Letters to the editor published April 15, 2016
Scappoose Easter egg hunt was a success
The Scappoose Easter Egg Hunt was fun for all this year! We were able to hide over 10,000 eggs filled with candy and prizes at the Grant Watts School playground.
The Scappoose Kiwanis Club would like to thank the following community members for their generous contributions to the 2016 Easter Egg Hunt: Columbia NW Heating & Air Conditioning, Grabhorn Enterprises, Ichabods Restaurant, J&J Automotive, Betsy Johnson, Kessi Construction, Means Nursery, Jim and Gina Means, Napa-Sunset Auto Parts, Scappoose Garden Club, Scappoose Sand & Gravel, St. Helens Community Federal Credit Union and Travis and Jessica Wooters.
I would like to thank Carol Girt and Karen Stoel from the Scappoose Kiwanis Club for all their hard work in organizing the event this year. A big thank you goes to Principal, Dana Larson and Grant Watts School for the use of their playground fields for our event.
I would also like to thank Boy Scout Troop 294 and all the other volunteers that helped to fill the Easter eggs, hide them and clean up after the event. Finally, we would like to thank all the local children and their parents for coming to the event, and for supporting our activities throughout the year. We will see you all next year!
Tammy D. Lukinbeal
Scappoose Kiwanis Club
Buses for a better community
Formation of the Columbia County Rider Transit Advisory Committee is required by the Oregon Department of Transportation as a condition for the county to receive a particular type of state grant used for public transportation. The committee is appointed by the Columbia County Board of County Commissioners. It provides recommendations to the commissioners regarding transit issues important to county residents. While the committees work mostly occurs behind the scenes, its role is extremely important in expressing input regarding the transit needs of elderly, disabled and general public riders.
We believe the committees recommendation to form a special transit district is the best financial strategy for providing stable funding for CC Rider. A special district will be able to focus solely on CC Rider transit. Had we gone with the service district option, CC Rider would have had to vie with other county priorities for the commissioners attention.
There are only two transit agencies in the state that are not formed as special transportation districts. One of them is in Lincoln County. CC Rider is the other.
Amazingly, in 2014 CC Rider survived the recession following a 64 percent cut to services. Transit Director Janet Wrights efforts were paramount in keeping CC Riders head above water.
CC Rider provided 84,640 rides in 2015 clearly demonstrating a need for transit services in Columbia County. The service cant survive on fare revenue alone, however, as many of the rides are discounted for special needs groups. In fact, 71 percent of CC Riders income originates from grants designated for specific operations. But grant funds are unavailable without community matching funds.
In 2012 alone, $260,000 in grant money was lost because we didnt have the local cash match. This cut has directly affected CC Riders ability to meet our riders needs, especially those who need to a ride to Portland for medical appointments. A special district will provide the matching dollars required for continued grant funding and allow CC Rider to pay for enough hours to meet community needs, and get CC Rider back where it was before the service cuts.
The committee is composed of five community members, each representing a different area of need for transit: seniors, veterans, disabled persons, college students and citizens at large. Nearly all members have less than five years of service. One member is a college student representing Rock Creek Campus and the students needs for transit. Five of seven special district board nominees are members of the advisory committee. These board members are volunteers, not political appointees.
Each city in our district is represented on the new board. Fixed terms and future elections provide any citizen the opportunity to serve on the board. We are all members of the political action committee, or PAC, for the special district measure as well.
The county commissioners provided the impetus for Measure 5-251 to be placed on the May ballot. They held two open hearings where citizens had the opportunity to speak for or against the proposed measure. Very little public testimony was received. Because no special district can be formed without a means to fund it, the county commissioners approved the Committees recommendation for a 23 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value annually after performing their due diligence on the matter.
We all remember the anxiety and drama surrounding the hospital special district failure. Regardless, it is shortsighted to believe all districts will fail or are failing. Columbia County has many well-established special districts, such as Columbia 911 Communications, Columbia River Peoples Utility District and the Columbia Soil and Water Conservation District, among others. The hospital special district failed for many reasons, while CC Rider already exists. We are well established and have been in business for 13 years.
Thelma Bonars depletion fee initiative was created out of her passion to see CC Rider survive. The advisory committee could not reach consensus on Mrs. Bonars initiative as a stable or fair funding base and took no official position. Ultimately, Individual members agreed to disagree and followed their personal passions.
Lack of funding affects both the quality and quantity of CC Rider service. Becoming a special district allows us to restore and grow the services provided prior to 2012 and the 64 percent service cuts. New county businesses, like Bi-Mart and the Advanced Manufacturing Research Center/Portland Community College training facility, will increase traffic congestion and the demand for alternate transportation options.
A $150,000 Columbia County home would see a property tax increase of $34.50 a year. Thats $2.87 a month. As PAC member Bill Eagle puts it, People spill more beer than that!
The time has come to recognize that a transit system is a vital part of our community today and our economic future. Please vote yes on ballot measure 5-251 in May.
Columbia County Rider
Political Action Committee
Magruder is thoughtful and engaged
Having the privilege to serve alongside Margaret Magruder for the past seven years on the Columbia County Budget Committee, I know her to be thoughtful, engaged and extremely knowledgeable of not just county finance, but all county services.
It would be hard to find a more qualified person to represent all of Columbia County. Her service with the watershed council brings sound environmental knowledge.
She runs a small business and knows about making payroll. Her business competes in the global marketplace. Margaret embodies the citizen representation our forefathers wished for our nation. It would be hard to find a more qualified person for county commissioner.
Columbia County has location, location, location
In real estate and business, the saying, location, location, location, means that the desirable attributes of a place can be an important factor determining the success of a business enterprise. Location can also be an important factor in a countys economic growth.
I believe Columbia County has LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION in capital letters.
Our county should be very attractive to manufacturing, small businesses, entrepreneurs and visitors.
At the candidates forum on April 8, we heard several times from the six participants that Columbia County has the attributes needed to attract new small businesses and jobs. We are as attractive as our neighboring counties.
Thats why its hard to understand why Columbia Countys economy lags behind our three surrounding counties: Multnomah, Washington and Clatsop.
For example, the February 2016 unemployment data shows we are lagging behind these neighboring counties with a 6.2 percent unemployment rate. Our neighbors unemployment rates are lower: Clatsop at 4.6 percent, Multnomah at 4.1 percent and Washington at 4 percent.
Columbia County has the location and amenities that could attract business and promote a healthy economy. Whats causing a drag on our economy? Could it be that our countys leaders are too preoccupied with their $35 million gamble at Port Westward with your tax dollars, of course which has so far failed to produce the jobs. But yet the $35 million loan has to be repaid.
The consequence of this bad decision has probably kept our county leaders from doing more to attract steady, forward-looking businesses and jobs.
We need steady, competent leaders at the helm of our countys government. We need folks who understand financial management and will not waste our precious tax dollars.
I believe Alex Tardif, a trained accountant, is what we need. I urge you to vote for Alex.
Remember: When it comes to an incumbent seeking to keep their position, the important thing to consider is their record, not their promises.
Fire insurance spike due to CRFR actions
In 1974, the Columbia River Fire & Rescue, aka St. Helens Rural Fire District, came to voters in the district with a proposal. The proposal called for the construction of two fire substations, along with the equipment for those two stations, which would be financed with a $340,000 bond.
The board decided on a 15-year repayment schedule for the bonds. The voters approved the proposal. The stations would be constructed, one near the fairgrounds and the other one up on top of the hill on Cannan Road at Deer Island.
By construction of the two substations, and equipping them for operations, the residents of the rural areas would receive fire insurance savings. Without the substations, the residents fire insurance would be extremely high, because the insurance carriers would raise the ISO Insurance Services Office of Oregon ratings. The ratings are determined by the distance a property owner lives from a fire station or manned substation.
Five miles is the distance ISO requires for adequate fire protection response times, along with the ability of the fire truck to not pump less than 20 minutes at 200 gallons per minute, which is the capacity to pump 4,000 gallons in that given time.
Tankers are required to not be any farther than 8 road miles from any qualifying stations.
The bond also funded the furnishing, radio and other fire house equipment, plus the purchase of a new triple-combination pumper and three used tankers to meet water hauling requirements.
After the substations were built, the fire district would ask for a re-rating on the ISO number, which would reduce fire insurance costs for the residents.
Another reason the substation was needed at Deer Island is because the Canaan Road hill is so long and steep, which dramatically reduces the response time for personnel to respond to a fire call in that area, along with the outlying areas of the district. The Cannan Road substation would also provide service down the hill, including Highway 30, hence increasing response time there as well.
Then, in 2001, CRFR decided they wanted to combine Rainiers services into CRFRs. When that decision was made, the Deer Islands substation was relieved of its bond-funded equipment, which went to Rainier. They also lost their trained firefighters, which resulted in the closing of the substation. The outcome was a higher ISO rating resulting in two-and-a-half times to quadrupled fire insurance costs for the Deer Island folks. Many people cannot afford their insurance premiums, and now they have no coverage.
The CRFR fire board and former Fire Chief George Dunkel knew when they made the decision to close the Deer Island substation in 2001 that all the residents would experience a drastic increase in their fire insurance premiums.
Current Fire Chief Jay Tappan and the board knows this as well.
CRFR suggests a volunteer-manned station. The ISO does not recognize a volunteer program, and insurance rates will remain as they are unless the crew is a CRFR trained force. The people in Deer Island are paying the same tax rate for fire protection, but receiving none, unlike others in the CRFR district who are paying the same tax rate but receiving fire protection.
When does CFRF become more involved in medical transports than being a fire department? Maybe CRFR should devote its time as a fire department by taking care of fire-related issues, such as equipping and manning the substation at Deer Island, as they had promised in the contracted bond measure with the taxpayers of the district.
Why is CRFR selling more Fire Med contracts if they do not have the personnel to fulfill their obligations?
If the CRFR has too many medical calls to handle, maybe its time to contract out to an ambulance service so that everyone has the protection for which they are paying.
The current fire board members, when asked about the Deer Island substation obligation, responded simply that it was before their time. I am not satisfied with that answer. When sitting on a board, it is your duty to know what obligations the entity has. Your job is to protect the citizens, and you are failing your duties.
The board gave no direct answer to when or if they are considering re-opening the Deer Island substation. My question to the board was: Why are the residents at Deer Island paying into CRFR when we get no service? The boards response was the same as they answer to almost every question asked to them, and that was a blank stare with no comment.
The re-opening of the Deer Island substation could be fixed quite easily. The district has the correct equipment and personnel. Right now, Rainier has four firemen, of which two of those could be re-assigned to the Deer Island substation, allowing it to be manned 24/7. The result would be a low ISO rating, reducing fire insurance premiums back to a fair rate, which folks could afford.
The fire department would argue they need these four men in Rainier in case there is a fire. Right now, the substation at the fairgrounds has two firefighters who go on medical calls, leaving the fire house empty. In fact, the St. Helens fire department at times goes on so many medical calls that the entire St. Helens area is often completely unprotected. This means, if there happened to be a fire, the entire structure would burn to the ground because all the firefighters are on medical calls.
With a budget of over $11 million, CRFR is rolling the dice when it comes to protecting the districts residents. This practice is unacceptable.
Candidate calls foul on letter writers accusations
This is in response to Nancy Whitneys letter to the editor and her insinuating that I received campaign donations from the gravel companies because of my sign placements along Highway 30.
As a candidate, I followed protocol and called the property owner and asked permission to place my signs there. After receiving permission, I put up my signs and, contrary to Nancys suspicions of monetary benefits, there have been none.
Also, if you drive by you will notice there are other candidates with signs up as well.
In addition to this written untruth, as this came out in a newspaper, this same group of letter writers blew this untruth up on the radio. Even getting the radio station owner and the two show hosts to broadcast this untruth, one of which is running for county commissioner. Making up facts and misstating truths are not qualities the county commissioner position should embrace, ever.
Sixteen years ago, these same dirty political tactics cost me my bid for re-election. A few weeks prior to that election, this same type of tactic was used to spread rumors of abuses of county credit card use. When the facts were, I bought two beers with dinner after hours of working the halls of the U.S. Senate promoting Columbia County, prior to going up to my room and going to bed. By the time they were done spreading these false rumors of huge partying on the county dole, I lost my re-election campaign. Shame on them and shame on those who spread false rumors.
I support legal and law-abiding companies, employers and industry in Columbia County and will fairly and justly, with no compromise, support our citizens and the companies that employ them.
As a veteran and a former county commissioner, I am ready, able and willing to go to work for you on day one. I ask your support and, more importantly, your vote.
Editors note: The letter by Nancy Whitney referenced in Mr. Yarbors letter was not published in the Spotlight. We published Mr. Yarbors letter out of consideration for his effort to counter any statements made against him that may have been advanced in the community. Per a check on the Oregon Secretary of States website on Thursday, April 7, no campaign contributions to Joel Yarbor from gravel companies have been reported. DS.