County could site affordable housing at edge of parking lot


News staff writer

February 22, 2006

Hood River County could site affordable housing units at the edge of its State Street parking lot.

Dave Meriwether, county administrator, believes there is room for 8-10 condominiums or apartments at the north end of the lot. He said that even with 18,000 square feet used for some type of development, just nine parking spaces would be lost.

“We’re just at the beginning stages of exploring this idea. We know there is a need and we are looking at ways to meet it,” said Meriwether.

Last summer Hood River County split the bill for an affordable housing study with the two city and port agencies within its territory. The study was arranged by Bill Fashing, county economic development coordinator, through the state Downtown Development Association. The field work and data collection was undertaken by Marketek, Inc., of Portland.

Local officials were subsequently advised that housing costs within Hood River were pushing even middle-income and professional employees to live elsewhere.

According to Marketek, the average cost of a residence within the city limits of Hood River was almost $230,000. The price was slightly lower in Cascade Locks and other areas of the county, at about $190,500. The consultants calculated that the county family of four median income was $50,600.

Fashing and other officials became worried that without a supply of homes that workers could afford, a major employer was unlikely to be drawn into the county. And a manufacturing base was necessary for family-wage jobs and pay the taxes needed to maintain essential services.

So, the three governmental bodies located in Hood River put together an affordable housing committee. The 10-member study group is chaired by Cindy Walbridge, city planning director. Serving on behalf of the county is Commissioner Maui Meyer, citizen Ruth Chausse, and Carl Perron, planning commissioner. From the port are Commissioner Kathy Watson and Mike Doke, marketing director, and Joella Dethman, director of Hood River County Commission on Children and Families. From the city: Councilor Paul Blackburn, Kate McBride, planning commissioner, and Richard Sassara, (HOusing for PEople). The advisory group meets the first and the third Tuesdays at noon in the Expo Center conference room.

In early February, the County Commission gave Meriwether a green light to investigate options for the property across from the administration building.

Meriwether said that once all of the necessary data is gathered, the county board will decide whether to pursue the project in the parking lot. At that time, he said, a decision is needed to sell the property or maintain ownership and rent or lease units. He said the county could bank the money from the sale for another property purchase. Since the State Street lot has a view of the Columbia River, Meriwether anticipates that it will carry a high market value. He said the profit from that sale could be used to provide still more affordable housing.

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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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