by Deborah Steele Hazen
Supporters of the application to rezone 957 acres of land next to the Port Westward industrial park north of Clatskanie took up all the time allotted for public comments at the hearing Sept. 18.
Opponents will be heard next Thursday, Oct. 3, starting at 6:30 p.m. in the Clatskanie Middle/High School (CMHS) auditorium.
Over 300 people attended the Sept. 18th public hearing before the Columbia County board of commissioners which was also held in the CMHS auditorium. Sixty-six persons signed up to speak in support of the Port of St. Helens’ application to rezone from primary agriculture (PA-80) to Rural Industrial-Planned Development, while 72 signed up to speak in opposition.
The meeting began with an explanation of the quasi-judicial hearing process to be followed at the meeting by county counsel Robin McIntyre – first the staff report, then the applicant’s testimony and other testimony in support of the application, then testimony in opposition of the application, and finally the applicant’s rebuttal testimony.
A portion of the process is governed by Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 197.763.
McIntyre explained that since the applicant bears the burden of proof in a rezoning application, that case is made first, along with supporting public testimony, followed by testimony from the opponents.
The order of presentations and testimony was not only announced at the beginning of the meeting by McIntyre, it was also printed in the legal notices published in late August in The Clatskanie Chief, The Chronicle and The South County Spotlight.
However, because county commission chair Heimuller misspoke when he was referring to the order of testimony, several opponents in the audience repeatedly protested when the supporters were allowed to speak first following long presentations by Columbia County planning division manager Glen Higgins and Gary Shepherd, an attorney with the firm of Oregon Land Law, which is representing the Port and the Thompson family, which owns 171 acres of the 957 up for rezoning.
It was approximately 8 p.m. by the time public testimony in support of the proposal began, and Heimuller announced that the hearing would end at 9:30 p.m. and would be continued on Oct. 3 beginning at 6:30 p.m. Each person speaking was allotted a maximum of three minutes, which was strictly enforced.
While all of the 66 persons who had signed up to speak in support of the rezoning did not stay until the end of hearing, between 50 and 60 testified including local residents and business owners, union members, Clatskanie Mayor Diane Pohl, State Representative Brad Witt, Columbia School District Superintendent Lloyd Hartley, reading a resolution passed unanimiously by the school board, representatives of businesses and industries including Greenwood Resources, Foss Maritime, Teevin Bros, Columbia Pacific Bio-Refinery, JH Kelly and Portland & Western Railroad.
Most of the supporting testimony focused on the need for job creation and increasing property tax valuation, the Clatskanie area’s declining population and business district.
Two members of the planning commission, which voted 5-1 at its June 17th meeting to go against the planning staff’s recommendation to grant the rezone “based on the citizen input and overwhelming opposition to this application,” also testified in support of the application.
Linda Hooper said she would give the rezone “conditional support” so long as any future industrial use be required to meet all environmental standards and the public be allowed to be heard regarding specific industrial proposals for the property.
Alta Lynch, the sole planning commissioner who voted in favor of the rezone, said she had been subjected to “harassment and veiled threats” because of her support.
Opponents Go First Oct. 3
McIntyre told The Chief this week that the Oct. 3rd continuation of the hearing will begin with an opportunity for opponents who signed up to speak at the Sept. 18th meeting as well as other opponents who may wish to speak.
It has not been announced at what time the Oct. 3rd continuation will end.
After all of the opponents have had the opportunity to speak for three minutes, a representative of the applicants will then have an opportunity to rebut the opponents’ testimony.
Other supporters may speak only to rebut specific evidence asserted as fact, McIntyre said.
Testimony may also be given to the commissioners in written form sent to: Columbia County Board of Commissioners, Columbia County Courthouse, 230 Strand Street, St. Helens, OR 97051.
by Adam J. Wehrley
Between 25 and 30 Northwest Oregon residents attended a town hall held by Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici in the Clatskanie Middle/High School auditorium on Saturday, Sept. 21.
Clatskanie Mayor Diane Pohl introduced the congresswoman and State Senator Betsy Johnson was also in attendance.
Bonamici noted that during her term in Congress she has served on committees overseeing education in the work force, and science, space and technology.
While the bulk of the meeting involved questions from those in attendance, Bonamici stated her concern over $39 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food stamp program. She opposed the separation of the program from the federal farm bill or the bill which included the cuts.
“Everyone is wondering are we going to shut down government,” she said referring to a Republican bill defunding the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.
The congresswoman expressed her objection to the defunding bill and her doubt that it would pass the Senate, let alone the president.
“It’s (ACA) not going to be repealed and it’s not going to be defunded,” Bonamici said.
She then expressed her hope that a budget continuation bill could be passed to avoid a government shut down.
Several residents ask questions regarding both the ACA and SNAP programs. She emphasized that the purpose of ACA was to expand coverage options, but referred case specific questions to the Cover Oregon program. She called the ACA a free market, competitive marketplace program and pointed out tax credits available to individuals not covered through their employers.
The congresswoman also stated that she was working with other Northwest representatives on legislation to manage federal Oregon and California Revested Grantlands (O&C lands). She opposed the Restoring Healthy Forests for Healthy Communities Act which she stated “has no chance of becoming law, in part because it does not adequately balance economic and environmental priorities.” She did credit the bill for extending payments to O&C counties through the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act and expanded protection for some wilderness areas.
Long-term Clatskanie People’s Utility District (CPUD) board member Merle Gillespei asked about administrative changes and allegations at the Bonneville Power Adminstration (BPA), which he called the engine of the Northwest economy.
Bonamici replied that although she was following the proceedings of the BPA case, she was not on the committee holding the hearing and acknowledged the need to have a “functioning administration” at the BPA.
Paul Langner with Teevin Bros. Land and Timber Co. expressed concern over the use of federal waterway dredging funds for other purposes and stated that his company could add 17 jobs in the Westport area if the Westport Slough was dredged to federally mandated depths.
Patrick Trapp of the Port of St. Helens echoed Langner’s dredging concerns
Bonamici answered, “If these funds are designed for port maintenance that’s where they should go.”
Representatives of the Western Pulp and Paper Workers Union raised concerns over job losses to overseas plants if the United States signs on to the Transpacific Partnership treaty with about 15 other nations.
The congresswoman stated that she had been watching the developing negotiations of the treaty, but was waiting for the terms to be finalized before weighing the possible increase in export possibilities for Northwest companies against the risk of lost jobs.
Dan Jacobson thanked Congresswoman Bonamici on behalf of the Clatsop-Nehalem confederated tribes for interest and help reestablishing them as a federally-recognized tribe. Jacobson gave Bonamici a gift of appreciation.
Regarding rural economic development, Bonamici stressed the need for education, broadband internet access and loans to small businesses.
She said she would be happy to look at where business owners saw barriers to growth.
She also said she was backing several bills aimed at encouraging manufacturing jobs.
The meeting was the first in the series aimed at hearing the concerns of residents throughout Bonamici’s district which includes Columbia, Clatsop, Yamhill, Washington and parts of Multnomah counties.
Cascades Inc. announced plans last week to install a second paper machine at its plant in St. Helens, adding 29 new jobs over the next year.
In an announcement issued Sept. 19 from its headquarters in Quebec, Canada, the company said it would acquire the specialty paper machine previously operated by Boise which is located adjacent to Cascades existing tissue machine.
The paper machine will be reconfigured to produce 55,000 tons of tissue paper per year bringing the total tissue paper capacity of the St. Helens’ site to 120,000 tons annually. Total cost of the project is estimated to be $35 million and start-up is planned for the fourth quarter of 2014.
In commenting on theproject, Suzanne Blanchet, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Cascades Tissue Group, stated “We have targeted the West Coast as an area of growth for us. This machine will manufacture hand towels and napkins for the away-from-home market. The retrofitting of an existing machine will allow us to bring the additional capacity to this market at a reduced capital cost and on a faster timeline than if we were to build a new machine. Moreover, the addition of a second machine will allow us to improve the overall operating efficiency of the St. Helen’s operation as a whole.”
Mario Plourde, President and CEO of Cascades Inc., added “This investment fits perfectly with our stated strategic objective of prioritizing investments in the tissue and packaging sectors. The addition of this machine combined with other ongoing projects will further strengthen Cascades growing position in the North American tissue market.”
The existing labor force being able to operate and maintain the new machinery was a key reason for the decision to locate in St. Helens. This new line is expected to add 29 new jobs over the coming year and help preserve 59 existing jobs at the mill.
State Senator Betsy Johnson said “Since the announcement of the loss of jobs at the paper mill, State Representative Brad Witt and I have been using all the tools at our disposal to save these jobs. We are very happy that Cascades is expanding its operations in St. Helens.”
Robert Blumberg, board president of the Columbia County Economic Team (CCET), added “We are proud of our joint efforts to expand Cascades operations in St. Helens. Business retention and expansion is one of the main goals of the CCET.”
by Special Correspondent
Ernest A. Carman
Everything Fitz, a talented family of folk/traditional fiddlers and step dancers, will usher in the Clatskanie Arts Commission (CAC) 2013-14 performing arts series on Friday, Sept. 27, at 7:30 p.m., at the Donavon Wooley Performing Arts Center, in the Clatskanie Middle/High School auditorium, at 471 SW BelAir Drive.
A student outreach assembly led by Everything Fitz is scheduled at Clatskanie Middle/High School at 2:25 p.m. prior to the evening’s performance.
These championship fiddlers and dancers blend traditional jigs and reels, bluegrass, jazz, East Coast Celtic, gospel as well as novelty numbers and award-winning choreographic step dance routines delighting audiences young and old.
Firmly rooted in Ontario this celebrated Canadian family group, with parents Paddy and Pam, bring excitement to the stage through the high-energy of their thoroughly delightful and talented children Pat, Julie, Kerry and Tom, say CAC spokespersons.
Julie, age 24; Kerry, 23, and Tom, 20, are all champion fiddlers and provide intricate three-part fiddle harmonies as well as solo improvisations on fiddle, mandolin, and guitar. Additional instrumentation is provided by Pat, 25, on percussion, along with their parents providing accompaniment on piano and bass guitar.
These spirited performers are noted for their polished performances and provide wholesome, captivating entertainment for a diverse audience, according to CAC. Performing in theaters, on festival stages, at fairs and exhibitions as well as corporate and fund-raising events, and outreach programs in schools, Everything Fitz has received glowing reviews from promoters, organizers and fans across Canada and the United States.
Tickets, at $15 adults, $12 senior citizens or students, and $8 for children 5 and under, are available at Some Like It Hot coffee and tanning, 401 W Columbia River Highway, in the Evergreen Shopping Center, or at the door a half hour before the show.
For more information about this and other CAC offerings call 503 728-3403 or visit them on the worldwide web at www.clatskaniesrts.org.
Speaking in front of a crowd of supporters and volunteers at the Vernonia School, Representative Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie) announced he will seek a sixth term in the Oregon House of Representatives.
Working as a team with Sen. Betsy Johnson, Rep. Witt helped secure the final $4 million in funding that enabled the Vernonia School construction project to move forward. The original school was devastated by severe floods in 2007 and construction of the new school was completed during the summer of 2012.
Rep. Witt has demonstrated his interest in jobs and education by sponsoring legislation increasing Oregon’s investment in Career and Technical Education Programs. These programs assist school districts throughout the state to revitalize vocational training (i.e. shop classes) for students, providing them with skills they will use throughout their lives.
“As a member of the Oregon House of Representatives, Witt has worked to create sustainable, family-wage jobs for his constituents throughout his district, all while assuring that taxpayer dollars are used for the greatest value,” a press release from Witt’s office stated.
“I have worked tirelessly to support policies that allow us to get people back to work, provide our kids with a world-class education, and lay the ground work for a sustainable economy that will support our families for generations to come,” said Rep. Witt to a group of supporters at the school. “Our work together to provide the funding needed to build this school is a testament to our commitment to the future of our community.”
Rep. Witt closed his remarks by thanking voters for giving him the privilege of representing them in Salem, and asked them to support him again. “We have been hurting for far too long. I am asking you to support my candidacy so we together can realize the incredible potential this area has to support family-wage jobs once again and provide our children with the education they need to fill those jobs when they enter the workforce.”