Special districts fear annexation will hurt clients

Two special taxing districts bordering Hood River are fearful that a city move to annex their territories will leave their clients underserved.

Both Ice Fountain Water District and West Side Fire District are opposed to the Hood River City Council's decision on Monday to annex about 475 acres. Those properties lie within the unincorporated western and south/central urban growth areas which are all currently served by city sewer and some residences also with city water.

Don Chandler, manager of Ice Fountain manager, and Jim Trammell, West Side fire marshal, believe the city is making the move toward annexation solely to bring in about $200,000 more each year in property tax revenue. Unfortunately, they say the city's gain stands to hurt both their agencies and the property owners, who will have their taxes increased an average of $300 per year.

"I believe it (city) is looking for a way to get more money and it stands to reason that in this economy everyone is looking for a way to survive -- but so are the taxpayers," said Trammell.

However, Lynn Guenther, city manager, said the annexation was intended to equalize the delivery of services since property holders throughout the city were currently bearing the cost for provision of services to the non-taxed urban growth areas. He said by incorporating the "urban fringe" the city could enact uniform design guidelines that would foster better planning for future growth.

Ice Fountain, which serves 1,700 clients, may be protected from budget cuts brought by the pending annexation since Guenther said officials have made no plans to take over its operations. However, Chandler said there is no finalized agreement in place at this time between the two parties that will guarantee that protection.

"This is still a thing in the works that we need to agree upon," Chandler said.

He said negotiations between the two public agencies are set to begin on Jan. 29 but he believes the city will ultimately work toward a resolution since it would be facing a "substantial" cost to legally buy out the infrastructure, pay off a percentage of the bond indebtedness, and reimburse lost income. Chandler said Ice Fountain would like the final agreement to allow an "opt-out" in the future after a long-term notice was given.

The city council also directed staffers and attorney Alexandra Sosnkowski on Jan. 14 to enter into negotiations with West Side for a withdrawal of its services. Trammell said that move would cost the fire district, primarily made up of volunteers, almost 25 percent of its $201,000 operating budget, an annual loss of about $53,000.

"We rely on our tax base to support the entire district and even though we lose a small portion of our coverage area our overall costs stay the same -- we still have to pay the same insurance premiums and buy the same amount of equipment," he said.

Trammell said in all fairness the city should follow Oregon law which allows it to enter into a "phase-in" agreement. He said that plan would provide Westside with long-term compensation or up to 10 years to turn over the reins -- both of which would allow it time for a financial adjustment.

The Hood River City Planning Commission will take public testimony about the proposed annexation at 7 p.m. on Jan. 30 in the old municipal building, 211 Second Street. The recommendation of that quasi-judicial body will be forwarded to the City Council for final consideration at 6 p.m. on Feb. 11 in the same location.

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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 www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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