“THE BIGGEST FIREWORKS ON THE COLUMBIA” was the literal highlight of the annual Rainier Days in the Park celebration last weekend. See the pictures and captions on page 10 for more information on the festivities. Photo Courtesy of Fred Schondebare
The 98th annual Columbia County Fair, with the theme “Wagon Teams to Western Dreams,” opened Wednesday, July 17, and will run through Sunday, July 21, at the fairgrounds near St. Helens.
In addition to 4-H and open class shows, the fair schedule (see the insert inside this newspaper) includes live entertainment, special events such as the “My Fair Lady Pageant,” which was set for Wednesday at 1 p.m., and National Professional Rodeo Association (NPRA) rodeos on Friday and Saturday nights, and a carnival.
Representing Clatskanie and Rainier on the senior citizen “My Fair Lady” court were Delores Mellinger and Joanne Bernard, respectively. Ann Mitchell, Vernonia, Marian Smith, St. Helens, and Lesle Ruby, Scappoose, were the other court members.
Wednesday was senior citizens and veterans day at the fair.
Thursday, July 18, is “Kids Day” with special events and entertainment for the younger set.
Along with the 4-H and open competitions, entertainment and carnival, the NPRA rodeos will be featured on Friday and Saturday.
The fair will close at 5 p.m. on Sunday, July 22. Among the features on the last day will be a wrestling exhibition by Pete Ford, and $15 passes for the carnival.
Day passes at the gate are $6 for youth, $9 for adults, $6 for seniors. Season passes for all 5 days are $15 for youth (ages 7-17), $30 for adults, and $15 for seniors (age 60 and up. Parking passes are $4 per day or $16 for the run of the fair. Carnival passes are $31 for every day but Sunday.
City Hears Jail Woes, Discusses Cultural Center
by Adam J. Wehrley
A presentation by Columbia County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson regarding projected budget shortfalls which threaten the continued operation of the county jail, and a lengthy discussion of the city’s role in the renovation of the building slated to become the Clatskanie Cultural Center highlighted a meeting of the Clatskanie City Council, Wednesday, July 10.
“We are not giving up… we are going to do the best we can with the resources we have,” said Sheriff Dickerson, who stated that if reductions to the budget continue at the current rate the jail would be forced to close.
He explained that a reduction in county funds would cause the jail to not be able to hold local inmates. This would raise the cost associated with renting space for federal inmates and trigger a closure.
The county jail’s total capacity is 235 prisoners, but budget constraints have reduced the actual population to less than 150 prisoners.
Sheriff Dickerson announced that as of July 1 the jail would only hold 25 local inmates while reserving 85 beds for federally-funded prisoners. Federal agencies pay $94 per night to house prisoners at the county jail, making up a large portion of the budget.
The jail population was 115 inmates as of July 15.
The sheriff stated that county commissioners were considering a $.58 per $1000 of assessed value property tax levy, which would fund the jail to house 100 local inmates.
Clatskanie Cultural Center Discussion
The council discussed the city’s role in the Clatskanie Cultural Center project in which the city offices will be located in the building adjacent to city hall which was the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) hall and the Avalon Theatre.
The building is owned and being renovated by the volunteer-run Clatskanie Foundation for an estimated $3.3 million. Due to an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) ruling which ended the sale of tax credits for nonprofit buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the foundation lost an estimated $374,000 in planned funding.
So far the foundation has raised over $2.6 million with another large grant application in progress.
The grants received to date have been granted for the theater, ballroom and retail space which will help support the non-profit functions of the building.
The foundation has proposed that the city take primary financial responsibility for the demolition of the current city hall building and enlargement of the parking lot if the foundation’s on-going fundraising efforts fall short.
City manager Greg Hinkelman led much of the discussion and said that the foundation was asking the city to pay for the demolition and possibly pay for the finish work on the offices the city will have in the building, which he described as changes to the memorandum of understand (MOU), (see MOU wording below).
The foundation has never formally requested that the city pay for the finishing of its office space.
A foundation spokesperson emphasized that the foundation is continuing to attempt to raise funds to cover the total cost of the project including the city hall demolition and the construction of city offices, but a guarantee in the form of a revised MOU with the city would be helpful in the fundraising process.
Current plans call for the city to occupy an over 2600 square foot suite of offices on the second story for 20 years free of rent in exchange for the property where city hall in now located, and providing water and sewer service to the nonprofit portion of the building.
The cost of the demolition and parking lot construction is currently budgeted at $175,000. Foundation board member Mike Engel and city public works director Ray DiPasquale agreed that the estimate was high and would be considerably less if contracted through the foundation rather than through the city which is required to meet government bidding and prevailing wage regulations.
To do so the property would have to be deeded to the foundation prior to demolition.
Councilor Steve Constans asked how important the city’s participation was to the viability of the project. The need for additional parking, the contribution of the value of the city hall as local match funds, and the public access compliance issues and mold in city hall were all cited as motivations for the city’s continued participation.
Councilor Travis Zea said that the city would need hard numbers on demolition costs and other costs before making a decision.
Hinkleman expressed frustration over changes in the scope of the project and the city’s role. He specifically cited changes to the theatre and the addition of a separate city meeting/court chambers.
Mayor Diane Pohl stated that some of those changes had been the city’s suggestions or worked to the city’s advantage.
Based on a suggestion from the city last January the project design group, comprised of both foundation and city representatives, agreed to have the architects change the plans to enlarge the city’s portion of the building to create a separate council chambers/courtroom. The original plans called for the city to use either the theater or ballroom space for meetings. The change also allowed for increased seating in the theater.
Mayor Pohl also emphasized the role the IRS ruling played in the foundation’s request saying, “had the tax credit issue not happened we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
Zea and several other councilors asked about the possibility of extending the city’s rent free period to 30 years in exchange for the increased costs.
DiPasquale was concerned that if the building changed hands the city would have no choice but to remain a tenant in offices it did not control. City attorney John Salisbury confirmed that the lease agreement would remain intact and the city could compel any owner to uphold it.
The city had several questions for the foundation, which councilors felt needed answered before the city could proceed.
MOU Between City and Foundation
The MOU approved by the council last November and signed by Hinkelman and Clatskanie Foundation president Rich Larsen, reads as follows:
‘WHEREAS, the purpose of this MOU is to establish mutually agreed upon intentions regarding the City and its existing City Hall building and the future anticipated relocation of the operation of the City Hall to the Foundation’s historic IOOF hall.
“WHEREAS, the intentions of the City and the Foundation in regard to the IOOF hall project are memorialized as follows:
“1. The City will relocate City Hall operations from its existing building to the second floor of the IOOF hall after the IOOF restoration project is complete.
“2. The existing City Hall building will be transferred to the Foundation. It is understood by both parties that the Foundation intends to raze the existing City Hall and use the vacated space for parking.
“3. In lieu of a cash payment for the existing city hall building, the Foundation intends to rent the proposed city hall space in the IOOF hall to the City for 20 years, rent free.
“4. The City intends to provide water and sewer service to the IOOF hall (excluding the designated retail space) for 20 years.
“5. This MOU is strictly a recitation of current intentions and is not contractually binding upon either party hereto.”
Software and Police Car Purchases
The city approved a lease-purchase agreement for a 2014 Dodge Charger police car to replace the city’s K9 unit.
Despite reservations over the cost, the city also approved up to $21,620 for utility billing and payroll software provided by Springbrook Software. The agreement includes staff training. It was explained that although the city’s 12-year-old software is functioning and still supported, the operating system it runs on is outdated and no longer supported.
Hinkelman updated the council on a pending sexual abuse lawsuit which could potentially involve the Clatskanie Police Department (CPD) as a defendant in a second suit. After reviewing the documents Hinkelman believes the department acted in a timely and appropriate manner.
The investigation was turned over to the Oregon State Police because the victim was a relative of a former CPD officer and Chief Marvin Hoover felt that could interfere with the investigation.
Hinkelman also discussed the clean up and business restructuring of commercial property within the city which has been operating in violation of city zoning regulations. Changes at the site are ongoing.
DiPasquale reported that the city was cleaning the dam at the West Creek Reservoir and was currently getting water from Roaring Creek, which has a higher algae content.
He also reported on negotiations to purchase headworks for the water treatment plant. The five-year-old equipment could save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars over purchasing new equipment.
The council unanimously approved up to $50,000 for the equipment and preliminary engineering costs.
Mayor Pohl stated that she had testified at a Department of Enviromental Quality hearing in favor of the Ambre Energy coal transloading project. She said there was a more even split between pro and con testimonies than at other hearings and that some of the testimony in favor was very strong.
“I was encouraged.” she concluded. She also reported that Gunderson Marine in Portland would employ 300 people in the construction of barges and train cars for the project, which would ship coal by train from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming to Hermiston and then by barge to Port Westward.
Pohl emphasized that these would be high-paying family-wage jobs.
The Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery at the Port Westward industrial park near Clatskanie has applied to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a permit to make modifications and additions to the existing dock along the Columbia River.
The purpose of the proposed project, according to the public notice from the Corps, “is to repair and upgrade the existing dock to accommodate Panamax-class vessels, as well as other commercial vessels, for the shipping of liquid commodities.”
The existing 1200-foot-long dock was built during World War II for the shipment of ammunition to the Pacific Theatre.
Since last November, the Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery has been shipping “light sweet crude” from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to Port Westward by train and transloading it onto ocean-going barges for shipment to West Coast oil refineries.
The proposed improvements to the dock would include the installation of four breasting dolphins, three mooring dolphins, and a piling-supported pipe rack, all with associated catwalks; temporarily removing the trash boom and upstream approach of the dock for barge access, and replacing other creosote-treated structurally-inadequate pilings with steel piles.
Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery, now owned by Global Partners LP, is proposing a compensatory mitigation plan for the removal of 600 linear feet of the old rail trestle that runs along shallow water habitat.
However, if a permit is issued, the Corps will determine what is “an appropriate and practicable compensatory mitigation” that would be “commensurate with the anticipated impacts of the project,” according to the Corps’ notice.
The permit will be issued or denied under Section 10, Rivers and Harbors Act 1899, for work in or affecting navigable water of the United States.
“The decision whether to issue a permit will be based on an evaluation of the probable impact including cumulative impacts of the described activity on the public interest,” according to the Corps. “That decision will reflect the national concern for both protection and utilization of important resources. The benefit, which reasonably may be expected to accrue from the described activity, must be balanced against its reasonably foreseeable detriments. All factors, which may be relevant to the described activity will be considered including the cumulative effects thereof; among those are conservation, economics, aesthetics, general environmental concerns, wetlands, historic properties, fish and wildlife values, flood hazards, floodplain values, land use, navigation, shoreline erosion and accretion, recreation, water supply and conservation, water quality, energy needs, safety, food and fiber production, mineral needs, consideration of property ownership and, in general, the needs and welfare of the people.”
The Corps is soliciting comments from the public; federal, state and local agencies and officials; Indian tribes, and other interested parties.
Comments are due by Aug. 13 and may be mailed to: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Steve Gagnon, P.O. Box 2946, Portland, OR 97208-2946, or by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The comments should the Corps project number: NWP-2007-998.
School Board Meets with New Superintendent
The Clatskanie School District board of directors will meet with new Superintendent Lloyd Hartley on Saturday, July 20, during an all-day work session.
The meeting is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Clatskanie Middle/High School (CMHS) room 107.
On the agenda is an operating agreement with the new superintendent; a review of the book “District Leadership That Works,” review of the district’s vision and mission statements, and the review and development of strategic goals.
On Monday, July 22, the school board will hold its annual organizational meeting at 6:30 p.m. in room 107 at CMHS.
Agenda items include the designation of various officers and agents of record, adoption of district goals, public comments, board member comments, and building administrator reports.
Both the work session and the regular meeting are open to the public.
19th Annual Community-Wide Garage Sale to be Held July 27
Clatskanie’s 19th Annual Community-Wide Garage Sale is set for Saturday, July 27, from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., and all Clatskanie area households interested in participating are asked to submit their registrations no later than 12 noon on Tuesday, July 23.
Sponsored by the Clatskanie Chamber of Commerce, the event encourages all to hold garage-porch-yard-etc. sales on the same day, thus drawing many bargain shoppers to the area.
Cost for participation is $10 and the Chamber in cooperation with The Clatskanie Chief, takes care of advertising, maps, etc. Ads will be run in The Daily News and The Daily Astorian in addition to The Chief, and maps noting the address of each sale will be distributed on Friday, July 26, from the Chamber office at Windermere/St. Helens Real Estate, Carla’s Closet and Flowers ‘N Fluff.
Interested persons should fill out the registration below (click on image, then print) and mail it with a check for $10 made out to “Clatskanie Chamber of Commerce” to: Community-Wide Garage Sale, c/o The Clatskanie Chief, P.O. Box 8, Clatskanie, OR 97016, or bring it to The Chief at: 148 N. Nehalem Street.