A bill for mills

Smith, local officials move to revive industrial lands

Rep. Patti Smith, R-Corbett, has moved one step closer in her goal to help revive Oregon’s economy by putting old mill sites back to work.

House Bill 2691 was one of three bills to create new jobs that passed through the House Trade and Economic Development Committee, chaired by Smith, on Wednesday.

The legislation sponsored by Smith received unanimous approval and allows a city or county to rezone or redevelop abandoned or diminished mill sites for industrial use. Under the bill, local entities could make that move without going through the arduous process to gain an exception from state land-use planning goals.

“Although not all former mill site are appropriate for redevelopment, this legislation will help in a number of rural communities where these mill sites are the only industrial lands available,” Smith said.

Hood River County Planning Director Mike Benedict lent his land-use expertise to help Smith craft the objectives of the bill that will apply to three former Hood River County lumber plants. The two closed Hanel Lumber Mills and the Dee mill are already zoned for industrial use.

“This is a common sense approach to get ‘shovel ready’ land without harming the environment whatsoever,” said Benedict, who testified at one of the recent committee hearings in Salem.

Hood River Port Director Dave Harlan presented a strong case to Smith’s committee about the economic need for passage of the bill. He said although Hood River looked “prosperous,” that appearance was deceiving since it had one of the highest unemployment rates in the state and its average wage and salary income was just $21,493 — ranking 35th out of Oregon’s 36 counties.

“Add high housing costs to the mix and you get a picture of poverty in paradise,” said Harlan, contending that the use of ready-to-go industrial sites was crucial for the county to retain existing firms and attract new businesses.

His comments drew agreement from Hood River Economic Development Coordinator Bill Fashing, who was joined at the state capital by Hood River County Commission Chair Rodger Schock and District 1 Commissioner Carol York.

Smith credited the united stand of Hood River officials for influencing the passage of the bill, which could affect more than 160 mill sites around Oregon. The legislation will be presented on the House floor for a full vote next week and then sent to the Senate if approved. Smith’s constituent Sen. Rick Metsger, D-Welches, has co-sponsored the legislation and will help now help move it toward joint passage.

On Wednesday, Smith’s committee also approved two other key pieces of economic development legislation. House Bill 2298 expands the qualifications for an income tax exemption program to help small businesses in struggling communities. And finally, House Bill 2671 modified the eligibility requirements for long-term, non-urban enterprise zone tax incentives.

“Whether a company uses these new laws to create five jobs or 50 jobs, each one will be important to an Oregon family,” said Smith. “These three bills are the beginning of our effort to get Oregon back on track.”

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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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