April, 2013

$500,000 Grant Boosts Clatskanie Cultural Center Project

CLATSKANIE CULTURAL CENTER committee members gathered in front of the old IOOF Hall/theatre building this week to express a big “Thank You” to The Ford Family Foundation Fund of The Oregon Community Foundation for a $500,000 grant. Pictured from left are: Mike Engel, Rich Larsen, Greg Hinkelman, Elsa Wooley, Dee Wooley, Sharry Hilton and Deborah Hazen. Chief Photo by Amanda Gail Moravec

by Adam J. Wehrley

The Clatskanie Foundation announced this week the receipt of a $500,000 grant from The Ford Family Foundation Fund of The Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) that pushes the Clatskanie Cultural Center project to approximately 70 percent of its goal.

The announcement of the grant from The Ford Family Foundation Fund of the OCF came with a $300,000 check, with the remaining $200,000 to be paid when the final goal is reached.

The Clatskanie Cultural Center project development committee, comprised of representatives of the Clatskanie Foundation, the Clatskanie Arts Commission and the City of Clatskanie,  is currently meeting with architects to fine tune the costs.

A $500,000 bequest to the Clatskanie Foundation from the estate of the late C. Keith Birkenfeld, a descendant of Nehalem Valley and early Clatskanie pioneers, was the catalyst for the project.

After learning of the bequest that was targeted for a “bricks and mortar” project, the Clatskanie Foundation set its sights on the old IOOF (Independent Order of Odd Fellows) Hall/theater building, which had fallen into disrepair after being sold into private hands and going through a series of owners.

With the exception of the original maple ballroom floor, most of the interior was gutted over the past two decades, and the dilapidated exterior had become an eyesore in the center of town.

Months of negotiations led to the finalization of the purchase of the building by the Clatskanie Foundation in 2008. The next step was a feasibility and rehabilitation study, the restoration of the historic building’s facade, and the first phase of seismic upgrades finished in 2010.

In the meantime, preparations for a fundraising campaign began, including the envisioning of a restored multi-purpose theater on the groundfloor and ballroom on the second floor, a second floor suite of offices for the City of Clatskanie, and a retail space on the ground floor.

In exchange for long-term use of the suite of offices, the City of Clatskanie has agreed to donate its current city hall building, which will be razed to create a landscaped parking area.

A year ago, the Clatskanie Foundation submitted an application for a $500,000 grant to the C. Keith Birkenfeld Memorial Fund of the Seattle Foundation, and learned in June that grant was successful.

Local Contributions Spur Large Foundation Grants

A local leaders capital campaign was launched last August and to date has raised over $175,500 – including $10,000 grants from the Samuel S. Johnson Foundation and the Portland General Electric Foundation, and a $5,000 grant from the Fred W. Fields Fund of the Oregon Community Foundation.

Also adding to the over $2.1 million raised so far is a $200,700 bequest from Dr. Charles Grayson, and the $225,000 in-kind contribution of property from the City of Clatskanie.

In recent letters of support for the project, State Senator Betsy Johnson called the success of the capital campaign during the past year “a truly remarkable achievement for the Clatskanie community.”

Currently, five grant applications totaling over $900,000 are under review.

“The amazingly generous support we’ve received from the local community has been very influential in persuading outside foundations to invest in this project,” said fundraising chair Deborah Hazen. “With five large grant applications now being considered, the continued growth of our local leaders campaign, will help make this project a reality.”

Those who already have pledge cards for fully tax deductible donations are urged to return them.

Persons or organizations interested in learning more  are encouraged to contact Hazen at 503 728-4129 or e-mail, or contact any of the other campaign council members including: Elsa and Dee Wooley, Kathy and Mike Engel, Diane Pohl, Rich Larsen, Dave Hicks or Phil Hazen.

Exterior Work Planned This Summer

As the fundraising campaign continues with a goal of reaching full funding by the end of this year, plans are underway to complete the exterior repairs this summer, including re-roofing, repairs to the side and back walls, and preparations to begin plumbing and electrical installation in the interior.

Once full-funding is reached, the interior restoration will get underway, with the hope of completion by the end of 2014.

The building originally opened with a big celebration on New Year’s Eve 1926. Project proponents hope to re-open it as a cultural and civic center for the community exactly 88 years later on New Year’s Eve 2014.

Clatskanie School District Introduces Budget Proposal

by Adam J. Wehrley

Interim Clatskanie School District (CSD) Superintendent George Lanning presented a $9,553,978 proposed budget at a meeting of the CSD budget committee Monday, April 22, before a meetingof the CSD board.

Lanning reviewed the roles and limitations of the budget committee, stressing that while it could “discuss and prioritize programs and services,” the committee may not discuss personnel issues, employee contracts, negotiated agreements or determine reductions in force.

In his budget message, Lanning sited Oregon’s depressed economy as a factor contributing to the decline in student enrollment and limited resources. He said that although there is “slow lackluster growth” the long-term forecasts were optimistic.

“It is my responsibility to present a balanced budget for the budget committee’s deliberations and consideration. The budgetary process also allows for citizen input in the preparation of the budget and public discourse of the budget before its formal adoption.

The 2013-14 CSD budget will provide the educational and support services for both Clatskanie Elementary School (CES) and Clatskanie Middle/High School (CMHS) and approximately 725 students projected to attend our schools this next fiscal year,” the message said.

It continued, “ Our district, like most other districts in the state, is faced with making reductions that are not in the best interests of our student and will increase the workload of our caring, dedicated staff… It will probably be the next biennium prior to seeing any additional financial relief. Like every other school district and industry, the current economic crisis is certainly impacting Clatskanie School District. This year’s budget will not reflect what we believe is required to meet the educational needs of all our students, but rather it will be a plan for conserving resources and downsizing to meet the available revenues.”

During his presentation of the message, Lanning interjected, “If I could do anything I would be adding programs not taking them away.”

In order to prioritize programs and services, said Lanning, “We have to analyze the extent in which our programs are aligned with helping all students attain higher academic levels and to close the achievement gap for those that need additional assistance in order to succeed. Tough choices will have to be made based on limited resources. We have to work together to provide the best education possible utilizing data and evidence, not emotion and political pressure in making those decisions.

“It is not in the best interest of students to make across the board reductions. It is important to allocate resources to make a positive difference in teaching and learning rather than negatively impacting all programs. We must continue to focus on the student and doing what is most important – improving the effectiveness of teaching and learning outcomes in every classroom.”

The following budget assumptions were listed as the basis for the CSD budget: the State School Fund will be $6.55 billion for the 2013-2015 biennium, a CSD beginning fund balance of $800,000 for 2013-14, an ending fund balance of $200,000 for 2013-14, no increases in salary and benefits other than contracted step increases and health insurance costs.

The budget also assumes the passage of Senate Bill 822, which limits increases in the costs of the public employees retirement system (PERS) to three percent.Lanning stated that the passage of SB 822 was still in question and its fate would impact CSD funding.

CSD deputy clerk Janice Essenberg, who prepared the budget explained that without Senate intervention in the PERS program, the district could see a seven percent increase in PERS costs. The three percent increase equates to about $128,000.

The budget calls for the elimination of the elementary school principal’s position by combining it with the superintendent position which will result in a one staff member reduction in force. It also calls for cutting one middle/high school position.

An additional half-time kindergarten position will be added to meet a projected increase in students.

Several changes were proposed regarding how staff positions were budgeted, but no others were cut.

State and federal mandates will increase the amount of staff time dedicated to evaluation of staff and students. Changes in grading and food service software are expected to require staff training, which will also impact the budget and time spent on other tasks, as will changes in state testing requirements, which are still pending.

Lanning stated that May 16 will be an important date in the budget process because a key economic forecast is due from the legislature. In the unlikely event of an increase in funding, Lanning suggested either instituting a full-day kindergarten program or increasing the ending fund balance to fund the start of the 2014-15 school year.

A small schools grant will fund both police and fire science programs at CMHS.

The budget assumes a seven percent increase in health insurance costs. Essenberg explained that there had been a detailed examination of the financial impact, which amounts to about $130,000.

Funding of middle school sports was proposed at $19,000 for the year. This includes hiring paid coaches and decreasing athletic fees which had been the only funding source for middle school sports.

Superintendent Search to Conclude Wednesday

Board members have been involved in the search for a superintendent/elementary school principal. A decision is expected to be announced on Thursday, April 25, after final interviews and committee meetings on Wednesday.

The public was invited to meet with the two finalists Wednesday evening, April 24, at 5 p.m. at CMHS. Following the interview process the CSD board was scheduled to meet in executive session to make the decision.

Board member Michael Moravec encouraged the staff to attend the superintendent search interviews and share their input.

Boosters Report

During the regular board meeting that followed the executive session, Cyndi Warren of the CMHS Booster Club was asked to report on funds raised through the Tiger Tournaments youth basketball program. The program raised $21,000 which went into the athletic budget.

Warren also reported that the new scoreboard at the CMHS football field now had the capacity to display track and field results.

Chris Boothe reported on the CHS cheerleading squad’s trip to the national cheerleading tournament in southern California. The squad took third place in their division.

Policy Updates Continue

The board continued with the comprehensive review and updating of district policies on a large variety of topics to bring policies in line with Oregon School Board Association recommendations. These included the deletion of several policies deemed redundant or obsolete.

Renovations of the CES library are nearing completion, with the final bookcases scheduled to be installed by the end of the week. Librarian Connie Sims has scheduled the books to be returned on Friday, April 26, with crews working on the page-by-page examination of the collection Monday, April 29.

An executive session to discuss personnel issues was held after the regular meeting.

Sale of Old PUD Building Authorized; Manager Announces Retirement Date

by Deborah Steele Hazen

A tentative agreement to sell the old Clatskanie People’s Utility District (PUD) headquarters, and general manager Greg Booth’s retirement announcement were the main orders of business at a PUD board meeting April 17.

After discussion in executive session, the board authorized the general manager to sell the old headquarters at the corner of N. Nehalem and NE 5th streets in Clatskanie under the terms of the tentative sales agreement with Community Access Services, the non-profit company that operates group homes and vocational training programs for disabled adults.

The tentative agreement calls for a sale price of $450,000 with one third down, and the PUD carrying the remainder of the debt for a period of 12 years at interest rates ranging from 3.25 to 6.25 percent.

The agreement calls for a public pathway easement of 10 feet alongside the Clatskanie River where the PUD had planted a “power-friendly tree pathway.” The easement will connect the city park property on the east of the old PUD site with N. Nehalem Street on the west.

Booth Announces Retirement

At the end of the April 17th meeting, which was preceded by a work session and executive session, Booth gave the following memorandum to the board.

“Today marks 15 years since I was offered and accepted this position, and it seems appropriate to confirm my intention to retire and resign my position as general manager, effective at the end of next February. At that point I will have served more than 38 years in professional and management positions with Pacific Northwest public power. It will be time to move on to my next assignment.

“I am providing you with this much notice since I think it is important for the board to take the time and effort to recruit the right person for this position, and that allowing for a transition period with me might be very helpful for my replacement, the board and the staff. The timing of my notice will allow you to be able to start recruiting efforts during the annual utility association meetings and potentially have someone here to work with me during the rate review/construction work plan/operating budget cycle late this year.

“It has been an honor to serve in this position, and I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished here. I do hope, working with the board and staff over the next several months, to leave this utility well positioned for its continued success.”

Reports, Comments, Other Business

In other topics discussed at last week’s meeting:

• Eric Hiaasen, the PUD’s director of energy services and resources, reported that the PUD is expecting a rate increase of about 3.8 percent from the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) next fall, rather than the 10 percent that had been announced for some customers by the BPA.

• Booth and Randy Larson, the PUD’s community/government relations coordinator, expressed their support for the rezoning of 957 acres at Port Westward from the current agricultural zoning to rural industrial.

While a letter of support for the zone change has been sent from the PUD, Booth noted that some concerns were also discussed with Port of St. Helens personnel regarding the possible disturbing of the river front. Those concerns are in keeping with the PUD’s participation with Northwest River Partners, an organization promoting clean hydropower while also protecting salmon, the economy and quality of life, Booth and Larson explained.

• During the public comments segment of the meeting, Mike George said he had sent a letter asking that the board address his concerns about the recent decision to raise board members’ “per diem” compensation when they are traveling on PUD business outside of the district, and provide health insurance for the board, “but apparently nothing is going to be discussed.”

• Another PUD customer/owner Milt Klaudt expressed his opinion that it is important for the PUD directors to be well-informed. He told a story about being a project leader for Techtronix and learning how much more effective face-to-face discussions are compared to telephone conferences or e-mails. “I think it’s money extremely well-spent,” he said of the cost of board training, travel and insurance.

• Director Bob Wiggins was named voting delegate for the Northwest Public Power Association annual meeting. Director Merle Gillespie will serve as alternate. Wiggins and Gillespie reported on attending an engineering and operation conference and a Public Power Council meeting.

• Board president Don Hooper remarked on a conversation he had at a recent conference in which it was noted that the Mason County  PUD No. 3 in Washington had built a $34.9 million facility. That PUD has annual revenues of about $47 million, compared to the Clatskanie PUD’s over $50 million. The new Clatskanie PUD facility cost $10 million, including the land.

• The board declared surplus numerous obsolete and/or discontinued line construction equipment and supplies; miscellaneous tools, parts and equipment, and various office furniture components and miscellaneous office items. A silent auction will be scheduled and announced. The resolution also allows the PUD to donate the surplus equipment to another public agency or recognized non-profit entity.

Sen. Johnson Hurt in Car Collision; Surgery Scheduled

State Senator Betsy Johnson, who represents Columbia, Clatsop and portions of Multnomah, Washington and Tillamook counties, was injured Monday morning during a traffic accident in Scappoose.

Sen. Johnson was scheduled to undergo surgery for a fractured pelvis at Oregon Health Science University in Portland Wednesday.

She was injured in what is described as a “low-impact collision” between her Chevrolet Trail Blazer and an Audi not far from her home in Scappoose on her way to the state legislature.

Currently, there is no estimate regarding when she will be able to return to her State Senate duties.

According to her Facebook page, “Senator Johnson appreciates all the messages and e-mails you have sent regarding her accident. She respectfully requests that, for now, you hold off on sending flowers, since ethics rules require her to report any gift over $50. While most will not spend this amount, it would put her in the position of having to evaluate whether or not the flowers value exceeded $50, and since there are typically no price tags on the flowers, this would be a nearly impossible task.”

Updates about the senator’s condition will be posted at

Boy Dies One Week After Fatal Wreck

Succumbing to his injuries a week after the fatal car wreck that took the life of his father, eight-year-old Noah Waite-Brown, of Longview, died early Sunday afternoon, April 21, at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland.

Noah and his father, Lucas Brown, were transported via Life Flight helicopter to Legacy following the head-on Highway 30 crash, which took place at approximately 5:36 p.m. on Sunday, April 14, on Bradley Hill, west of Wauna. Lucas Brown was declared dead that evening.

Five others were injured in the wreck, including Noah’s seven-year-old brother Kane Brown who has since been released from the hospital.

Four passengers in the Mini Cooper struck by Brown, when his 1998 Volkswagon Jetta crossed the center line, were also injured. The driver, Kimberly Sultan of Astoria, had earlier been listed in critical condition at Legacy Emanuel, but was listed in fair condition as of Monday.

Sultan’s passengers, Ivan Sultan, 44; Keanu Sultan, 16, and Emily Lloyd, 22 months, were treated and released for minor injuries at Columbia Memorial Hospital in Astoria.

Oregon State Police report that according to witness statements Brown had been speeding recklessly shortly before the crash. Results of toxicology tests are pending.

Local Officials Greet Congresswoman

LOCAL ELECTED OFFICIALS Clatskanie Mayor Diane Pohl and Columbia County Commissioner Earl Fisher met with U.S. Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici at a town hall meeting in Columbia City Sunday afternoon. Photo Courtesy of Randy Larson/ Clatskanie People’s Utility District

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