Editorial: 'Secure schools' bipartisanship is welcome news

October 8, 2011

In a rare display of bipartisanship at the national level, Oregon's congressional delegation along with Gov. John Kitzhaber have agreed on legislation that would extend federal payments to Oregon's beleaguered timber counties for another five years.

The Secure Rural Schools Act program, known informally as "County Payments," will run out in December if not renewed, as the program technically expired Sept. 30.

Hood River County received around $2 million in the 2010-11 fiscal year. Of that, around $1.4 million went to the county roads fund, around $500,000 went to Hood River County School District and $150,000 to county sheriff search and rescue operations.

The legislation is expected to be introduced in the Senate next week and would authorize the payments for five more years with an annual reduction of 5 percent over the prior year's funding.

As Ben McCarty reports on page A1, "While the money has been dwindling, it still remains a key funding source for the many Oregon counties that have substantial amounts of forest land owned by the federal government within their boundaries."

County Budget Director Sandra Borowy noted that without the payments the 2012-13 county budget for roads "would be a big fat blank line and we would have to start tapping into our reserves."

What's encouraging is that Rep. Greg Walden is on board. As author of the original bill, and a Republican, he appears motivated and equipped to help marshal this current funding request through the many tight squeezes in the federal budget maze.

This is a true case of a group of five public servants seeing a need and coming together to serve it. Any "letter to your congressman" this week might be one of thanks for their collaborative efforts for the program.

Legislators could also use some suggestions on what things state, federal and local authorities might do to forestall putting "county payments" on the brink in the future.

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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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