AFTER OVER SEVEN YEARS OF PLANNING AND FUNDRAISING, work is underway to reconstruct and restore the interior of the old Clatskanie I.O.O.F. Hall/theater building into the Clatskanie Cultural Center. Kynsi Construction of Clatskanie was at work this week smoothing and sloping what will be the floor of the 170-seat Birkenfeld Theatre and lobby.
The building is owned by the Clatskanie Foundation, a non-profit organization founded in 1998 to promote economic development and enhance the quality of life in the Clatskanie area. The late C. Keith Birkenfeld, a descendent of Nehalem Valley and Clatskanie pioneers who died in September of 2005, willed the Foundation $500,000 to be used for a “bricks and mortar” project. After the Foundation purchased the building in 2008 and accomplished the restoration of its facade in 2010, the Foundation received another $500,000 from the C. Keith Birkenfeld Memorial Trust at the Seattle Foundation to continue the interior restoration.
Since then, the Foundation has raised over $2 million more, including a $500,000 grant from The Ford Family Foundation, $295,000 from the Meyer Memorial Trust, $250,000 from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, a $200,700 bequest from the late Dr. Charles Grayson, $90,000 from The Collins Foundation, $30,000 from the Oregon Community Foundation, $30,000 from the Miller Foundation, $10,000 from the Samuel S. Johnson Foundation, $10,000 from the Portland General Electric Foundation, $5,000 from the Schnitzer Care Foundation, and approximately $200,000 in large and small contributions from local industries, businesses, organizations and individuals.
Partnering with the Foundation is the City of Clatskanie, which will – upon completion of the interior restoration – move into a suite of offices on the second floor, accessible by both stairs and an elevator from the lobby. Also on the second floor will be 2300-square foot ballroom for community use – dance and exercise classes, dances, anniversaries, wedding receptions, etc.
The theater will be multi-purpose, available for film festivals, live performances, community theater, weddings, lectures, recitals, etc.
The north side of the ground floor will be occupied by a 1,000 square foot retail space as well as offices for the Clatskanie Foundation and the Clatskanie Arts Commission, which will use the theatre for some of its performances and assist in additional programming.
Those interested in becoming a part of the project to restore the historic I.O.O.F. Hall/theatre building into a cultural and civic center for the entire community may make tax-exempt contributions to the Clatskanie Foundation, Clatskanie Cultural Center Project, P.O. Box 243, Clatskanie, OR 97016. For more information contact fundraising chair Deborah Hazen at 503 728-4129 or email email@example.com. Chief Photo by Amanda Gail Moravec
by Deborah Steele Hazen
The Clatskanie People’s Utility District (PUD) board of directors authorized the issuance of two sets of revenue bonds at its meeting Feb. 19, but exactly how much those bonds will ultimately total is pending further analysis.
The board approved the issuance of up to $12 million in bonds for the Western Generation Agency (WGA), which is the intergovernmental entity formed in 1993 by the PUD and the Eugene Water & Electric Board (EWEB), to construct and operate the co-generation facility at the Wauna Mill, in partnership with the mill’s owner Georgia-Pacific.
The power generated at the steam-driven plant is sold to the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) and the PUD’s share of the proceeds have been used to provide “co-generation benefits” of $.002 per kilowatt hour on customers’ bills. The current co-generation benefit expires April 1.
Last August the co-generation plant was damaged by a steam hammer event. The needed repairs cost an estimated $2.1 million, plus the district lost about $4.1 million in revenues from the generator not operating again until late January. If it’s operational 12 months per year, it brings in approximately $10 million in gross revenue.
According to Eric Hiaasen, the PUD’s director of energy resources and services, and Debbie Throop, director of finance and administration, it is expected that approximately $5.4 million will be recovered through insurance.
In the meantime, a payment of about $1 million on the outstanding debt and other obligations related to the co-generation plant is due. $70 million in revenue bonds were issued in 1994 to build the plant. In 2006, $45,565,000 was refinanced, including $11 million to pay off the loan from EWEB that was part of the debt security. Approximately $30,955,000 debt on the co-generation project remains.
The exact amount of the bonds to be issued for the WGA will be determined in the next 60 days, according to Throop and Hiaasen, as the exact amounts of the co-generation plant repairs, the lost revenues, the current bond payment, and the insurance reimbursement are learned.
The bonds, characterized as a “bridge loan” by the PUD administration will be repaid, “as soon as we get the insurance payment,” Throop said.
Other than the loss of the co-generation benefit which is deducted from their bills, PUD customers will not have their rates impacted by the bond issuance for the WGA, Throop said. The co-generation benefit will probably not return until mid-2015 “at the earliest,” as the WGA financial picture recovers from the unexpected five-month shutdown.
Rate Increase Expected
Clatskanie PUD customers are likely to see a “single digit” rate increase related to the revenue bond issuance approved by the board including $6 million to repay the outstanding principal on a $8,500,000 revolving credit line, and more funds for capital projects.
However, new General Manager Marc Farmer emphasized, the PUD would be facing a rate increase even without the capital projects because payment is due on the line of credit, reserve funds have been depleted, a poor water year is resulting in less wholesale power to sell, and the prices paid for wholesale power have trended downward.
The district took out the credit line in 2011 to help finance capital projects, including partially funding the new headquarters facilities (the majority of the $14 million cost was covered by cash reserves), and $2 million towards the recently completed phase 1 of the new Wauna transmission line, as well as other capital projects.
Additionally, the Clatskanie PUD is planning to issue revenue bonds in an as yet undetermined amount – not to exceed $14 million – to finance various capital improvement projects.
Farmer, along with the PUD’s managerial staff and the board, are preparing a five-year capital improvement project plan, and conducting cost/benefit analyses on the continuance of the Wauna transmission line – phase 2 is pegged at $1.5 million and phase 3 at $2.6 million for a total of $4.1 million; Wauna substation improvements including the purchase and installation of a new transformer are estimated at $5.5 million.
Also under consideration is an automated meter reading system at a total cost of $1,750,000, which Farmer says will not only save labor costs, but enable customers to better regulate their usage.
The exact amount of the bond issuance will be determined after the board and staff receive the cost benefit analyses on the capital project proposals over the next 30 days.
Also figuring into the PUD’s financial picture is the low water year which is projected to decrease the PUD’s net income by an estimated $600,000, primarily due to reduced surplus power sales.
Currently, the PUD’s reserve funds are at $3 million. “We try to keep that at about $6 million,” Throop explained to cover the cost of power purchases, while the payments are coming in.
The PUD sells roughly $50 million of power per year. In 2013, approximately 70 percent of the district’s retail revenues were from the Wauna Mill and 17 percent were from the Halsey Mill – a combined 87 percent of retail revenues from those two Georgia-Pacific mills.
Also part of the PUD’s financial picture are the repayments it is receiving at the rate of $55,000 per month for electrical facilities installed in the ethanol plant, now owned by Global Partners. That balance owed to the PUD remains over $2 million. The district also has a contract to purchase the output of the Arrowrock Dam hydroelectric plant in Idaho.
The repayment of the bonds will require a rate increase, Farmer said in an interview with The Chief Monday. Exactly how much that would be will depend on the exact amount of the bond issuance, but “we’re talking about a catch-up rate increase in the single digits.”
While the PUD has adjusted rates upward as a direct result of BPA rate hikes in the last few years, because of “a series of very fortuitous wholesale markets” that have allowed the district to sell surplus power to offset costs to its customers, the district has not had a cost of living increase since 2003, Farmer, Throop and Hiaasen said.
It was emphasized that the bond issuance is not a tax, but will be repaid through electrical rates.
The PUD board has the authority to issue the bonds without a vote of the people, but citizens of the district could force an election under Oregon Revised Statutes 255.165, by collecting signatures from approximately 10 percent of the registered voters of the Clatskanie PUD within 30 days of the action by the PUD board on Feb. 19.
Next meeting of the Clatskanie PUD board of directors is set for March 19.
Tree Trimming Contract, Surplus Truck
In other action items at the Feb. 19th meeting of the Clatskanie PUD board:
Sitting as a contract review board, the PUD directors awarded a three year contract for electric line vegetation management to Asplundh Tree Expert, the current holder of the contract.
There is no specific amount for the total services, Asplundh’s proposal stated the hourly, per mile and equipment costs the PUD will be charged for work done on the system.
The only other responder to the request for proposals was Wright Tree service.
Asplundh provided the lowest evaluated cost, according to a report from operations support supervisor Cary Gray.
A 1992 Ford Digger/Derrick truck was declared as surplus equipment and the general manager was authorized to sell or otherwise dispose of it.
Board chair Don Hooper suggested the truck be listed on an Internet auction site.
by Adam J. Wehrley
The decision to rezone 837 acres of land at Port Westward north of Clatskanie is being appealed to the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) by the Columbia Riverkeepers and Seely Family Farms.
On Jan. 29 the Columbia County board of commissioners finalized its unanimous Nov. 13th decision to approve the Port of St. Helen’s request to rezone 786 acres, but only partially approved a request to rezone 171 acres of adjacent private property laying outside the diked land. The commissioners rezoned 51 acres of the private land closest to the existing Port Westward docks, but denied the rezone of 120 acres.
Riverkeepers and Seely Farms filed their intention to appeal on Feb 18.
While opponents of the rezone have repeatedly tied the zone change to the coal industry, the Port of St. Helens purchased the property in 2010, before being approached by coal exporters and announced its intention to seek rezoning at that time.
Current port and county commissioners have stated that coal export projects will not be considered for the portion of Port Westward being rezoned and the rail-based coal project proposed for a portion of that land was withdrawn last year.
The port continues its mission of attracting large employers to the area.
The county has 21 days to submit its records of the rezoning proceedings to LUBA, with subsequent steps dependent on a variety of circumstances.
Once rezoning is finalized, the land will be open to potential industrial users, any of which will require project specific permitting.
by Adam J. Wehrley
At the urging of citizens and various local governing bodies, the Columbia County board of commissioners voted Wednesday, Feb. 19, to place a $0.5797/$1000 of assessed value jail operating levy on May 20th ballot.
The duration of the levy will be three years and is estimated to raise between $2.287 million and $2.426 million annually, funding the housing of 100 local inmates.
The county’s first attempt to pass a jail operating levy failed in November.
In a series of town-hall meetings in January County Sheriff Jeff Dickerson announced that without additional funding the jail will close by June 30.
The probability of on operating levy was discussed 16 years ago when the jail was planned and subsequently built. For 13 years, since opening in 2001, the jail has been funded through a combination of county general fund dollars and bed rentals to outside agencies.
With the decrease in timber revenues and stagnation of the economy, the unrestricted county general fund has been cut from $11.7 to $8.7 since 2011 while personnel costs, including the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS), continue to rise.
by Adam J. Wehrley
Causing the loss of 85,000 gallons of water over two days, a water leak at the Rainier School District (RSD) campus closed school Wednesday and Thursday (Feb. 19-20).
The loss of 60,000 gallons was discovered early Wednesday and RSD personnel closed the campus and searched for the leak.
To recharge the lines 15,000 gallons of water were hauled in by truck. The leak was then found near the cafeteria entrance of Rainier High School, where water was gushing up through the asphalt according to RSD Superintendent Michael Carter.
With the help of city public works personnel, RSD crews worked until around 11 p.m. Wednesday then returned in the morning and finished the repairs around 11 a.m. Thursday. An additional 10,000 gallons of water was lost through the process.
Dr. Carter thanked the city for their assistance and RSD cafeteria staff for providing meals to the workers.
With water service restored students returned to campus Friday.
Carter reported that with the large number of weather related school closures already this year, the additional loss of days may extend the school year past June 20, but that decision would be made by the school board after discussions with the teachers’ union.
He also noted that the city was not charging the district for the water and with the help of public works crews the cost of the incident was only about $5000, the price of hauling the water.
Dr. Carter said, “It was good to see taxpayer money really used efficiently. We have always had a reciprocal relationship with the city and it worked out.” He commented how the city’s expertise benefitted the district and that together the crews were able to use RSD equipment to make the repairs and avoid the expense of hiring outside contractors to do the emergency work.
by Deborah Steele Hazen
The resignations of two school board members, opening up enrollment to students from outside the district, and reports on various topics kept the three remaining members of the Clatskanie School District board of directors busy at their regular meeting Monday, Feb. 24.
Superintendent Lloyd Hartley read letters of resignation from school board chair Michael Moravec, who resigned due to personal health issues, and Erick Holsey, who resigned because of changes in his work requirements with the Clatskanie Rural Fire Protection District.
Vice chair Megan Evenson has now assumed the chairmanship of the school board, and along with directors Monty Akin and Valerie King, is encouraging persons interested in serving out the two vacant terms to contact Beth Gregg, administrative assistant to the superintendent, at 503 728-0587, ext. 2003, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or stop by the district office located at Clatskanie Elementary School.
Those appointed to the vacancies would serve through June of 2015, and could then run for another term.
Evenson, Akin and King all expressed their gratitude for the service of Moravec and Holsey.
Continuing a discussion begun at earlier meetings, the board members agreed that allowing students who live outside the school district boundaries, but wish to attend school in Clatskanie, is in the best interest of the students.
Dr. Hartley said that, in meetings with other superintendents in the county, all have agreed that this is the best policy.
Currently, 20 students living outside the district, now attend the Clatskanie School District. Under a motion passed Monday by the school board, those students may all continue to go to school in Clatskanie as well as up to 20 others.
Teacher Renewals, Resignations
As part of the consent agenda, the board accepted the resignations of Linda Anderson, the district’s English language learner (ELL) teacher and Kirstin Sadiq, a seventh through 12th grade special education teacher.
The district is looking to fill Sadiq’s position as soon as possible. The ELL responsibilities will be filled by other district personnel who are certified to do so.
At Hartley’s recommendation, the board renewed the contracts of all the district’s teachers.
Snow Day Makeup
Despite the loss of several days because of inclement weather, Dr. Hartley reported that Clatskanie Middle/High School had enough days in its regular schedule so as to not require make-up days.
Clatskanie Elementary School requires only a change in the teachers working schedule during conference week in mid-April.
Growing Healthy Kids
Liana Harden, of Oregon State University Extension Service, told the school board about the program now underway at Clatskanie Elementary School to research childhood obesity, and find ways to improve access to healthy foods and activities in the schools, for families and the community.
Harden said that a BMI (body mass index) of CES students had revealed that “there is indeed a prevalence of childhood obesity in Clatskanie. Of the students tested, with permission of their parents, 37 percent were found to be overweight, and 19 percent obese.
Pedometers were also placed on students to measure their physical activity.
“We found a sharp drop-off in physical activity around third grade, and there is a direct correlation with obesity.”
Harden is now working with CES staff to find ways to incorporate physical activity in the school day,
Working under a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture, Harden is funded through 2016 to work with staff, volunteers and students on various projects including replanting the school garden between the Cardiff and East wings at CES. She is also helping to incorporate more fresh local produce into the school menu.
At CMHS, staff members are working with Harden to develop an interpretational trail around the campus. Several CMHS students have volunteered as mentors for CES students, talking about nutrition and offering tastings of healthy foods.
Families and individuals interested in becoming more involved in the Growing Healthy Kids program are encouraged to call CES at 503 728-2191.
Dr. Hartley reported on the continuing efforts by CES staff in the Positive Behavior Support system. Several staff members are attending a workshop in Portland this week.
Hartley also presented results of reading and math testing in the kindergarten through sixth grade indicating that the majority of students are achieving goals in core subjects, but others are considered at risk of not reaching proficiency in reading and math. “We’re developing some specific interventions with emphasis on always improving,” Hartley told the board.
CMHS Principal Amy McNeil reported on the School Based Health Center committee, which is considering whether to pursue the establishment of a clinic on the CMHS grounds.
A three day program aimed at bullying prevention is set for the second week of March. It will involve all students and staff as well as adult volunteers. Adults who are interested in participating are encouraged to contact McNeil at email@example.com.
Two CMHS staff members, Nina Brewer and Rhonda Stecker, attended a suicide prevention training in January.
A reinforced cell phone policy is being enforced. Overall, McNeil said, the students and parents have been supportive, but there have been a few complaints.
The switch to the “proficiency” system in which students must demonstrate proficiencies in the subject in order to pass the class, is continuing to progress, McNeil reported.
The Clatskanie Boosters are sponsoring a Donkey Basketball game to raise funds for athletics on Thursday, March 6, at 6:30 p.m. in the CMHS gym.
Middle school drama students will present a play March 13-15, and the CMHS talent show is set for March 20.
An executive session was held at the end of the meeting to consider information or records that are exempt by law from public inspection; to review and evaluate the performance of the chief executive officer, and to conduct deliberations regarding labor negotiations.
THE SEASON IS ALWAYS OPEN and there’s no limit for this kingfisher feasting on the catch of the day, when he was spotted on the dikelands west of Clatskanie Friday, Feb 21. Chief Photo by Amanda Moravec