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2013: Year in review

Welcome to 2014!

As you celebrate the new year with a glass of eggnog and a list of resolutions we're sure you'll keep, kick back with the Estacada News to reflect on some of the peaks and valleys of 2013. Here's to hoping that successes will keep climbing and mistakes won't be repeated.

Guns on the mind

A little more than a month after the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre, guns were flying off the shelves at Oregon Trail Firearms of Eagle Creek.

“At this point right now, I have nothing to sell,” said Greg Willis, the business' owner. “I can't keep them on the shelf.”

Sandy Hook wasn't the only recent shooting. In July 2012, a gunman killed 12 people and injured 58 others during a screening of “The Dark Night Rises” in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater. On Dec. 11, 2012, a gunman opened fire in Clackamas Town Center, killing two and injuring one.

During a press conference on Jan. 16, 2013, President Barack Obama issued 23 executive orders aimed at curbing gun violence and urged Congress to tighten up gun control laws.

He asked Congress to limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds, allow only police and the military to possess armor-piercing bullets, require criminal background checks for all gun sales — including those by private sellers who were currently exempt — and reinstate a 10-year ban on assault weapons that had ended in 2005.

Here in Oregon, a gun rights rally was held in Salem three days later. As many as 3,000 people attended.

However, on Feb. 21, the Estacada School Board passed an iteration of the district's weapons policy that read, “Employees, district contractors and/or their employees and district volunteers shall not possess a dangerous or deadly weapon or firearm on district property or at school-sponsored events. This prohibition includes those who may otherwise be permitted by law to carry such weapons.”

The policy also stated, “Employees in violation of this policy will be subject to discipline up to and including dismissal.”

The first reading of that weapons policy was passed as part of a consent agenda without much discussion.

Since the Sandy Hook shooting, the Estacada School District responded by evaluating its internal school security measures. Volunteers and parents had stepped up to add a physical presence at some of the district's schools.

Some of those volunteers may have had concealed weapons permits, an issue that was discussed by administrators.

“There is no tolerance for staff members, volunteers, or contractors working within the district. We are not allowing them to pack,” Estacada School District Superintendent Howard Fetz said. “But there is the ability for an adult who wandered in to see his kid to be packing. That is state authorized. But with policies at the school district level, we become our own law, so to speak.”

Fetz added that he was confident that current security measures were adequate for students and staff.

In July, at the recommendation of the Oregon School Boards Association, a similar version of the weapons policy was approved by the school board as part of a concent agenda.

That version allowed for the principal or athletic director to use a starter pistol or replica for track and field events.

In October, new school board member Jeromy Adamson and School Board Chairman Rick Mudrow called for a debate on whether or not district employees and volunteers with concealed handgun licenses should be allowed to bring guns onto school property.

Adamson hinted that he wanted to discuss the issue in response to recent school shootings.

Adamson, Mudrow and board member Ralph Branson told the paper they would like for them to be allowed to do so.

Parents and community members flocked to the Nov. 13 board meeting to voice their opinions on the matter.

Of those who spoke, opinion seemed evenly split on the issue.

Wade Creek Clinic opens

The grand opening of the school-based Wade Creek Clinic was held Jan. 23, 2013.

The project was four years in the making and was made possible by grants from several government agencies.

Jamie Zentner, the school-based health clinic coordinator for Clackamas County, said though there were more than 60 such facilities in the state, the Wade Creek Clinic was one of the most-state-of-the-art clinics in Oregon.

The Wade Creek Clinic began accepting patients in March.

Schools battle truancy

In response to some students' disturbingly large gaps in attendance, the Estacada School District was pursuing measures to crack down on truancy.

Since fall 2012, Estacada High School had required students to have a 90 percent attendance record to be allowed to attend formal dances. Whether excused or unexcused, an absence was considered an absence.

Ryan Carpenter, Estacada High School vice principal, told the Estacada News it is a violation of state law for a student to miss 8.5 or more days in the space of four weeks. In that case, the student could be cited for truancy if over the age of 18. If the student was a minor, the citation would be issued to his or her parents.

A team was created at the high school to deal with student absenteeism. Once a student was halfway to meeting the number of absences that would qualify as a state violation, school staff would send a letter to the student's parents, and a counselor would meet with the student.

Once a student missed 32 periods (which constituted a violation) a Clackams County sheriff's deputy would issue a citation for $350. Cited students and their families were then expected in court in Oregon City.

Owner arrested in dog killings

Three months after Japtheth Daniel Stalcup called police to report the brutal killings of two of his dogs, police arrested the killer, Stalcup himself.

On Nov. 15, 2012, Stalcup told authorities he had found the bodies of his dogs, Buddy and Duke, in a wooded area behind his property.

News media descended on the property to interview Stalcup and his family about the family pets. Rewards for information about the killings were offered by the Oregon Humane Society and California-based nonprofit organization In Defense of Animals.

“I want them to find the guy,” Stalcup had told the Estacada News.

Stalcup eventually confessed to slaying the dogs himself. According to a press release issued by the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office, Stalcup had said he no longer could afford to care for the dogs and knew of no other alternatives.

Stalcup was arrested Feb. 6 on two counts of first-degree aggravated animal abuse and initiating a false police report.

Police switcheroo

Estacada City Councilor Sean Drinkwine urged the council to consider contracting with the city of Sandy for law enforcement coverage.

Estacada had contracted with the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office since 1978 to be the main police presence in the city.

The city stood to save thousands of dollars with a switch to Sandy, but the exact savings amount fluctuated as the proposed contracts were adjusted.

Pitches from Sandy Police Chief Kim Yamashita and Lt. Shane Strangfield of the Sheriff's Office at Chamber of Commerce lunch events in March and April were well attended by citizens.

In April, while Estacada was still pondering who to award the contract to, the Sandy Police Department earned accreditation from the Oregon Accreditation Alliance.

During a City Council meeting in early April, the mayor and some of the councilors discussed wanting a police force that felt local.

“People like having a personal feel to police,” Mayor Brent Dodrill said.

As the city approached the deadline for a decision on the contract, a string of downtown businesses were burglarized and thefts from cars saw a jump in April.

(Deputies arrested a suspect in the Grannny's Drive-Thru burglary in April and made two more arrests of suspects in other downtown burglaries in May.)

The Estacada council invited public input on the choice between the Sandy Police Department and the Sheriff's Office.

Citizens advocated both police forces during public testimony at an April 22 council meeting.

On May 13, the council voted to award the contract to Sandy at a savings of $43,600.

Councilors Drinkwine, Steininger, Rob Gaskill and Edward Smith voted in favor of Sandy. Dodrill was the lone vote for the Sheriff's Office. Councilors Jodi Scott and Michele Conditt were absent.

After a competitive application process, Sandy Police Officers Sam Craven and Bill Wetherbee were selected for the Estacada assignment.

They were brought on to regularly patrol Estacada streets on the recommendation of a panel made up of Estacada city leaders and a representative of the business community.

City faces crumbling streets

In early April, City Manager Bill Elliott and City Councilor Sean Drinkwine acknowledged that several of the city's streets were in grave disrepair.

“Our streets are hitting the failing stage,” Drinkwine said. “They've been in disrepair for a number of years.”

Two years earlier, the city had sealed cracks on several streets, but the effort was only a temporary fix.

“If we don't do something, we'll be worse off,” Drinkwine said. “There's no patching that we can do at this point.”

Elliott said the deferred maintenance costs of repairing the streets was in the millions of dollars.

In the past the city had pursued small cities grants to help fund the repair work, but competition for the grants was now much greater.

“We'll keep applying for small cities grants and anything else that comes along,” Elliott said. “But everything is competitive now with grants. The state is in just as much trouble as the counties, which are in just as much trouble as the cities. Money is very, very tight.”

Drinkwine and Elliott suggested that a local gas tax might be the answer for acquiring the money to fix city streets.

Elliott told the Estacada News in December the city had received grant funds to renovate Laurel Road and Wade Street.

Laurel Street will be paved and sidewalks and curbs will be installed in spring or summer 2014.

The city received $140,000 in Community Development Block Grant funds, which will be applied to the project.

A $50,000 Special Cities Allotment Grant was awarded to Estacada to resurface and repair Wade Street.

“We will hopefully be doing that by next summer,” Elliott said.

Parents fight to keep music, P.E. in elementary schools

During a budget committee workshop April 10, Estacada School District Business Manager Donna Cancio reported that the projected funding shortfall for the 2013-14 fiscal year was between $1.8 million and $2.1 million.

The district was facing tough decisions for how to make up the difference.

Even before the meeting, the district was scrambling to find ways to reduce spending.

In the fall of 2012, Superintendent Howard Fetz had asked the Estacada school principals to propose cost-saving measures for specific buildings.

The cuts were unveiled at the April 10 meeting. All of the principals expressed deep regret at the proposals they had to make.

“It's a desperation move,” said Seth Johnson, Clackamas River Elementary principal, told the Estacada News.

“It's a very difficult process. We don't want to lose any of our amazing employees,” said Dan Draper, Eagle Creek Elementary principal. “It's not a fun exercise to go through. I'm amazed at the resiliency of our staff and how hard they work with kids even though some of our Eagle Creek family members' jobs are in jeopardy. Even the ones whose jobs are in jeopardy, you'd never know it from how they work with kids.”

The proposal to eliminate the librarian and music and physical education teaching positions at Clackamas River and Eagle Creek elementary schools drew a forceful public backlash.

Parents flocked to the next budget and school board meeting in May.

Nichole Adamson gave the board a list of concerns, suggestions and questions for the school board signed by 50 parents.

The group's concerns included retaining music, P.E. and library services.

“We don't know how to get our voice heard effectively,” Adamson told the board.

In May, then school board Chairman Mark Greene said the board heard the parents’ concerns loud and clear and was looking at ways to keep the music and P.E. teaching positions in the elementary schools as long as there are the funds.

“They were the first two things we were going to add back if we could add back anything,” he said.

In response to the parents' concerns that their voices weren't being heard, the school district principals began holding monthly “Time For Parents” meetings where parents could speak with principals in an informal, agenda-less setting.

Estacada takes a 'Spill'

by: CONTRIBUTED - Estacada-raised artist Reeva Wortel brought the performance/art installation piece 'Spill' to Estacada in May.Estacada-raised artist Reeva Wortel brought the performance and art installation 'Spill' to Estacada in May.

The show focused on the BP Oil Disaster of 2010 and its aftermath.

Wortel and playwright Leigh Fondakowski (the head writer of “The Laramie Project”) based the work on interviews they conducted 10 months after the spill in Louisiana with people affected by the spill.

“It was very much important to us that we didn't have an agenda,” Wortel told the Estacada News.

“We wanted to tell (people's) stories in a way the media can't ... in a sustained, long-term narrative,” she said. “When the spill happened, the media flooded those towns and then left. And we were there.”

Wortel and Fondakowski worked with collaborators to create a story arc and work-shopped scenes with actors. Fondakowski was the lead playwright.

Wortel had taken photos of everyone they interviewed and painted large portraits of them to be displayed during the show.

In early May, Wortel worked with Estacada High School students using a curriculum developed around the show.

The show was performed May 18 in the Estacada Auditorium.

PGE made environmental strides for license

As part of its federal relicensing agreement to continue operating its hydroelectric projects, PGE was required to make several environmental improvements targeted at fish passage on the Clackamas River.

by: ISABEL GAUTSCHI - Faraday Lake reopened to anglers in the spring.In 2012, Faraday Lake was temporarily closed and drained. Among other efforts, PGE took the opportunity to create a deep channel through the middle of the lake leading to Faraday Powerhouse.

The improvements help prevent temperatures from rising to damaging levels for migratory fish.

The lake was reopened and stocked with hatchery trout in spring 2013.

In summer 2013, PGE officials gave the Estacada News a tour through its recently completed, first-of-its-kind, North Fork Adult Sorting Facility.

This facility allowed biologists, for the first time, to separate native fish from hatchery fish without physically handling them.

Prior to the construction of this facility, separation by means of netting or anesthetization were the industry norms.

The facility allows biologists to separate fish using gated chutes controlled by buttons.

“This has never been done before. This is the first of its kind to be able to sort hatchery from wild fish without physically handling them or anesthetizing,” said Garth Wyatt, a PGE biologist.

School board shake-up

Angela Riedel won the school board Zone 1 school board seat, beating incumbent Tim Schultz.

New school board member Jeromy Adamson took the Zone 2 seat in an uncontested race.

In July, Rick Mudrow was elected school board chairman.

Road to industry

by: ISABEL GAUTSCHI - Crews set to work constructing a new road on Industrial Campus this summer.A new road was built on the Estacada Industrial Campus in an effort by city leaders and developer Mike Park to draw big business to the area.

After years of effort, the site received Oregon's Industrial Site Certification.

In honor of the certification and the newly completed road, a ribbon-cutting attended by the likes of Business Oregon Director Tim McCabe, state Sen. Alan Olsen, state Rep. Bill Kennemer and Clackamas County Commissioner Paul Savas was held Dec. 11.

Mayor Brent Dodrill had high praise for Park.

“He's the spearhead behind all of this,” Dodrill said of Park. “Mike's investment and risk and vision is really what's behind all of this.”

“It's really great to know that in an area that's really deprived for employment, we're doing what we're doing here,” Savas said.

Park himself had few words.

“I think this is a real opportunity for this town,” he said.

Bringing bikes to Estacada

The Estacada Development Association focused a lot of energy in 2013 on making Estacada bike-friendly.

The association made strides toward designating the 72-mile route between Estacada and Detroit, Ore., as a “scenic bikeway.”

The association will know in sping whether the route will be designated a "scenic bikeway."

by:  ISABEL GAUTSCHI - Mayor Brent Dodrill cuts the ribbon for the new public restroom in the City Hall building. (From left) City Manager Bill Elliott, Dana Heston (representing Steve Locke Construction), Jae Heidenreich of the Clackamas County Tourism and Cultural Affairs Office, Estacada Chamber of Commerce President Jordan Winthrop and City Councilors Sean Drinkwine and Rob Gaskill gather for the ceremony.On Halloween, city officials were all smiles during a ribbon cutting ceremony on the new public restroom in the City Hall building.

The effort was lauded as a move long called for by local business owners and a step in the right direction to make the town more attractive for cyclists.

Thanks to a $10,000 tourism development grant from the Clackamas County Tourism and Cultural Affairs Office, plumbing to an existing City Hall bathroom was upgraded, the restroom was remodeled and new walls were installed along with a door opening to the outside of the building.

The ribbon-cutting was Dodrill's first as mayor.

“My first official ribbon cutting as mayor ... and it is for a bathroom. Huh!” he wrote in an email. “Don't get me wrong, this is a great event for Estacada, but I just find that a bit funny.”

The association and Chamber of Commerce also announced hopes to construct a bike plaza near City Hall.

In November, Dave Piper told the Estacada City Council the Estacada Development Association, along with the Chamber of Commerce, hope to install a bike plaza in the grassy area next to City Hall, near the new public restroom.

Piper explained the vision: a kiosk with posters, informational fliers, information on local businesses and an interactive computer system.

At the November council meeting, Piper said the association already has applied for grants and plans to apply for others.

Piper stressed that the association was not requesting the city's “capital involvement” beyond supplying power, water and maintenance to the facility.

The association and chamber are now $30,000 closer to realizing their vision thanks to a grant from the Clackamas County Tourism Development Council.

Three Lynx school building approaches demolition

After tense negotiations between the school district and forest service, it became increasingly clear that the Three Lynx school building was headed for demolition.

The Three Lynx community came into being during the construction of the Oak Grove dam in the 1920s.

Portland General Electric set up “kit” homes for its workers during the project.

Seventeen houses from that community still stand today. Roughly half are occupied by PGE employees and their families.

In 1927, the U.S. Forest Service issued a permit for the operation of the Three Lynx School on its land.

But the building hasn’t been used as a school since 1988, which put the school district in violation of its special-use permit.

“Since 1988, the Forest Service has been working with the school district to come up with a good plan,” said Laura Pramuk, Mt. Hood National Forest public affairs officer.

The school district owns the building, the Forest Service owns the land, and PGE supplies water and sewer services to the school building and owns the surrounding Three Lynx houses.

After months of intensive negotiations, the school district has removed storage items from the property, cleaned the site and put together a plan for demolishing the building this summer.

“What we've done is put together a timeline for (asbestos) abatement and demolition unless someone comes along and wants to buy it in the meantime,” Gary Lewis, operations manager for the Estacada School District, told the paper last fall.

Removal of hazardous materials and underground storage tanks along with demolition of the buildings are scheduled to be completed by the end of June 2014.

Land restoration and historic preservation efforts likely will continue through September.

Joy Woodcock, special uses administrator for the Mt. Hood National Forest, said the Forest Service is pleased with the district's efforts to clean the Three Lynx site so far.

Although the district's special use permit for the Three Lynx site has expired, Woodcock plans to award the district an “encroachment permit” so it may continue to work toward demolition without a fine.

Woodcock said it is highly unlikely that building will be purchased.

“We researched that line for so many years and no one came forward. That's why it didn't factor into planning,” she said.

The buyer would have to demonstrate financial and technical capability of restoring the buildings to their original purpose as a school.

Or they’d have to be granted another special-use permit after presenting a feasible business plan and financial and technical capability of using the buildings for a purpose that comply with the Forest Service’s regulations and mission.

Either project would be hugely expensive for the buyer.

So, according to Forest Service and school district personnel, the Three Lynx school buildings' demolition seems inevitable.

“Unless you've got Bill Gates in your pocket,” Woodcock said.

Library Centennial

The Estacada Public Library turned 100 years old this year.

School board pulls plug on EAHS

In Aug. 29, the Estacada School Board voted to terminate the district's partnership with the U.S. Forest Service for the Estacada Alternative High School housed at Timberlake Job Corps.

Previously, Job Corps students under the age of 21 who did not possess a high school diploma had counted as Estacada district students under the alternative high school program.

Superintendent Howard Fetz and School Board Chairman Rick Mudrow told the Estacada News the program was simply too costly to continue.

Mudrow explained that enrollment was not high enough to support the necessary staff to keep the alternative high school program going without running a deficit.

He said the decision was “not so much savings as aversion of loss.”

“I think it's been a very beneficial program,” Fetz said. “It's unfortunate that sequestration and the district's financial challenges have gotten in the way of continuing this program.”

Shortly after the decision, Job Corps Center Director Scott Olson told Estacada leaders that the center was facing hard times.

However, in late October, the center seemed to be thriving.

“It's definitely a struggle. We have appreciated the Estacada School District in the past,” said Deputy Center Director Sharon Hernandez.

She said that Job Corps staff realized the board made the decision to dissolve the Estacada Alternative High School there due to lack of funding.

Hernandez explained the major change as a result of the decision is that both the Estacada School District and Timberlake Job Corps were forced to cut some staff positions.

“We're still providing complete service for our students,” Hernandez said. “We just lost some good staff.”

Renata, reminiscent of Estacada

by: CONTRIBUTED - Local author Stevan Allred penned 'A Simplified Map of the Real World.'Local author Stevan Allred's collection of interwoven short stores, “A Simplified Map of the Real World,” was published by Forest Avenue Press in September.

The setting of the book is Renata, a fictional town that bears a strong resemblance to Estacada.



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