County payments moving forward

Last fiscal year, Hood River County received $713,038 to spend in support of schools and roads, as part of the Federal Secure Rural Schools program — a program slated to terminate this year.

According to Budget Director Sandra Borowy, the county “had not planned on receiving any renewal of that funding” for fiscal year 2012, which begins July 1, 2012, and ends June 30, 2013.

On June 28, 2012, the House and Senate leadership, however, reached agreement on a long-term transportation reauthorization bill that has opened the door for one final year of SRS program funding for Hood River. The SRS program was included on that bill as a one-year extension.

The final agreement as included in the larger transportation bill has passed both chambers and now must await President Obama’s signature.

The program has been funding county outlays for public schools, road improvement and maintenance projects, and forest restoration and improvement projects. It has been offered to communities in and around National Forests. Oregon will receive an estimated $100 million in this last round renewal.

The bill also clarifies that funds for eligible Title III projects, like Hood River County, must be obligated by the end of the following fiscal year but not necessarily initiated. That is standard language from past funding that allows some flexibility in when the funds are actually expended.

“Funding would give lifeline to rural counties and breathing room for efforts to craft long-term jobs solutions to provide local services and create jobs,” stated U.S. Rep. Greg Walden in a press release.

“This one-year extension gives us the breathing room we need to continue our bipartisan and delegation-wide work toward a long-term solution that brings jobs back into the forests to create revenues that keep essential local services like schools and law enforcement afloat,” Walden said.

The funding, at about $346 million nationwide for one year, will provide Hood River a reduced amount from last year’s allocation. Total figures are yet to be determined.

“I have consistently said we need a period of short-term bridge funding to sustain our rural communities until a long-term solution takes effect,” Walden stated. “Some counties are already facing extreme budget challenges ... The federal government, which owns the lion’s share of land in our rural forested communities, must be a better neighbor.”

Also within the approved bill, Senate language extends, by one year through fiscal year 2013, full funding for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes program.

While not part of Hood River County’s revenue stream, that program provides federal payments to local governments to help offset losses in property taxes due to nontaxable federal land within their boundaries and has been critical in several other counties in Oregon.

With the new extension in place for both programs, members of Congress are turning their attention to creating solutions for counties impacted by cutbacks on logging within national forests.

The federal government has held a longstanding practice of sharing a portion of the federal logging income with counties from where timber had been extracted.

“This one-year lifeline is a bridge, not a solution. I will forge ahead with bipartisan work with Reps. DeFazio and Schrader and the Natural Resource Committee to change federal forest policies so we can get Oregonians back to work in the woods,” Walden 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 to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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