Tight budget forces CL employees to share health care costs

The City of Cascade Locks is asking non-union employees to pay a share of their health insurance premiums during fiscal year 2003-04.

In previous years, the municipality has picked up the tab for all health benefits. But Robert Willoughby, city manager, said budget constraints and rising costs in both health care and retirement have necessitated a sharing of coverage expenses. However, he said that wage deduction will be balanced out by a 1 percent cost of living increase for nine staffers and a maximum of 2.25 percent for anniversary increases based on performance evaluations.

Willoughby said the city is holding the line on other expenditures during the upcoming year to offset a drop of $49,989 in revenue. The current $8,793,285 million budget includes $3 million in state and federal grant funding. These monies will be used to provide extra community policing and ordinance enforcement hours and support several anti-drug and neighborhood programs. In addition, the funding is expected to cover the cost of painting the reservoir, upgrading the water system, urban renewal efforts and electrical system renovations.

“It is very important that decisions be made about how to allocate our limited resources wisely, with an eye toward the future,” Willoughby said.

He said, in spite of its rural geographic location, Cascade Locks provides many amenities to residents. These services include access to cable television, broadband cable modem service, seasonal cleanup programs, operation of the local historical museum, tourism promotion and involvement in community activities. According to Willoughby, officials are sometimes challenged in their efforts by tough economic times — but are always open to suggestions that can improve the quality of life for citizens.

For example, he said the city is bringing a paramedic on board for around the clock coverage through a new merger. During the coming year, Cascade Locks will pay a contract fee of $63,000 to the City of Hood River for the administration and provision of emergency services.

According to Willoughby, public input about new projects is sought routinely through meetings, surveys and newsletters. If a plan receives strong approval, he said the elected body then seeks to find the funding necessary to bring it to fruition.

“Stable renewable resources must be allocated to the highest priority uses and services, while other programs and projects must wait until sporadic resources are available,” Willoughby said.

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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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