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Heated end to commissioner debate

Incumbent Springer again accuses challenger Olson of corruption

Up until the last five minutes of the McMinn­ville Kiwanis forum for Yamhill County Commissioner candidates last week, there was little trace of the contention that surfaced in a Newberg forum a week earlier .

Candidates Allen Springer, incumbent Yamhill County commissioner, and Rick Olson, challenger and McMinnville mayor, were asked about their views on solid waste disposal and particularly what should be done about Riverbend Landfill, which finds itself perennially in a battle for expansion.

Neither spoke positively about the landfill. Springer noted that the county inherited the ongoing strife due to poor planning years ago.Challenger Rick Olson and incumbent Allen Springer squared off in a debate last week in McMinnville.

“I would have never chosen to put it where it was,” he said. But he added that the county needs to do the “best we can in a bad situation,” and that even if the landfill could magically be relocated to the moon, “I’d still probably have a few detractors because they don’t want it on the moon either.”

He couldn’t comment further because the expansion is still being litigated, with another appeal in progress of the commissioners’ recent expansion approval.

Olson said he believes the county’s solid waste policy should be to get the garbage out of Yamhill County and send it to a location where it can be better handled.

He said he would like to see more transfer stations being promoted. He brought up the transfer station Waste Management operates in Newberg as a “beautiful” facility the company should be commended on.

He also said the truck traffic the landfill generates through Carlton is ruining the city’s streets, and that when the projected Cascadia Subduction Zone earthquake hits, the landfill is going to cause “big trouble” for Yamhill County and its cities.

“None of that is good for economic growth,” he said.

A couple questions focused on the county budget, and in particular how each candidate would handle a large funding cut to a vital department.

While the Health and Human Services (HHS) department accounts for 34 percent of the county budget, most of the funding comes from federal tax dollars rather than local contributions. In the event that federal funding ceases, moderator John Gray asked, would the candidate seek other funding sources or cut those services altogether?

Olson emphasized the importance of the HHS department and said he would look for other funding sources if there were cuts. He said if people really understood the importance of HHS, they would be more inclined to fund it through local taxes.

“You just can’t take big budget cuts like that and apply it to Health and Human Services and think you’re going to be okay,” he said.

Olson praised programs like Virginia Garcia and said the county needs to enter into additional partnerships to provide those kinds of services.

Springer said he has anticipated funding cuts in the future and that he and the other commissioners are already taking that into account, setting money aside in a “rainy day” fund.

To offset funding cuts, he advocated expanding the efforts of local churches to help with social services.

“We have negated some of our responsibilities since the late-1800s,” he said. “We’ve given up a lot of responsibilities to the government. ‘Please educate our children, it’s too much for us. Please feed the poor, we don’t want to anymore.’”

In the end, he said there would be a lot more “personal responsibility” than people have been used to in recent times.

“The greatest generation has seen it, we got passed over but we’re going to get our opportunity,” Springer said.

During the candidates’ closing statements, contention that was touched on at the Newberg City Club forum two weeks ago was addressed much more directly, with names mentioned and accusations clearly leveled.

Springer began by bringing up Olson’s campaign slogan that focuses on “honesty, integrity and respect,” and, as in the City Club forum, Springer referenced the time he and Olson were on the McMinnville City Council.

“I served with him when that wasn’t necessarily the case,” Springer said. “As council president Mr. Olson was part of an unauthorized group of individuals who in secret backroom deals forced the resignation of then-police chief Wayne McFarlin.”

Springer stated that the actions taken by McMinnville city officials were “withheld from the City Council,” adding that “that’s a direct violation of city charter.”

He then read aloud from a June 1, 2006, deposition in which attorney Terrence Kay questioned Olson about the McFarlin situation.

According to the deposition record, Olson confirmed to Kay that neither he nor then-Mayor Ed Gormley told Springer they would be requesting McFarlin’s resignation, and that they refrained from telling Springer to avoid his interference.

“That is not what a public official of this city should be doing, is it?” Springer quoted Kay asking at the deposition, to which Olson’s response was, “No.”

“It’s been sidestepped a lot, but no more,” Springer concluded.

Olson used his closing statement time partially to respond to Springer’s accusations.

“All’s I can say is, wow, there he goes again,” Olson said, noting that the legal case Springer was referring to was eventually dismissed by the court in 2008, with all the parties from the city of McMinnville, including Olson, found “totally innocent.”

“I don’t go around questioning things Commissioner Springer did 10 or 15 years ago,” he said. “I could tell you a lot more about that story, but I won’t because it’s not really important.”

He later added that “Yes, there was a vote in executive session by the council to replace Chief McFarlin,” and when Springer’s wife, Kerri, called out “that’s not true,” Olson noted that that information is part of the public record.

Olson hinted at accusations he could bring up against the board of commissioners, but that he chose not to air publicly.

“Is there a lot of problems at Yamhill County? Yes there is, but you know what, I’m not going to discuss them all, because I’m not a commissioner, and to me, not being an elected official, I don’t think I can talk about those things,” he said. “Do I know they’re going on? Yes. Do I know they’re not right? Yes. But what I want to talk about is if I am elected commissioner, I am going to ensure that even if something is right or isn’t right, that the citizens of Yamhill County have a say.”

Ballots have been mailed out and must be returned by May 17. If one candidate for commissioner receives at least 50 percent of the vote, he will win outright. Otherwise, it will go to a runoff in November.