>Cogentrix, Roe tragedy top local stories in year overshadowed by international drama
Some are saying 2001 will be a year we wish we could forget. But we all know we can’t.
As a new year begins, The Pioneer took a look back at the year and tried to determine the top five local news-making stories.
Like seemingly every media outlet doing its year in review story, it’s hard to put things into context without mentioning Sept. 11 and how it changed the world.
The attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. had more of an impact on Jefferson County and the 18,000 citizens here than can be put into words.
The effects went beyond the candlelight vigil at Sahalee Park the Friday after that dreaded Tuesday or the protective gear issued to local post office workers when anthrax anxiety swept the country. But the signs were everywhere, whether they were “United We Stand” signs in the back of pickup windows, black bands across the badges of local firefighters or the post office display case honoring “Our Hometown Heroes.”
Sept. 11 gets an honorable mention in 2001’s list of top stories for Jefferson County. The following five are The Pioneer staff’s top picks locally.
The North Carolina-based company that intends to build a natural gas-fired, 280-megawatt power plant near Grizzly Mountain became a household name in 2001.
Although Cogentrix announced plans to build Oregon’s largest electricity-generating plant in 2000, the proposal to build the $400 million facility really took shape in 2001, sparking a public debate that divided the community into two camps.
It’s a story that continues into 2002 and will probably spill over into the next year and the one following it.
Proponents are eager to see the power facility built for the potential economic impact it will have on Jefferson County.
In 2001, they touted the 25-35 jobs it could create, the $100 million it will pay in state and local taxes over the next three decades and the 400 construction jobs that will stimulate the area as the plant goes up. They argued it would have a minimal impact on the environmental.
Critics, meanwhile, mobilized into two opposition groups that gathered steam this year when they packed the Jefferson County Library Annex for two town hall meetings where they denounced the plant as a water-consuming beast that would pollute the air.
On Nov. 30, the power company completed its 1,500-page application to the state’s Energy Facility Siting Council, ending speculation on many specific facts regarding the proposal.
It will be months before the council renders a decision on whether the power plant can be built in Jefferson County. Then begins a complicated appeal process.
2. Tragedy hits Culver
Sometimes the top stories of the year are the most unfortunate.
On Dec. 5, four Culver-area residents were killed when their vehicle slid over an icy road into a passing train on Feather Drive.
Sandy Roe, 32, and three of four children she was driving to school were killed in the collision: Jason, 15, Tina, 14, and Devin, 6.
Their father, Steven, a firefighter, was the first to respond to one of the most deadly accidents ever in the county. There he pulled his family from the wreckage including son Ethan, 10, who survived.
The tragedy drew the attention of media from all over the state, for better or for worse, and people from all over the West shared their grief with Culver residents.
A memorial service a week later filled the Culver High School gym and the city quickly began numerous efforts to take care of the surviving Roe family members with donations and the creation of a memorial fund.
In tragedy, the Culver community found strength.
3. Tribes Buy into Dams
As 2001 neared its end, legislation sponsored by Oregon Congressman Greg Walden and Sens. Gordon Smith and Ron Wyden passed both the U.S. House and Senate that allowed the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs to buy into the Pelton Hydroelectric Project.
The agreement paved the way for the tribes to share a joint federal power license for the project on the Deschutes River with Portland General Electric by purchasing 1/3 of of it for $30 million.
Smith called it “a historic agreement” after the legislation concluded months of negotiations. It also appeared to be a feasible solution to preserving Jefferson County’s tax base, which many feared would be devastated if the Tribes, which are tax exempt, took a controlling interest in the Pelton project.
The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs will eventually own 51.01 percent of the project but don’t have the option to purchase that much of it until 2032.
They became 1/3 owners on Tuesday, marking the first time in the project’s 46-year history that the Tribes had a hand in the operation of the dams on their land.
4. School Bond Passes
To the surprise of most observers, the 509-J School District-sponsored $15.8 bond measure to revamp Madras High School and convert the Buff Annex back into an elementary school passed on Nov. 6, overcoming the double majority and capturing 52 percent of ballots cast by those who voted.
Madras High, which was built in 1965, will be modernizing its science and vocational classrooms, creating a student commons area and expanding the athletic facilities. The improvements should all be completed by fall of 2004.
Supporters of the measure argued that, if passed, it would have a positive effect on the chamber, local business and everything else in the community.
5. Sizemore Canned; Councilors Recalled
In January of 2001, a new Mayor and City Council took office and quickly went to work to end a situation that preoccupied the city from getting its work done efficiently.
In his first act as Mayor, Rick Allen put the controversial City Administrator Bill Sizemore on paid leave.
A week later, city councilors Lloyd Hindman and Wayne Schjoll were removed in the first successful recall vote in the history of Madras.
Sizemore was finally fired in mid-February, ending the legacy of the tumultuous former city council.
Former Mayor Marjean Whitehouse and the city council hired Sizemore in May of 2000.
Soon after, the community learned that Sizemore had been convicted in 1986 for theft and had served time.
Citizens began demanding Whitehouse’s resignation and those of three city councilors, including the two that were recalled, when they learned each were aware of Sizemore’s criminal past but kept the citizenry in the dark.