City pares annexation to 45 acres

The Hood River City Council admitted on Monday that it had learned a tough lesson in "Annexation 101" from its constituents.

"This has been a huge learning curve for us as well as you," said Councilor Andrea Klaas to more than 80 audience members. "Unfortunately, this was sort of an exercise in bad communication, I feel."

City officials arrived at the new conclusion after they were unable to stem citizen fears by providing financial data about the actual costs involved in a takeover of irrigation, domestic water and emergency services.

"It is important that people's voices are heard and we do listen," said Mayor Paul Cummings.

At the Feb. 12 hearing, the council voted to incorporate only about 45 acres at the western edge of the city. The majority of that property lies along Interstate 84 sewer right-of-way. But it also includes the 1.95 acres housing Harvey's Texaco and the Timber Crest Development of slightly less than once acre, which is sited near the Country Club Road and West Cascade Avenue junction.

"I don't feel comfortable with the fiscal side (of an expanded annexation), I feel we have a greater responsibility to city residents," said Councilor Carrie Nelson.

The latest change followed the Jan. 30 approval by the City Planning Commission to proceed with incorporation of 188 acres, which had already been reduced from last summer's proposal of 475 acres.

However, it still met with strong opposition from Rachel Harvey, operator of the involved Texaco station. Harvey said that if the city required a downsizing of the freestanding commercial sign along I-84 the business would be forced to shut down and the 44 employees would be left jobless.

Alexandra Sosnkowski, city attorney, said the sign would have to be replaced to comply with the current sign code. However, she said Doug Hattenhauer, owner of the property leased by the Harveys, would have the same seven-year grace period to comply that had been afforded to other Hood River businesses. Hattenhauer recently spent about $20,000 on the current advertisement and has asked to be included in the city's less stringent freeway zone -- a request that officials will consider at a later date.

"Whether we lose that sign now or in seven years from now, we will go under without it," warned Harvey.

Guenther said staffers pared the annexation proposal down yet again after it became clear that only a limited area would allow a smooth transition of services at this time. For example, he learned earlier this month that it would cost the municipality about $609,000 to run water lines to residences currently served by Farmers Irrigation District. The local water provider is not allowed by state law to provide untreated water to properties incorporated into the city limits.

After hearing almost two hours of testimony and reviewing stacks of opposition letters and even a legal threat from Westside Fire District, the city council decided to slow down the annexation process. They settled on developing a five-year "urban fringe" plan that would allow better communication with residents.

The first reading of the annexation ordinance will take place at the regular city meeting on Feb. 25 (next week's special session was canceled due to lack of a quorum). On Feb. 26 the second reading will be given in a special meeting.

The annexation is expected to go into effect on June 1 and raise about $4,140 in revenue.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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