A snapshot of county issues

Feb. 19, 2011

Four official representatives presented a "five-minute overview" of short- and long-term issues facing Hood River County on Tuesday, bringing both challenges and projects into focus.

The Hood River County Chamber of Commerce Governmental Affairs breakfast featured Bob Francis, Hood River city manager; David Meriwether, county administrator; Chuck Daughtry, Cascade Locks Port general manager; and George Fischer, newly elected mayor of Cascade Locks.

The roundtable began with Meriwether acknowledging a major issue facing county coffers.

"We need to address the Secure Rural Schools funding which is slated to go away this year. We have to find a way to make up for the loss of income from the federal forest cuts offsets," Meriwether said. "Our road fund is very dependent on that continued revenue."

In fact, the county's last budgeted road fund included $1.3 million from that source within the total $4.3 million line item.

Meriwether noted that President Obama's recently released budget does include a five-year step-down extension of the program. However, reductions or elimination are still possible for the funding.

If passed in its current form, the federal program extension will drop revenue by 10 percent every year for the next five years.

Additional impacts from this federal funding question will potentially be felt by the Hood River County School District, which received approximately $461,000 from the same source this budget cycle.

Summarizing two large projects now in the works for the county - the Indian Creek Greenbelt Concept and the Hood River Crossing affordable housing project on Cascade Ave. - Meriwether noted that successful partnerships with the city, parks district and college have allowed these projects to proceed.

The county is also preparing to undertake a water resource analysis in which surveys will be conducted to assess existing and long-term projected water availability.

"This is a very precious resource and we want to ensure that our county is planning for sustainability," said Meriwether.

Studies will be conducted on current ground and surface water supplies as well as predicted future replenishment and usage.

"We don't want to end up like some places that are unable to maintain their way of life," Meriwether said.

Traffic management issues were also presented by Meriwether, connected to the proposed 30,000-square-foot expansion of the Walmart store on Cascade, increased traffic flow and the nearby re-alignment of the I-84 exit 62 interchange.

The related intersection upgrade project at Cascade and Rand was budgeted initially at $500,000, but recent estimates are coming in closer to $900,000. The county is in negotiations with Walmart regarding potential cost share.

Francis later also addressed proposed traffic changes at Second and Oak - articulating a proposed sequence of three stop lights on Second as a way to better mediate traffic flow.

Three capital projects are now in process under city supervision: The renovation of the old city hall building (and relocation of offices from the 301 Oak St. building), the renovation and expansion of the fire hall and the installation of a sewer lift station near the Pacific Power substation and the related elimination of the existing sewer line along Indian Creek trail.

Cascade Locks weighed in with several upcoming noteworthy items, as presented by Daughtry, including: a planned bicycling event in June; the April 13 installation of two large bronze statues commemorating Native American guide Sacagawea and Seaman, the dog mascot from the Lewis and Clark party; a proposed mountain bike trail and the installation of a new 10,000-square-foot steel frame industrial building.

Cascade Locks is in the process of upgrading access for a sail park at the industrial park beach front area and is in negotiations with local tribes over potential fish impacts.

Water-related issues were later presented by Fischer, who noted that Cascade Locks must plan for replacement of the antiquated water storage system.

In addition, Fischer updated the group on the negotiations with the Nestlé Company for the sale of city controlled drinking water.

According to Fischer, "Nestlé anticipates that people will be bringing lawsuits against the proposed bottling plant."

He also noted that within six to eight months, the negotiations will be completed for most legal questions and that, if approved, the plant would be built within two years.

Meeting attendee OSU Extension Service Staff Chair Brian Tuck took the final moments of the gathering to alert the audience to impending budget cuts.

Those cuts, being considered at the state level, would seriously affect the Extension Service programs in Hood River County.

"We believe this will be close to 25 percent of our budget," said Tuck. Combining those cuts with budget constraints on the county (which also provides limited funding to Extension), will pose threats to current programs.

"We bring in millions of research dollars to the community," noted Tuck. "Potential cuts would limit our office's ability to bring those monies to the local economy."

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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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