05 December 2012 by Published in: News No comments yet

Economic Leaders View Local Obstacles and Assets

A CLOSE-UP LOOK at one of the obstacles to economic development in Northwest Oregon was experienced by state leaders during a visit to Rainier Nov. 28.

Representatives of Governor John Kitzhaber’s senior staff and the Regional Solutions Team, along with local government and industrial leaders were having a luncheon meeting inside El Tapatio in Rainier, when a freight train came down the Portland and Western rail line that runs down the middle of Rainier’s A Street.

What to do about increased train traffic through Rainier, and its impact on local businesses was a topic of the meeting, along with the fact that rail availability is essential to economic development in Northwest Oregon – a vital link for the growing Teevin Bros. intermodal terminal at Rainier, which now employs over 100 people, and for current and potential job creators at the Port Westward industrial park near Clatskanie, plus several projects proposed for Clatsop County.

The whistle of the train coming through Rainier blew during the meeting, and several of those in attendance went outside to get a close-up view, including, from left, downtown Rainier businessman and city councilor Sloan Nelson, State Senator Betsy Johnson, Greg Wolf, director of the state’s Office of Intergovernmental/Regional Solutions; Mark Ellsworth, regional coordinator for the  Oregon Coast and Willamette Valley Regional Solutions Centers; Curtis Robinhold, the governor’s chief of staff; Scott Nelson, the governor’s advisor on jobs and economic development, and Jim Irvin of Portland and Western Railroad.

Senator Johnson facilitated arrangements for the meeting after Robert Keyser, president of the Port of St. Helens board of commissioners, wrote to Kitzhaber last May, after the governor had expressed his opposition to coal export proposals at Port Westward and elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

In the letter, Keyser invited Governor Kitzhaber to visit Port Westward, the approximately 1700-acre site near Clatskanie which is owned by the Port of St. Helens, and has “incredible” potential for job creation, but is currently “grossly under-used.”

“Our intent is not to attempt to change your position with regard to coal, but given that position, see how best to move forward,” Keyser wrote to the governor.

While Kitzhaber did not come to see the facilities himself, his top economic advisors did.

In addition to the meeting at Rainier, where the economic leaders heard reports about the development of Teevin Bros. and Foss Martime Rainier facilities, the group also took a bus tour of Port Westward, and heard an approximately hour-long presentation about the facility at Portland General Electric’s meeting room at its Beaver generating facility at Port Westward.

While all of the results of the tour are as yet unknown, Senator Johnson asked Ellsworth to head a committee including representatives from the railroad, Foss Maritime, downtown businesses, the Rainier city council, the Port of St. Helens and others to hammer out a plan to deal with issues involving safety improvements to the railroad tracks through downtown Rainier.

Later that evening, at a Port of St. Helens meeting held at the Clatskanie River Inn, Port commissioner and Rainier city councilor Mike Avent said he intended to convene downtown business owners from both sides of A Street to make sure their various concerns were well-represented on the committee.

During the meeting at Port Westward, Port of St. Helens commissioners and staff, and Clatskanie Mayor Diane Pohl talked to the governor’s representatives about the potentials and the infrastructure issues – such as the need for major improvements to Hermo Road to provide a second entrance to the facility.

“This pre-dates the coal ‘elephant in the room’,” noted Nelson, the governor’s economic development policy advisor.

“This is not the meeting to convince anyone about coal,” said Keyser.

“The infrastructure improvements are for any industry that might locate here,” continued Port of St. Helens executive director Patrick Trapp.

“It isn’t that there aren’t a number of people interested in this site,” said Mayor Pohl. “But there seems to be a narrowing of opportunities that won’t receive a veto. We need help to take those barriers down, rather than put them up.”

“The Port of St. Helens wants to bring jobs here, but we want to do it with the cooperation of the state,” said Keyser.

“The balance for us,” said the governor’s chief of staff Robinhold, “is to work through the development of opportunities without promoting coal.”

“I’m convinced there is a path,” said Nelson.

Chief Photo and Story by Deborah Steele Hazen

Fire District and Chiefs Resolve Overtime Conflict

by Adam J. Wehrley

In a turn-around from the conflicts between board members and command officers regarding overtime pay and scheduling at the Clatskanie Rural Fire Protection District’s (CRFPD) Nov. 14th meeting, both parties presented a mutually-agreed-upon proposal at CRFPD’s Nov. 28th board meeting

Following an executive session to discuss the proposal hashed out at a recent session by representatives from the board, Assistant Chief Erick Holsey, Division Chief Bruce Holsey and the firefighters’ union, the board agreed to a restructuring, in which the two command officers, who have been classified as chiefs, will be reclassified as captains and assigned to 24 hours shifts.

The terms of the agreement are currently in outline form only and are subject to negotiations between the bargaining unit and the district.

It was emphasized by CRFPD board chairman Robert Keyser and others that the changes were made to better serve the citizens of the district and to more accurately reflect the combination of hands-on and administrative work being done by the officers in question.

It was also agreed that letters explaining the changes will be included in their personnel files stating that the reclassifications should not be interpreted as demotions and documenting “the excellent performance of these employees as chiefs,” according to a statement read by Keyser.

Much of the previous meeting’s conflict revolved around technical questions about overtime-exempt employees engaged in non-administrative tasks outside scheduled work hours. As part of the agreement, the two officers in question will rejoin the union and no longer be exempt from overtime pay.

To offset the cost of overtime pay, the officers agreed to a cut in their base pay of approximately 10 percent, with the goal of a zero net change in pay. The agreement states the officers “would be ensured an opportunity to earn enough overtime to earn approximately the same wage they are currently receiving for roughly the same amount of overtime they are currently putting in.”

Keyser’s statement explaining the agreement stated that a session between representatives of the two parties “was very productive and a variety of personnel and staff issues were addressed and different ideas were explored. Working together, the group came up with a framework that addresses many of the concerns of the employees and board members.”

The details of the agreement will be included in labor negotiations prior to the expiration of the firefighters’ contract in June, 2013. Union representative Chris Tompkins participated in the discussion in which the agreement was made.

The scheduling changes will partially answer some of the concerns Keyser has expressed regarding occasional confusion over which command officer is on call and having inadequate around-the-clock staffing, especially to cover multiple calls.

Only two out of three days will be covered by 24-hour command officer shifts and the board agreed that finding funding for an additional officer to cover that shift should become the district’s top priority.

An operating levy proposal planned for the May 2013 election would fund the third command position if passed, but more immediate funding sources are being explored, such as grants and service agreements with industry. These will also be necessary to fund a third command officer position, should the levy fail.

The shift changes will increase command and control officer coverage dramatically. While there will still be times when command and control officers are only available on an on-call basis, there are always firefighter/paramedics on duty. Other ideas for improving coverage of the shifts when no command officer is on active duty include possibly scheduling interns and volunteers to work as additional manpower.

According to the plan, Fire Chief Steve Sharek will keep in touch with third shift paramedics, but otherwise not be required to do on-call duty. On-call duty stipends for the captains are part of an ongoing discussion to cover the third shift.

Keyser’s explanation concluded, “Everyone operated not only in good faith, but with the best interest of the people we serve in mind.”

At the Nov. 28th meeting he added, “I can’t say enough how proud I was to see the employees come to the table.”

Keyser and director Jim Gibson, who had represented the board in the discussion, were assigned to the bargaining team for the contract.

Levy Campaign and Survey Review

The board discussed progress on the campaign for the May operating levy, including a survey of CRFPD residents.

Copies of survey questions proposed by the polling service Intercept Research were reviewed by board members. Director Bill Mellinger repeated his concern that the survey was too long. Director Dave Scott suggested it be cut down to 15 questions.

Keyser asked that the survey be sent to the district’s attorney to determine how much of the $5385 cost could be paid by the district and how much was the responsibility of a political action committee (PAC) which must be formed to handle the campaign. He also stated that he didn’t feel the district had to wait for a ruling to continue the process of consulting with the pollster over the number and types of questions to be asked.

Erick Holsey, who oversees volunteer recruitment, asked that the board suggest questions regarding what barriers residents see to volunteers joining the district as firefighters.

Keyser commented that he believed that this was the type of question that the district should be paying for.

The board also discussed recruiting PAC members and the need to speak with the volunteer association about participating in the campaign.

Billing Code Updates

Sharek reported on a process to update codes in the emergency medical services (EMS) billing program, which is expected to increase the collection of payments.

“I would like to have them do some program clean-up and streamlining.” he stated, referring to an offer from Columbia River Fire and Rescue (CRF&R) which includes a review of the system and recent billings back six months. The review will cost about $3600, with the expectation of recuperating the cost through increased collection of bills. Additional training for CRFPD staff is also included.

Bruce Holsey stated that he would like the department to mimic CRF&R’s billing process. Gibson stated that the updates address concerns raised in auditors’ reports.

Although the upgrades required no board action, there was general agreement expressed.

Medical Services Costs Rise

Bruce Holsey announced that EMS costs were increasing, primarily due to the rising cost of medications. He said that the cost of some of the drugs used in the ambulance had increased 300 percent. Unused medications are replaced regularly as the expiration dates approach.

Coal Opponents Plan to “Flood” DEQ Hearing Here

Groups opposed to the exportation of coal were sending out notices early this week that “hundreds of local Oregonians” were “set to flood a public comment hearing” scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 5, at 6 p.m. at the Clatskanie Middle/High School (CMHS) auditorium.

The meeting, being hosted by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) along with meetings on Tuesday, Dec. 4, in Boardman, and Dec. 6 in Portland, is an information session on Ambre Energy’s Morrow Pacific project.

A media advisory sent out  Tuesday afternoon by the northwest regional press secretary for the Sierra Club stated that a “parking lot rally” at CMHS, 471 BelAir Drive, would begin at 5:30 p.m.

According to a DEQ spokesperson on Tuesday, the agenda for Wednesday’s meeting would include welcome, introductions and information about how to submit written comments from 6 to 6:30 p.m., questions and answers about the project from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., and public testimony from 8:30 to 10 p.m. .

The DEQ is conducting the informational meetings to answer questions and receive comments about DEQ permit applications for Ambre Energy’s Morrow Pacific project, which would see up to 8.8 million tons of coal per year being brought to the Port of Morrow in Boardman in eastern Oregon by train from Wyoming or Montana.

Under the proposal, the coal would be stored in covered storage buildings at the Port of Morrow and would then be loaded onto covered barges which would bring it to the Port of St. Helens-owned dock at the Port Westward industrial park near Clatskanie. There it would be transloaded onto ships and exported to various Pacific Rim countries.

Since the system at Port Westward is fully-enclosed, no DEQ permits are required for the Clatskanie end of the proposed project. DEQ is requiring a series of permits for the Port of Morrow operation.

According to the DEQ, “the estimated air emissions from proposed coal storage and transfer facility at the Port of Morrow are low due to the emission controls the company proposes to use. However, DEQ will require a permit to ensure that the company implements and maintains the proposed emission controls.”

The DEQ is also requiring permits to manage stormwater during and after the construction phase at the Port of Morrow.

The Ambre Energy Morrow Pacific project is one of two coal export facilities that have been proposed for Port Westward. The other, the Kinder Morgan facility, would see coal brought to Port Westward by train.

In addition to the DEQ permit, the Ambre Energy/Morrow Pacific project is also going through a removal/fill permit process with the Ore-gon Department of State Lands, and another permit process with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

A spokesman for the project said that agreements are in place with the building trade councils at the Port of Morrow in regard to the construction of the project.

Ambre Energy also has agreements with the Portland-based Gunderson and Vigor companies to construct 20 enclosed barges for a combined purchase price of over $75 million, if the project receives its permits.

The Dec. 6th DEQ meeting in Portland is set at 6 p.m. at the University of Portland’s Buckley Center Auditorium, 5000 North Willamette Boulevard.

Comments may also be sent by e-mail to fisher.mark@deq.state.or.us.

More information  is available at http://www.deq.state.or.us/news/publicnotices/uploaded/121105_1439_PNAmbreEnergy.pdf.

Christmas Festivities and Events Reach Full Swing

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, with holiday greetings welcoming motorists and decorations displayed around the local communities.

Adding to the festive atmosphere are an array of holiday activities planned throughout December.

Kiwanis Gala this Saturday

The Kiwanis gala will inspire warm thoughts of Christmas with its “A Caribbean Holiday” theme this weekend.

The 13th annual gala and auction presented by Clatskanie Kiwanis will be held Saturday, Dec. 8, at the Clatskanie 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 oral auction.

The event is open to the public. Tickets are $25 and may be purchased at Sterling Bank or from Kiwanis members.

Some of the items to be auctioned include a vacation getaway to Winthrop, Wash. donated by Kynsi Construction, an outdoor bench donated by the Knappa High School wood shop class, 1985 Honda scooter donated by Sporty’s Inc., a Traeger pellet barbecue grill donated by Hazen Hardware and Colvin’s Pub and Grill, a vase donated by Sky Dancer’s Porcelain Art, a painting party for four at Broderick Gallery, a teeth whitening session donated by Tyack Dental Group, Trail Blazer and Winterhawks tickets, jewelry, quilts, handcrafted items, golf packages and a wide variety of gift certificates.

Carolling and Santa at Rainier City Hall

Christmas carols will fill the evening air in front of Rainier city hall on Saturday, Dec. 8, beginning at 5 p.m.

All are welcome to join in the singing plus visit with Santa Claus at the event sponsored by the Rainier Chamber of Commerce.

“Journey to Bethlehem” Event

The Kelso-Longview Seventh-day Adventist Church annual free event, “Journey to Bethlehem” is scheduled this weekend.

Participants are invited to journey back to experienc what life was like 2,000 years ago at the very first Christmas. Guides will escort groups of attendees in an outdoor setting.

Tours are scheduled Thursday-Sunday, Dec. 6-9, from 6-9 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, and 5-9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Doors open each evening one hour before the first “journey” begins. Music by local musicians will be provided for those who are waiting.

The church is located at 1185 Westside Highway in Kelso. Organizers encourage those attending to dress appropriately for the outdoor walk-through experience.

Christmas at The Castle

Tours of The Castle National Historic Site decorated in Christmas splendor are available daily from 1-5 p.m. throughout the holiday season, beginning Saturday, Dec. 8, and continuing through Saturday, Dec. 22.

Cost is $6 per person and children under 10 are free. Children must be accompanied by an adult and are not allowed to run freely, said an event organizer.

For more information call The Castle at 503 728-3608.

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 Castle.

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 flippin@frontier.com.

Turning Point Christmas Giving

Efforts are well underway at Turning Point Community Services Center to provide low-income families in the Clatskanie area with Christmas dinner baskets and gifts.

Tags listing a child’s age and gift request are available at Turning Point, as well as 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.

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

RJSHS Food Drive

Rainier Junior/Senior High School will be conducting a canned food drive Monday-Friday, Dec. 10-14, to collect donations for H.O.P.E., Rainier’s community food bank.

Students seventh through 12th grade are encouraged to bring donations of food or money. The class which collects the most will receive a pizza party.

Rainier Community Toy and Gift Exchange

Donations of toys, books, games and gifts for all ages are being sought for a Christmas toy and gift exchange scheduled on Saturday, Dec. 15, from 9:30-11:30 a.m., at the Church of Jesus Christ Latter-Day Saints, 27410 Parkdale Road in Rainier.

The effort is being organized by Boy Scout Chris Tygret of Rainier for his Eagle scout project. “I am doing this toy/gift exchange to benefit those in need in our community,” said Tygret.

Those who come to the exchange are encouraged to bring canned food items, coats/winter clothing, etc. to swap for Christmas gifts for their families. Gift wrapping and child care will be provided. No one in need will be turned away, noted Tygret.

Donations may be dropped off through Tuesday, Dec. 11, at More Power Computers, 107 1st Street in Rainier, Tygret’s home at 116 West C Street, or various drop-off locations in Rainier. Items should be in new or gently used condition.

Any leftover items will be donated to community charity organizations H.O.P.E. and Turning Point Community Services Center, said Tygret.

Those with questions may contact Tygret at 503 556-2466.

CC Rider Food Drive

Donations of non-perishable food can be made to Columbia County Rider drivers for the Columbia Pacific Food Bank, or may be dropped off at the transit center at 1155 Deer Island Road in St. Helens.

Suggested canned food items are corn, green beans, mixed vegetables, soups, chili, and beans such as lima and great northern. Boxed foods include macaroni, and scalloped and au gratin potatoes.

Clatskanie American Legion/Auxiliary Christmas Dinner

Clatskanie American Legion Louis Larsen Post 68 and American Legion Auxiliary Unit 68 will hold their annual Christmas potluck dinner on Monday, Dec. 10, at 6 p.m.

OET Dinner, Auction

The Columbia County chapter of Oregon Equestrian Trails (OET) has scheduled its annual Christmas dinner and silent auction fundraiser on Tuesday, Dec. 12, at the Moose Family Center, 57317 Old Portland Road in Warren.

The auction will begin at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 7 p.m. Dinner is $15 and by reservation only. Call Rebecca Bliefernich at 503 704-1940.

CES Christmas Programs

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

The program time for morning kindergarten students has been changed to 10 a.m., due to a recent shift in school schedule with class starting 15 minutes earlier, said a CES spokesperson. Afternoon kindergarten students will perform 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 the spokesperson.

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 Community Service Center’s food bank.

Santa Visits Clatskanie

Santa Claus will visit Clatskanie on Saturday, Dec. 15, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the banquet room of Colvin’s Pub and Grill, 123 N. Nehalem Street.

Children are invited to come and tell their Christmas wishes to Santa. Parents are encouraged to bring their cameras.

The event is presented in cooperation with the Clatskanie Chamber of Commerce.

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

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

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

A children’s musical will be presented at Rainier Community Church of God during the Sunday morning service Dec. 16 at 10:30 a.m. On Sunday, Dec. 23, a waffle breakfast will be served at 8:30 a.m., followed by the worship service at 10:30 a.m. A “come and go” candlelight communion is scheduled on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, from 5-7 p.m. at the church, located at 321 West C Street in Rainier.

Birkenfeld Community Church will present a special “Carols by Candlelight” service at the Mist Church on Saturday, Dec. 22, at 6:30 p.m. The chapel is located next to the Mist Cemetery on Highway 47 in Mist.

A family Christmas gathering titled “Night Divine” will be held Sunday, Dec. 23, at 6 p.m., at Rainier Assembly of God Church, 74950 Rockcrest Street in Rainier.

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 United Methodist Church, 290 S. Nehalem Street, will hold a Christmas Eve service Dec. 24 at 5 p.m.

Rainier United Methodist Church’s Christmas Eve service is set at 7 p.m. The church is located at 101 East C Street in Rainier.

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.

Several Weeks Left of Shop Local Promotion

As residents go about their Christmas shopping, the Clatskanie Chamber of Commerce encourages supporting local business with its “Spirit of Christmas” shop locally promotion.

“Spirit” cards are available at participating local businesses. For each $10 spent in a participating business, store personnel will mark a box. Transactions at financial institutions and the Clatskanie People’s Utility District (PUD) are equal to one box.

When all 30 boxes are filled, the completed “Spirit” cards may be turned in at the Clatskanie 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.

PUD Lights Up the Town for the Holidays

CONTINUING A DECADES-LONG TRADITION, the Clatskanie People Utility District (CPUD) hung up the community’s Christmas lights across Nehalem Street and Highway 30 in Clatskanie, Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 3 and 4. They are performing the same service in the city of Rainier. Chief Photo by Adam J. Wehrley

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