City gears up for third look at equipment levy

Hood River officials are hoping the adage "three times is the charm" also proves true for ballot measures.

On Monday the city council decided to revisit a twice-denied bond levy for replacement of an aging service fleet that could soon be unrepairable because of budget constraints.

"You can't plow the streets or maintain efficiency in services if you don't have the equipment," said Mark Lago, director of the city public works/engineering department.

For example, Lago said the engine blew up on the 1982 model road grader during the first snow storm this winter -- which put it out of commission for the rest of the season. In addition he said it became difficult to clear second and third priority roadways since the mechanical shop was like a "war zone" as crews struggled to keep the 40-year-old sander and two 10-year-old snow plows operable.

Lago said he does not know how the 11 employees in the public works department will be able to keep up with plowing needs during a winter with a heavy snowfall. In fact, the need for 13 new service vehicles is so great that Lago said he and his workers are willing to go door-to-door to explain the situation to citizens. He also proposes that the city host an open house that would allow residents to see for themselves the condition of the existing equipment.

"I don't think people in Hood River really understand how bad this situation is going to get in another few years," said Lago.

Lago is recommending that the city seek a $500,000 bond levy, with the collection spread over a five-year period. The $100,000 annual special tax would cost property owners about 33 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

Since Lago estimates that buying replacement vehicles would necessitate an expenditure of about $863,000, he is also suggesting that the city restructure its parking meter rates to bring in an additional $281,700 that would be used for vehicle replacement.

Under Lago's plan, the 25 cents most commonly used to plug meters would buy 20 minutes instead of the current 30 minutes. Just that small differential could drastically increase the level of service the city could afford to provide, said Lago.

Lynn Guenther, city manager, will be talking about Lago's parking meter proposal with the Downtown Business Association on April 9 and bringing their reaction back to the council at a subsequent meeting. At that time further discussion will be given toward the levy.

In November of 2000 voters shot down the same request by a 56 to 36 percent margin. A similar levy, which requested $2.5 million over five years, was rejected in a two-to-one margin in November 1998.

If the city tries again, Guenther said, officials will make a push to provide more information on the need for the particular equipment it is seeking through the levy.

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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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