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A look back on six stories, and an update on new developments

In a year that featured the fewest number of days above 60-degrees since 1909 (169), the cold didn't keep Estacadians from forging onward.

The eleventh year of the century was characterized by ideas and improvements across the city, from grants to a new look for the downtown core, symbolizing Estacada's vision for the future.

As a way to look back on the last 12 months, we picked six of the biggest stories covered and provided you with a recap of what happened and an update of any new developments.

'Skate Park gets $100,000 donation'

Story: Two years after purchasing the former Y and E Market property for Phase II of Wade Creek Park, proposed plans began to stall without grant funding from the state. In early 2011, however, the city received a $100,000 donation to keep plans for Phase II and a new skate park on track.

City Hall set a Jan. 17 deadline for design proposals, when project manager Dave Piper and city officials would select a firm. The property had been purchased by the city for $165,000, but the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation rejected grant proposals in both 2009 and 2010.

Over the years, the plans for a skate park had met with criticism and enthusiasm. Some were concerned with public safety and noise issues while others proposed alternative locations for the skate park.

Update: The 10,000 square foot skate park is under construction, and according to City Manager Bill Elliot, the grand opening is scheduled for March.

'It has been the driest month in years. The opening is scheduled for March barring any weather setbacks,' he said. 'The feedback has been really positive and there haven't been any hold ups.'

'A glimpse of Estacada's future'

Story: Siegel Planning Services presented the final draft of the Estacada Downtown and Riverside Area Plan to advisory committee members. The goal of the plan is to create a downtown plan that supports redevelopment and the promotion of a mixed-use, multi-modal and economically successful downtown.

The plan lays out projects to improve the downtown and riverside areas. Depending on funding, the plan was divided into projects the city can prioritize and complete when the time is appropriate. If all projects are completed, the cost is estimated at $5.8 million.

Update: As expected, the plan was finished and adopted, but the city is still waiting for the money required to go forward with some of the plans. Up until this point, the city has had no success raising the money, however City Manager Bill Elliot remains optimistic.

'The plan is just that, a plan, and so it takes donations and partnerships to get started and we're hoping that eventually it will come to fruition,' he said. 'It's a 20-year plan and urban renewal is on board to help with infrastructure improvements.

'We have the tools, we just need people with ideas and plans,' he said.

'Estacada launches pilot façade program'

Story: The Estacada Development Association began a pilot program on two local businesses to give them a facelift. The two businesses were Northwest Hi-Tech Solutions and Fearless Brewing.

The program, offered through Clackamas County's Main Street Program, provides businesses with professional architectural design renderings in an effort to direct the style and aesthetic of future improvements.

The Development Association had about $5,000 available for the program, money that was used to help the improvements come to fruition.

At the conclusion of the plan the association will roll out a community-wide Façade Improvement Plan in the hope of encouraging building owners to make similar renovations. The association offers businesses the tools necessary to make the process easier and less expensive because in the past they have helped pay for windows, doors, awnings and paint.

Update: The Estacada Development Association completed the pilot program on Fearless Brewing and Northwest Hi-Tech Solutions and has moved on to the community-wide program. They have $30,000 in urban renewal money, which has attracted 20 applicants identifying projects totaling more than $100,000 in cost. The association also received an additional $5,000 in tourism grants.

'We'll fund the first $500 completely,' Estacada Main Street manager Gloria Polzin said. 'After that, we'll fund up to one-third (the cost), depending on which projects we choose.'

On Jan. 21 the association will hold a workshop for local businesses educating them about awnings, lighting, signage and painting. The association also applied for a 3D project that is sponsored by Clackamas County in which architects render the project in three dimensions to help focus the city's vision and for use as a sales tool. That application will be processed by the end of January.

'East County recaptures its voice'

Story: Eagle Creek resident Jamie Damon believed her 25 years in conflict resolution would be a good fit in helping Clackamas County settle the divisive issues. And so, Damon won the widely contested appointment as the newest member of the county's Board of Commissioners.

Damon worked as a mediator at the National Policy Consensus Center in the Hatfield School of Government at Portland State, a position she was forced to leave as a full-time commissioner. Damon also is president of the board of directors of the Jacknife Zion Horse Heaven Society, which owns and manages Phillip Foster Farm.

Update: After a few months on the job, Damon has decided to run to retain her seat on the commission.

'Eagle Creek wasn't even on the map during a transportation discussion we were having,' Damon recalls. 'It's hard for us to be considered when we aren't even on the map.'

Damon has taken a specific interest in advocating for the land that is federally owned as she feels that advocating for that type of land is something important to rural areas.

'Teachers and administrators at my daughters' school will talk with me about ways I can help and even when I'm dressed up at Phillip Foster Farm, people who know I'm a commissioner will talk issues with me and that has been great,' she said. 'I will officially be announcing my run in early January, and the only reason I've been slow to put myself out there is because I've never been in politics before.'

'Whispering Pines goes green'

Story: Local independent living home, Whispering Pines, received a grant of more than $1 million as part of a 'Green Retrofit' program. The grant was used to complete water use, lighting, heating, insulation, roof, water heater and solar panel projects.

That includes 193 new water saving faucets and showerheads estimated to save the home $1,500 annually.

The grant's goal, however, was not just to save money but also to become more efficient while improving quality of life in the home. All of the rooms have also received new air conditioning and heating units.

The most noticeable change, however, is the 240 solar panels placed on the roof, which will produce 45-percent of the facility's hot water while reducing gas emissions significantly.

Update: In the first month alone, Whispering Pines saw a $700 savings on the power meter, which administrator Lisa Homan estimates to be around 15 percent in savings. The facility also is experiencing better air quality in common areas and corridors.

'The best thing is that residents are a lot more mindful of what they use and what they do in leaving lights on and everything,' Homan said. 'Throughout the process we had to educated them on what it means to be green and since then our recycling has increased greatly.'

'Local horse rescue in grave danger'

Story: After opening a horse rescue in 1999, Jim Elliot is in danger of losing it all as a result of a workers' compensation claim.

In 2006, Elliot hired a friend's brother who was fresh out of jail to help him get back on his feet. As an accomplished ironworker, the new worker was on top of the new structure Elliot was building when he fell through a gap in the ceiling, leading to an airlift to the hospital.

Now, the government is asking Elliot to pay for his worker's medical and recovery costs in the amount of more than $320,000. Elliot is liable because the worker did not meet the requirements of an independent contractor, therefore the insurance Elliot had did not cover him.

Also, Elliot already has signed a settlement in which he agreed to pay the required amount, capping the total amount he could potentially owe. Elliot, however, claimed he didn't know what he was signing at the time.

Update: On Jan. 4, Elliot has a meeting scheduled with the state to discuss the situation. Elliot doesn't seem optimistic.

'We're both 180-degrees apart,' he said. 'The state wants me to pay them $340,000 and I'll never be able to pay that. So this meeting is to show them that.

'I actually think there might be some intentions to work with me because they want me to prove I can't pay it back, but I don't want to give them a penny,' he said.

The state has agreed it will not take Elliot's farm away from him, but he claims they are looking to take away the income stream that he was, which funds the farm.

The meeting is the result of Elliot's unwillingness to provide the state with his financial documents, which he fears would give the state ideas about where he could generate the needed money.

'I don't care if anyone else thinks I did something wrong because I know I didn't,' he said. 'I would go to jail before giving them a penny and it pisses me off because they're wasting taxpayers' money on things like this.'

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