PORTLAND GENERAL ELECTRIC (PGE) broke ground on its new natural gas-fired generating plant at the Port Westward industrial site near Clatskanie last week.
The 220-megawatt, $300 to $310 million plant is designed as a highly-efficient and environmentally-responsible facility with maximum flexibility to help meet real-time fluctuations in customer demand and integrate variable renewable energy such as wind and solar into PGE’s system. It will also serve as a peaking resource during periods of high demand, helping maintain system reliability.
Located next to PGE’s existing natural gas-fired Port Westward Unit 1 and Beaver plants, the project will create up to 200 construction jobs. Black & Veatch and Oregon-based Harder Mechanical, as a contractual joint venture, have the “turnkey” contract on construction of the plant which will use reciprocating engine gensets supplied by Wartsila. Port Westward Unit 2 is expected to go online in 2015.
Numerous gravel trucks have been traveling the route to Port Westward over the past week, primarily to create the stone columns, sunk into the ground, which will create a firm foundation for the plant. Photo Courtesy of PGE
Ballots in the special district election are due back Tuesday, May 21.
In addition to numerous special district board seats, the Columbia County ballot features a renewal of the Columbia Communications 9-1-1 District five-year operating levy, and a five-year local option levy for the Clatskanie Rural Fire Protection District (CRFPD).
There is a race for Port of St. Helens position 4 between incumbent Terry Luttrell of St. Helens, and Michael Clarke of Scappoose. Incumbent Port commissioner Chris Iverson is unopposed for his position 5 seat.
Voters will also be asked to make a decision for position 1 on the Clatskanie Rural Fire Protection District (CRFPD) board of directors. John Moore and Greg Brody are both seeking the seat being vacated by Malcolm Groulx. CRFPD board members William Mellinger, position 2, and David Scott, position 3, are unopposed for re-election.
Most other special district board seats on the ballot are unopposed.
Clatsop County voters have contests for the Port of Astoria, Clatsop Community College and Sunset Empire Transportation District, as well as seats on various school districts, fire districts and water and sewer service districts.
The Knappa-Svensen-Burnside fire district is seeking a $395,000 bond to replace a 1985 fire truck. The bond is about half the cost of one defeated by the voters last November.
Columbia 9-1-1 Operating Fund Renewal
If approved by voters, the proposed 9-1-1 operating levy would be the same rate as it is currently – 29 cents, which is two cents less than the 9-1-1 operating levy approved by voters in 1998.
The proposed renewal would continue the 29 cents per $1,000 for the next five years, totaling 15 years with no rate change: the same as approved in 2008, 2003 and at a slightly reduced rate from that approved in 1998.
For a home assessed at $200,000, that is $58 per year. The 9-1-1 district also collects a permanent rate of 25.54 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, meaning that the total cost of the renewed operating levy plus the permanent rate on a home assessed at $200,000 would be $109.08
Supporters of the 9-1-1 levy emphasize that it is a renewal – not a new tax – and will not change the amount property owners pay for 9-1-1 services.
Over the years the 9-1-1 district has accomplished its goal to improve essential equipment while at the same time increasing reliability and service, according to the board members. The number of calls to the district have continued at about 220 per day.
Construction of the county-wide communications system is complete and is now being used to enhance the efficiency of first responders. “District 9-1-1 dispatchers handled more than 80,000 phone calls last year,” reported district executive director, Jeanine Dilley. “We successfully connect 16 different emergency service agencies with people who need their help. 9-1-1 is a vital link for the safety and livability of our communities.”
The Columbia 9-1-1 Communications District operating fund supports all ongoing functions of the 9-1-1 call center, including 24-hour staffing, training and coordination with local and state emergency operations. The five-year renewal will maintain the level of service citizens throughout Columbia County now receive.
For more information on the operating fund renewal or the Columbia 9-1-1 Communications District, interested persons may contact Dilley at 503 397-7255, ext. 2223, firstname.lastname@example.org, go to www.columbia911.com, or contact members of the Columbia 9-1-1 Communications District board of directors.
CRFPD Levy on Ballot
Also on the ballot is a five-year local option levy for the Clatskanie Rural Fire Protection District (CRFPD).
Measure 5-233 asks voters to approve a levy of $1.2533 per $1,000 of assessed property value in addition to the CRFPD’s base rate of $1.71 per $1,000.
The proposed five-year local option levy would provide funding for four fulltime firefighter paramedics – almost doubling the amount of paid staff the district has now, plus funding for the purchase of needed replacement equipment and fire hoses, as well as for maintenance of the district’s buildings and property.
The ballot title filed with the Columbia County clerk’s office states that “the permanent tax rate alone is inadequate to properly ensure fire and ambulance services. Our community continues to have increasing demand for emergency fire and medical response. Combining the permanent tax rate with a five-year levy will allow the district to provide staffing and equipment to ensure we can respond to the increasing number of calls for service.”
If approved, the levy would begin in the 2013-14 fiscal year. It would cost property tax payers an additional $1.2533 per $1,000 of assessed property value. Using the same $200,000 property as the 9-1-1 district for an example, that will cost an additional $250 per year.
That is on top of the CRFPD’s existing tax rate of $1.71 per $1,000, about $342 on a $200,000 property.
However, because of “compression” – the fact that most properties within the city limits of Clatskanie are already paying the maximum of $15 per $1,000 of assessed valuation – many in-city properties will not see a significant increase in their property tax bills if the levy passes.
The proposed CRFPD local option levy would raise approximately $536,629 in 2013-14, $551,834 in 2014-15, $567,469 in 2015-16, $583,548 in 2016-17, and $600,082 in 2017-18.
If voters have not yet mailed their ballots, it is recommended at this time to use one of the numerous drop-off sites including the Clatskanie Library, Rainier Library and Mist-Birkenfeld Rural Fire Protection District main station, or the county courthouse elections department.
Ballots must be left at a drop-off site or reach the county clerk’s office by 8 p.m. next Tuesday, May 21, in order to be counted. Postmarks don’t count.
by Deborah Steele Hazen
Kinder Morgan, which had been investigating the possibility of siting a coal export facility at the Port Westward industrial park near Clatskanie, announced May 8 it would not be pursuing the project here.
Following a morning meeting of the Port of St. Helens commission May 8, the Port issued the following press release:
“After 16 months of due diligence, while under an option granted by the Port of St Helens (on Jan. 25, 2012), Kinder Morgan announced today (May 8) that they will not be pursuing a second option period or the project.
“This option period was an opportunity for both the Port and Kinder Morgan to evaluate if the location would be suitable for their development, and a future long-term lease to transload dry bulk commodities.
“Kinder Morgan is a proven world class operation, and their interest in investing in Columbia County is appreciated. The proposed project would have been a $450 million dollar investment, projected tax revenue in the millions, and an opportunity to create up to 250 jobs. We recognize the importance of these option periods to conduct due diligence, so a full evaluation of a project can be completed.”
The Kinder Morgan project, which would have seen coal transported by rail to Port Westward where it would have been loaded onto ocean-going ships, drew fire from anti-coal and anti-train activists.
Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, Washington Governor Jay Inslee and U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley have called for a “programmatic environmental review” of the issues surrounding coal exportation from the Pacific Northwest before permits for any coal exportation facilities were granted.
“I am disappointed any time the opportunity to get jobs for Columbia County is lost,” said Port commission president Robert Keyser. “We understand and respect Kinder Morgan’s decision to move on; however we remain committed to moving forward in creating family wage jobs throughout the county. The Port appreciates all of the input provided by our stakeholders, partners and the residents of our special district during this period. Valuable issues and concerns were identified, and we will partner with appropriate agencies to address those under our purview.”
The Ambre Energy Morrow Pacific coal export project continues in the permitting phase. If it becomes a reality, the Morrow Pacific project would see coal brought from the Powder River Basin in southeastern Montana and northeastern Wyoming via train to the Port of Morrow at Boardman. It would then be loaded onto enclosed barges and brought to the Port Westward dock where it would be transloaded, using a completely enclosed conveyor system, into the holds of ocean-going ships.
by Deborah Steele Hazen
A $10,215,079 2013-14 budget was approved by the City of Clatskanie budget committee at a meeting May 9.
The budget represents a 16 percent increase from last year. “The reason for the increase,” explained city manager Greg Hinkelman is “a proposed clear-cut harvest of 130 acres of timberland that has been harvest-ready for several years. As of this budget submission, timber prices have rebounded to the point where the city can get a good yield from a harvest. The last major harvest took place in 2002.”
Despite the increase in the budget bottom line, the regular day-to-day operational budget is “virtually identical” to the current year, Hinkelman said.
“The items that have changed are due to personnel retirements and equipment and software needs,” Hinkelman wrote in his budget message. “With the earlier than expected retirement of our water plant operator (Scott Shulda), we are having to contract with a water firm to monitor our system and conduct training for the replacement plant operator. We are also anticipating a retirement of a police officer requiring us to budget for the possibility of a non-certified person to go to the police academy and monies dedicated to that officer’s post-academy training.
“The police department is also seeing a new line item and increase in their personnel budget to cover and monitor the cost of standby pay. Standby pay became an issue during the labor negotiations last year that concluded after the adoption of the FY (fiscal year) 2012-13 budget. Subsequently, to make sure we were paying standby pay correctly, and meeting budget constraints, we altered duty shifts and are now ensuring we have enough budgeted for coverage.” The budget has $22,495 for police standby and increased overtime.
Also in the budget for the police department are funds to allow for “an overlap” of a new police chief at the end of the fiscal year with the planned retirement of Marvin Hoover, and the replacement of the current K-9 SUV, “which has completed its police-service-life” with a sedan K-9 vehicle at a cost of $40,000.
The budget allows for a 1.5 percent cost of living allowance (COLA) for all employees.
“The public works budget has little change from FY 2012-13,” the budget message explained. “The differences are the transfers-in to cover CIP (capital improvement projects) that include phase 1 of the Tichenor sewer line replacement (using $80,000 of the funds from the Infrastructure Maintenance and Improvement Fund established last year and $15,000 from TIIF – Timber Infrastructure and Improvement Fund) for $95,000 total; drainage, sidewalk and a water-line valve work for North Nehalem at $70,000; and some professional analysis to look at the condition of Bellflower Street at $15,000.
“Traditionally, we budget $125,000 for CIP projects from the TIIF. This year, we are only asking for $100,000. The other difference to the budget is the public works department has seen a turnover in full-time personnel primarily due to retirements and thus, has lowered our personnel costs. We will continue our summer work crew with a budget for two people.
“The administration budget also sees little change with the exception of the upgrade to the billing and payroll software known as Springbrook which includes the upgrade and associated training.”
The budget has $1,736,476 in contingency funds – the majority of it in the TIIF, and $3,084,709 in an unappropriated fund balance, of which $2,162,608 is in the TIIF, and $922,101 is in the Scout Lake Fund.
The contingency and unappropriated fund balances have been built through timber harvests over the years. The Scout Lake fund, comprised of timber revenues from land donated to the city by the Evenson family approximately 80 years ago, is held in reserve with a portion of the interest used for recreational programs and projects.
The council has restricted use of the TIIF, compiled from timber harvests on the city’s watershed property, to 90 percent of the annual interest or $125,000, whichever is greater, for public works projects, except by a three-fifths override vote of the council.
by Adam J. Wehrley
Encouraging financial news, approval of a two-year contract with the Rainier Education Association (REA) and the 2013-14 school calendar highlighted Rainier School District’s (RSD) Monday meeting, May 13.
Business manager Lil Guisinger announced that the state had released final school funding adjustments for the 2011-12 school year, resulting in $129,607 for RSD.
Because of variables in the adjustment formula, Guisinger explained the figure could have been as low as $30,000. The funds will go into the 2013-14 starting fund budget, which the district uses until more state funds are received later in the fall.
It was noted that the final adjustment money is not enough to reinstate two days previously cut from the calendar to balance the budget. Final budget decisions will be made during the district’s budget process. The budget committee next meets on Wednesday, May 29.
Nike Inc. donated 40 computers to the district valued at $500 each. RSD has received the computers and staff members are busy with start-up.
Superintendent Michael Carter announced the purchase of a $4600 used man-lift to for use by maintenance staff inside district buildings. Carter had estimated a lift would cost about $15,000. The lift can raise workers to 30 feet and is needed for various tasks including preparations for graduation.
Carter reported that, along with many other districts, RSD was looking into what he termed “creative bonding” options to take advantage of low interest rates and save the district funds in the long run.
Teachers Contract Approved
The school board voted unanimously to sign a two-year contract extension with the REA teachers union for 2013-14 and 2014-15.
The contract calls for mid-year step increases in pay and seven percent insurance increases each year. The first year of the contract has no cost of living allowance (COLA), while the second year has a one percent COLA.
Board members Rod Harding and Dale Archibald commented on how well the negotiations had gone with the REA. Carter said, “I think we came up with a fair deal.”
Representatives of the REA were present and applauded the approval of the contract.
Carter said that the 2013-14 budget was being rewritten to reflect the changes.
School Calendar Approved
The board approved a 2013-14 school calendar in which Sept. 3 is the first day of school, winter break runs from Dec. 21 to Jan. 5 and spring break is March 21 through March 30, with school ending June 11. Full details of the calendar are available on the RSD website.
The board discussed the viability of continuing the sharing program with Clatskanie School District. The intent of the program is to increase course options for students in both districts by transporting students from one district to the other for classes not offered in their home district.
However, problems with aligning schedules and overcoming transportation issues have plagued the program.
Carter said he was excited about working with Clatskanie’s new superintendent, Lloyd Hartley. He and board member Rod Harding emphasized the long-term potential of sharing.
The two districts are planning to expand the current sharing of food service and technology coordinators to include special education services.
VoAg Program Update
The district approved the hiring of Rainier High School alumni Julie Crape as the new vocational agriculture (VoAg) teacher.
Carter reported that temporary greenhouses were being installed at a cost of $11,000 and trees at the site were going to be logged to offset the cost and reduce shade. Other plans for the garden were mentioned. It is hoped that the VoAg program can both provide college level learning experiences and grow produce to meet stricter federal meal mandates.
The district accepted an Oregon Response to Intervention grant for full support of a program for special education assessment. The amount of the grant was unspecified, but includes technical assistance and support.
RSD special education director Dr. Laurie Kash, Hudson Park Elementary Principal Dr. Paul Coakley and Dr. Carter will travel to a National Association for Workforce Improvement conference to give presentations on aspects of problem-based learning methods.
Carter reported that after the careful observation and consultation with manufacturer representatives, the newly-painted Briarcliff Pool is beginning to bubble and peel again.
The board moved to switch the district’s banking to St. Helens Credit Union in the wake of Bank of America closing its Rainier branch. Recent changes to Oregon laws governing credit unions allows their use by government entities. Guisinger noted that this not only will reduce banking fees but will also reduce staff time needed to make deposits.
The board heard a complaint from Don Campbell, whose property school buses have been crossing without an easement to pick up several students. Campbell’s complaint was based on damage the bus traffic is causing to his private drive without funds to pay for corresponding maintenance costs.
The board and Campbell agreed that the buses would continue using the road for the remainder of the school year and the issue would be settled by September.
A SAMPLING OF ORIGINAL ARTWORK and other items available this Saturday, May 18, at the Clatskanie Elementary School (CES) Spring Auction is shown by students representing some of the participating classes. The auction, which benefits increased learning opportunities at CES, will start at 6 p.m. in the CES Cardiff gym. Tickets to the event are $10 and admission includes dessert and a beverage.
Auction items include: gift baskets, classroom projects, individual projects, sports tickets, tickets to area attractions, gift certificates to local businesses, a hand-painted toy box, the handmade flower box pictured above and much more.
Vanessa Pratt and Kolun Reed (back row) hold photos of CES students spelling out “Love” and “Peace.” In the front row are: Brody Geer, Daysha Holmes, Elias Wehrley, Anna Dyer, Erin Mullins and Ethan Baker. The flower box was constructed by Dennis Geer and Doug Baker.
Auction and dessert tickets are available for purchase at Johnson Family Feed Store, the CES office or by emailing email@example.com. Chief Photo by Adam J. Wehrley
by Deborah Steele Hazen
A continuation of the May 6th Columbia County Planning Commission meeting on the proposed rezoning of 786 acres of land owned by the Port of St. Helens and 171 acres of adjoining private land next to the Port Wesward Industrial Park near Clatskanie is set for Monday, May 20.
The meeting, which is open to the public, is set for 6:30 p.m. in the circuit courtroom on the third floor of the courthouse annex, 230 Strand Street in St. Helens.
The May 6th meeting regarding the expansion of industrial land adjacent to the current Port of St. Helens-owned Port Westward site was dominated by anti-coal activists who insisted that the rezoning was specifically for the proposed Kinder Morgan coal export facility.
Kinder Morgan announced May 8 that it had dropped plans to pursue permits to locate a facility at Port Westward.
“The recent announcement by Kinder Morgan that it is no longer considering Port Westward for developing a coal terminal has no impact on the need to rezone the property,” said Robert Keyser, Port of St. Helens commission president. “The rezoning process and subsequent designation of ‘Regionally Significant Industrial Area’ (under Senate Bill 766) will take several years or more to accomplish and is intended to allow Port Westward to be competitive with other sites in the Pacific Northwest into the future. Without this site and this designation, Columbia County stands a good chance of watching large economic development projects go elsewhere while seeing jobs and services in our county continue to decline.”