinner on Tuesday, Dec. 25, in the church fellowship hall from 1 to 3 p.m.

The church invites “anyone that needs a place to go on Christmas.” The dinner is offered free of charge.

Clatskanie Baptist is located at 415 S. Nehalem Street. Those who would like more information may call the church office at 503 728-2304.

Rainier Approves Foss Mitigation

by Adam J. Wehrley

“We can’t continue to hold up Foss on their project.” said Rainier city councilor Mike Avent, prior to the council’s unanimous approval at its Nov. 19th meeting authorizing a quit claim deed for land slated for mitigation.

Rainier Mayor Jerry Cole and three city councilors -  James Bradfield, David Sills and Scott Cooper were absent from the meeting.

City administrator Debra Dudley reported that Cole, who works for Columbia River Fire and Rescue was held-up responding to various storm-related emergencies.

Dudley stated that Cole had been working with Foss Maritime and the Department of State Land (DSL) to address residents’ remaining concerns over the mitigation project, which many fear will limit beach access east of Fox Creek in downtown Rainier.

Regarding Foss’ efforts to maintain public access to the beach, Avent said “I think they’ve wanted to be a good player.”

The DSL is requiring Foss to turn the land into salmon habitat as part of the permitting process for bulkhead expansion scheduled for its Rainier plant. The expansion will allow larger vessel production and increased launching options.

Councilor Sloan Nelson stated that he believed the owners of condos adjacent to the site were satisfied with efforts to address their concerns.

EDU Allegations Addressed

In response to complaints of ethics violations filed by recalled city councilors Russ Moon and David Langford and others, Nelson stated, “I am confident that it will be taken care shortly.”

The complaint, naming Nelson and Dudley, is related to the controversial equivalent dwelling unit (EDU) program setting utility rates for hotels, apartments and other structures with multiple residences.

Although the ethics commission will not release the complaint at this stage of its investigation, Nelson and Dudley have said that it contains no specific allegations that they are have seen.

Dudley has been reviewing the history of the EDU program. According to meeting minutes, the original committee reviewing the city’s sewer rates was created by a May 3, 2010 motion by Moon. He, Langford, Councilor Phil Butcher and former public works director Darrell Lockard were assigned to the committee.

The EDU program was proposed by Lockard at a meeting on July 6, 2010. Nelson moved to accept the proposal, which at the time was viewed as a substantial increase in the base rates paid by the property owner involved. The proposal passed unanimously.

Nelson said that the original proposal did not distinguish between hotels and apartments or duplexes. No resolution was presented by Lockard or former city administrator Lars Gare at the July 6, 2010 meeting.

On Sept. 20, 2010, Moon moved to adopt a resolution presented by Gare which imlemented the EDU program. Nelson seconded the motion, but abstained from voting as did Avent.

That resolution was the first in which two EDU levels were presented, distinguishing between hotels and apartment complexes. Nelson owns the Rainier Hotel and abstained from that vote in order to avoid a conflict of interest. He abstained from voting on further changes made to the program on March 21, 2011.

Nelson has repeatedly stated, “Just send me my bill and I’ll pay it,” during recent EDU discussions.

The resolution, written by Gare and Lockard, sets the Rainier Hotel’s EDU at 4.1 and confusion has been expressed over bills showing a 3.65 EDU rate for one meter at the hotel.

When asked about what some believe to be changes to the rate, Dudley examined billing histories back to December of 2010 and found that records show a 1.5 EDU rate on part of the building and the 3.65 rate on the part with the bulk of the hotel rooms, for a combined EDU of 5.1. Additionally, Nelson is billed for two other meters in the building at the city’s regular non-EDU full base rate. The building houses several businesses, including a restaurant, bar and hotel owned by Nelson.

Dudley explained that because the building has gone through several owners and many renovations over the years, the city is unable to determine which facilities within the building are supplied by which meters. She also emphasized that consumption played no part in Lockard’s original calculations of the EDU base rates. Consumption is paid at the same rate by all customers.

Regarding accusations of changing the rate, Dudley showed both the billing history and spoke with the person originally responsible for entering the rates, who said the splitting of the EDU’s between the two meters was in accordance with Lockard’s instructions.

Dudley also emphasized that she does not handle the data entry or sign checks and is not listed on city bank accounts. In her role as finance director she is responsible for auditing city accounts and therefore cannot be allowed direct access to the funds.

At the time the rates were instituted, Dudley played no policy-making role and did not have oversight of the public works department which drafted the formula.

She expressed her opinion that rates should be based on consumption. Mayor Cole has assigned a committee of councilors and Rainier residents to investigate.

That EDU committee, comprised of councilors Bradfield and Sills, and citizens Skip Lahti and Michael Carter, is scheduled to meet Thursday, Nov. 29, at 6 p.m. at the Rainier city hall.

REDCO Payment Made

A payment of $305,000 was made by the city to the Rainier Economic Development Council (REDCO) as part of the a settlement between the city, REDCO and United States Gypsum (USG) to pay off a loan by USG for the purchase of land in west Rainier where the USG plant was built.

In a meeting earlier in the evening, council members acting in their role as REDCO directors made an official request for the funds. The payment from REDCO to USG was also made.

Representatives of Hudson Garbage announced that they had received 1600 recycling carts and would by distributing them to Rainier area residents between Nov. 26 and 29. Pick-up schedules and other program information will be attached to the carts when they are delivered.

A letter of engagement was authorized with Pauly, Rogers and Company to conduct the city’s annual audit at a cost of $5000.

Due to the absence of several councilors, various discussions and committee updates were tabled until later meetings.

New public works foreman Kevin Patrick reported on his assessment of a large number of projects, facilities and infrastructure issues and stated that he planned to provide progress updates on each as they are addressed.

Avent and Butcher who were not reelected in the recent election thanked their supporters and congratulated the victors.

Avent invited Judith Taylor, who will take over his seat on the council in January, to join in the closed executive session after the regular meeting. During that session the council discussed labor negotiations.

REDCO Discusses Future Projects

While awaiting a quorum to open the REDCO meeting, the directors discussed the need to prioritize projects and determine the amount of funds available after payments are made to USG.

Public input from local business owner Jan Moon emphasized the need to have more budget and project information available on REDCO’s website. She and Avent expressed a desire to promote public participation in the forming of project priorities.

Chief Classification Creates Tension for Fire Board

by Adam J. Wehrley

Controversy about overtime pay for the division chief and assistant chief at the Clatskanie Rural Fire Protection District (CRFPD) brought tension to the fire board meeting Wednesday, Nov. 14.

The question was raised about whether the two salaried positions could remain exempt from overtime despite the requirement that they conduct operations rather than solely play supervisory roles when called back for emergencies outside regular work hours.

CRFPD director and retired fire chief Bill Mellinger stated that he believed if the job was 50 percent or more administrative they should be classified as exempt from overtime.

It was pointed out that, because of the district’s small size, CRFPD command officers had long played a dual role and that has traditionally been considered part of “the strength of the organization.”

Division Chief Erick Holsey stated, “BOLI (the Bureau of Labor and Industry) was pretty definitive that if they pull hose, they’re not exempt.” He also said that he had been consulting with an attorney regarding filing a claim for unpaid overtime and that changes to his salary would also result in litigation.

Board chair Robert Keyser stated that he believed the district should contact its attorney, because Holsey had given them notice of legal action.

Director Dave Scott said he did not know how to answer the overtime question, but, “I hate to be threatened.”

Holsey’s current contract as division chief came into effect on Jan. 1, 2009 and his current annual salary is $79,588. The contract language states, “It is recognized and expected that the Division Chief must devote time outside the normal hours of work in performance of his duties.” and among other duties “He shall be in command of fire emergency services, (and) fire emergency management.”

As a comparison with other local administrators who are exempt from overtime, the Clatskanie city manager’s salary is $79,176, the public works director’s salary range is from $60,288 to $76,944, the Clatskanie police chief’s salary range is between $60,288 and $76,944 and the police sergeant’s salary range is $38,868 to $49,584.

Keyser told The Chief that because the division chief position is third in command at the CRFPD, it is arguably equivalent to the police sergeant who makes between $30,000 and $40,000 less per year, is exempt from overtime and is required to live within 20 minutes of the police station.

Keyser recalled that when the position was created as exempt, 20 percent was added to the salary to offset the loss of overtime pay.

His main concern, Keyser said, was that the district always have a command officer available to respond to emergencies and that, “we won’t let the paper work drive what we do.”

He suggested hiring a human resources consultant to work out the classification issues.

Keyser also expressed concern over what he sees as scheduling issues which result in confusion over which of the district’s three chief officers is on call during emergency situations requiring higher levels of decision making.

Board Authorizes Survey

Following the advice of retired Columbia 9-1-1 administrator Sally Jones, given in an earlier presentation, the board voted to hire a polling service to conduct a survey of CRFPD area residents in preparation for an operating levy proposed for the May 2013 election at a cost of up to $5,385.

Mellinger described the survey, which was created by Intercept Research as lengthy, and worried about people finishing it.

Keyser suggested that the CRFPD needed to have its attorney look over the survey to ensure the district could pay for it without violating election laws.

The proposal passed pending advice from legal council.

The board also discussed how to advertise for members of a political action committee (PAC) which will be needed to fund and conduct the levy campaign. It was emphasized that a PAC treasurer was needed immediately.

The district will be preparing an informational fact sheet and proposed budget for levy funds.

Fire Chief Steve Sharek reported on the testing of pumps and gas pipeline training conducted by Portland General Electric.

Holsey reported that a volunteer recruit drive would be started early in 2013 and that he planned to enlist the help of Columbia River Fire and Rescue’s volunteer coordinator, who was hired on a grant stipulating that the position recruit for districts county-wide.

CPBR Diversifies Operations at Port Westward Facility

by Deborah Steele Hazen

As part of the plan for “diversification and optionality” of the Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery (CPBR) at the Port Westward industrial park near Clatskanie, the plant has recently begun the transloading of “light sweet crude” oil.

Earlier this fall, the Port of St. Helens (POSH), which owns Port Westward, approved an amendment to its agreement with Cascade Kelly Holding LLC, the subsidiary of J.H. Kelly which owns CPBR, allowing the company to move commodities other than ethanol, including petroleum products, over the dock.

Port of St. Helens executive director Patrick Trapp noted that the change in the dock agreement brought CPBR “into parity” with Portland General Electric (PGE), the other tenant at Port Westward, which has long had the ability to receive and/or ship petroleum products over the Port Westward dock.

The Beaver generating plant, PGE’s first facility at Port Westward, originally ran on petroleum products rather than the natural gas which is currently used. Since acquiring the ethanol plant, Cascade Kelly Holding LLC purchased PGE’s storage tanks at Port Westward.

Several sources told The Chief that oil arrived at Port Westward via train recently.

Mark Fleischhauer, co-manager of CPBR, issued the following statement to The Chief Tuesday:

“Since taking possession of the Port Westward ethanol plant in 2010, Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery has taken numerous steps to enhance the viability of the facility, including significant capital expenditures to produce valuable co-products, to improve plant efficiencies and to provide terminal and logistical optionality first proposed by the original Cascade Grain developers  but not implemented prior to their bankruptcy.

“We have employed and heavily trained up to 72 full time employees since the spring of 2011, and despite weathering one of the worst Midwest droughts in a generation, we have maintained our focus on making this facility a compelling and profitable asset for Columbia County.

“We are executing our business plan in accordance with all federal, state and local regulations, and we have worked closely with all applicable regulatory authorities, POSH and PGE to ensure we are both good neighbors and good stewards of the Port Westward site.

“To that end, we recently executed an important and strategic agreement for the supply of corn and the off-take of ethanol, DDGS (dry distillers grain with solubles), corn oil and related products.

“To provide optionality to the plant, we have also entered into agreements to transload process bulk liquids such as Midwest ethanol and light sweet crude through our existing facility to ocean-going barges.  These barges, like much of the traffic on the Columbia, are capable of serving both Asian markets and refineries on the US West Coast.

“Our plant was designed and permitted to transload process bulk liquids since it was originally constructed over five years ago, but until recently, the economics for this activity were not favorable. As we have stressed since acquiring this plant, diversification and optionality are key to CPBR’s success, and we are proud to play an important role in furthering U.S. renewable and domestic energy sources – while providing jobs and tax revenue for the community.”

PGE Applies for Extension of Timeline for Proposed Port Westward Plant

Portland General Electric (PGE) has applied to the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE) for an amendment to its site certificate to extend the deadline for completing construction of phase 2 of its Port Westward generating project by two years, from May 8, 2013 to May 8, 2015.

PGE is currently in the midst of an Oregon Public Utilities Commission-driven process of examining proposals to meet its need for flexible power available to go on line quickly when conditions make wind power plants inoperable or during periods of peak demand.

Another natural gas-fired plant at the Port Westward industrial park near Clatskanie, in addition to PGE’s existing Beaver and Port Westward plants, is one of the facilities being considered. The phase 2 plant would be a variable load plant with a combination of reciprocating and combustion turbines totaling  200 megawatts.

Announcement of what facility will be built to meet the need for flexible and peaking resources is expected late this year or early in 2013.

The ODOE is currently receiving public comments on PGE’s request to amend its site certificate to extend the construction timeline for the proposed new Port Westward plant. Comments must be received by 5 p.m. on Dec. 17. They may be sent  in writing by mail, e-mail, hand-delivery or fax to: Chris Green, Applications Analyst,Oregon Department of Energy, 625 Marion St. NE, Salem, OR 97301-3742. E-mail: chris.green@state.or.us. Fax: 503 373-7806.

More information may be obtained by calling 503 378-5050 or on the Internet at http://www.oregon.gov/energy/Siting/Pages/PWG.aspx.

If a new Port Westward generating plant is constructed, under a strategic investment program (SIP) agreement and in exchange for a partial property tax abatement, PGE would make payments to various local taxing districts including the Clatskanie School District, Clatskanie Rural Fire Protection District, Columbia County, the library district, park and recreation district, etc.

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