The Board of Commissioners has proclaimed the Month of April as Volunteer Month in Columbia County and encourages all county residents to join in the observation. "During Volunteer Month, we recognize the importance of our local volunteers and celebrate the significant contributions of our neighbors who graciously give back to the community," said Columbia County Commissioner Henry Heimuller. "We hope that in sharing our appreciation for the extraordinary contributions made by these generous residents, we can inspire and motivate others in our county to volunteer their time and talents to worthy causes."
Here are just a few of the many organizations whose volunteers help keep Columbia County great:
Columbia County Fair Board
The Fair Board, its subcommittees, 4-H clubs, and literally dozens of other volunteer groups and organizations come together each year to make the annual Columbia County Fair a success and help to maintain the fairgrounds on an ongoing basis.
The Fair Board's seven-member committee seeks sponsors, organizes vendors, plans exhibits and displays, and schedules entertainers for the annual county fair. The Columbia County Fair, a five-day event held each July, draws up to 25,000 people. If you are interested in serving on any of county's advisory committees, please complete an online application at https://www.columbiacountyor.gov/advisory-committee-membership-application.
NOTS Boating Club & Columbia River Yachting Association (CRYA)
Totaling over 2,000 members in 19 member clubs, NOTS and CRYA work to develop new recreational boating facilities while promoting safe boating and water safety activities in Columbia County.
Members from NOTS and CRYA direct an annual clearing and cleanup of the JJ Collins Park on Coon Island. Additionally, they have donated several thousand dollars for projects in Columbia County, including the Gilbert River docks restoration and rebuilding of tables at JJ Collins Park. For more information on the NOTS Boating Club, visit their website at http://www.notsboatingclub.com.
Oregon Equestrian Trails (OET) Columbia County Chapter
OET is a non-profit organization that celebrated its 50th Anniversary last year. Members are dedicated to building, promoting, preserving, and maintaining horse camps and trails in Columbia County and Oregon, for equestrians and hikers.
Since 2016, OET has coordinated the efforts of approximately 70 people to help with trail maintenance at Camp Wilkerson, Dibblee Point Park, and the Crown Z Trail; and the construction of the horse camp at Camp Wilkerson. OET paid for and built 5 of the six corral units and built a camp host site for the horse campground. In addition, OET purchased and built the picnic shelter and an ADA ramp for riders with special accessibility needs. OET meets at 7:00 pm on the 2nd Wednesday of every month at the Moose Family Center in Warren. For more information on OET, call Bob Rice at 503-366-3736.
Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP)
RSVP serves the dual purpose of engaging persons 55 and older in volunteering services to meet critical community needs and providing a high-quality experience that will enrich the lives of the volunteers.
RSVP volunteers perform essential front desk duties at the courthouse by answering questions, providing directions, and generally helping ease the stress that community members sometimes feel when visiting the courthouse to conduct business. Contact Monica Cade at 888-538-5457 for information on volunteering opportunities.
The Columbia County Board of Commissioners would like to thank all the volunteers who share their time and efforts in giving back to our community.
The Board of Commissioners proclaims April 2022 as Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) in Columbia County. SAAM calls attention to the fact that sexual violence is widespread, educates individuals on how to prevent it, and bolsters prevention efforts throughout the year.
Rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment harm our communities, and statistics show one in five women and one in 67 men will be raped at some point in their lives. Child sexual abuse prevention must be a priority to confront the reality that one in six boys and one in four girls will experience sexual assault before age 18. One in five women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted during their time in college.
"Sexual assault is a tragic reality whose victims often suffer in silence," said Columbia County Commissioner Margaret Magruder. "This month is to build our community's knowledge on how to speak out, intervene when we see harmful behaviors, and promote safety and respect. I want to encourage everyone to use this opportunity to consider how they can be a part of the solution."
If you are a victim or survivor of sexual violence, there is a national network of community-based and local organizations that support the needs of sexual assault survivors. While the specific services available vary by location, the following resources can help:
In an emergency, call 911, your local emergency number, or the County Sherriff's office. Remember, no one deserves to be abused.
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The Board of Commissioners would like to recognize the fine work and accomplishments of the Columbia County Land Use Compliance Specialists. Land Use Compliance is a branch of Land Development Services and is responsible for protecting health and safety by ensuring compliance with county regulations.
The county’s Land Use Compliance Specialists investigate, respond to, and process complaints involving alleged code violations and assist technical staff in enforcing solid waste, land use, and on-site septic ordinances. Some of the types of complaints that the specialists investigate are: solid waste that is a threat to public health or safety, unauthorized land uses or failure to comply with land use conditions of approval, stormwater and erosion control standards, and subsurface sewage disposal systems.
"We also investigate complaints to the DumpStoppers Program to determine who may have dumped the waste. We clean up the site if it is small enough, but if it's a large dumpsite we coordinate with the Community Justice Adult Division to have a work crew clean up the site," said Columbia County Land Use Compliance Specialist David Carlberg. DumpStoppers investigates reports of garbage dumping and abandoned boats, trailers, RVs, and vehicles.
From 2018 until 2020, Land Use Compliance Specialists managed 150 active cases. Last year 61 new land use compliance claims were registered, 111 new DumpStopper reports were received, and 156 cases were resolved.
One of the group’s biggest achievements in 2021 was the utilization of Ordinance No. 2016-6 to establish a procedure for Accelerating the Redemption Period for Waste and Abandonment on a property located in Scappoose that has been in the compliance system as an active case since 2018. The proper application of this ordinance required that the Land Use Compliance team work seamlessly with several county departments including County Counsel, Finance and Taxation, General Services, Public Works, Land Development Services, and the Board of Commissioners Office.
The Land Use Compliance unit can be reached by phone at 503-397-7230, by fax at 503-366-3902, or by emailing email@example.com. To report illegal dumping in our county, call the DumpStoppers hotline at 503-397-7229.
Columbia County, in partnership with the Columbia Economic Team (CET), recently distributed nearly $500k in grants to county businesses and non-profit organizations to assist with recovery and resilience in response to economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic. The grant dollars were funded by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was received by the county when it was identified as high-risk last summer.
In September, the county chose to contract with CET again to administer the grant application and disbursement process. The Board of County Commissioners directed CET and County staff to concentrate on making the program more accessible to non-profit organizations that were ineligible for most of the $1.9 million in grants CET distributed last year. As a direct result of modified program guidelines and application criteria, a major marketing push, and targeted communications, nearly double the number of non-profit organizations applied for and received grants this year. Including these latest 2021 grants, nearly $2.5 million in small business and organizational grants has been administered by Columbia Economic Team in 2020 and 2021, nearly $1.5 million from the Board of Commissioners.
The Columbia Economic Team processed a total of 102 applications, many of which were submitted by new applicants. In addition to helping eligible organizations successfully complete the application process, CET spent numerous hours working with the county's Board, Counsel, and Finance Department to ensure that the available funds were distributed by the December 31 deadline.
Of the 85 organizations that received funding awards: 56 are small businesses, 40 of which are women-owned companies, and 29 are non-profits. Non-profits received a total of $271,950 and $222,950 was distributed to small business recipients. The allocations were based on "human" resources: employee or volunteer counts for businesses and non-profits, respectively.
In reporting on program completion to the Board of Commissioners, Paul Vogel, Executive Director of the Economic Team thanked the Board for its focus on the non-profit community. “The economic impacts of the pandemic have affected everyone. Non-profits, however, have been hit with a triple- and maybe quadruple- whammy. The necessary lockdowns, restrictions, and distancing affected them too, donations and funding from financially struggling supporters took a hit, the economic impacts caused a dramatic increase in the need for their services, and in large part they weren’t eligible for most COVID-related grants,” Vogel said. “These organizations, their services, and their place in our communities are vital,” Vogel added. “The Commissioners’ very intentional effort to assist them generated significant response and produced substantial results.”
Columbia County's advisory boards, committees, and commissions provide community perspective to the Board of Commissioners on important local issues. Serving on an advisory group offers county residents the opportunity to learn about the county's work and make recommendations on county programs, services, and policies.
Each advisory group has a specific purpose and is governed by operating statutes. Terms run from one to six years, depending on the committee or commission and circumstances. Vacancies are generally filled at the end of the calendar and fiscal year unless an opening becomes available during the year.
Columbia County currently has openings on the following advisory groups:
Visit us online at columbiacountyor.gov/advisory-committees for detailed information about these advisory groups. If you are interested in serving on any of our advisory groups, please submit an online application at columbiacountyor.gov/advisory-committee-membership-application.
Our community benefits from the participation of hundreds of individuals volunteering their time and knowledge. Get involved, share your skills, and help shape our community. Join a Columbia County advisory group.
PUBLIC NOTICE is given to all persons in Columbia County that the Board of County Commissioners will hold a virtual public hearing on Wednesday, January 19, 2022, at or after 10:00 a.m., at the Columbia County Courthouse, 230 Strand Street, St. Helens, Oregon.
The purpose of the hearing is to consider the applications by NEXT Renewable Fuels Oregon, LLC, for a renewable fuel facility at Port Westward.
Columbia County has entered into a 24-month lease agreement with American Property Management. "This agreement paves the way for the temporary relocation of the Land Development Services (LDS) department and associated Planning, Building, Code Compliance, and On-Site Septic services," says Robert Wheeldon, Columbia County's interim Planning Manager.
Land Development Services will move on December 27th from its current location in the County Courthouse Annex building at 230 Strand Street to a temporary location in the Port Business Center at 445 Port Avenue. Applications will be accepted and inspections will continue to be completed throughout the transition. Additional limited services will be available on the main floor of the Annex building during the transition. LDS’s full services will resume no later than Friday, January 7th at the Port Avenue address.
"The temporary move is a necessary step in the planned renovations of the County Courthouse Annex and John Gumm buildings, ultimately allowing the County to position its service departments in a manner that better serves the community," says Casey Garrett, Columbia County Commissioner.
Building renovations will enable the Public Health Department to relocate to the lower level of the Annex building, move County administrative functions to the John Gumm building, and consolidate counter-driven services to the main floor of the Courthouse. "Grouping all of our counter functions on the main floor of the Courthouse will not only provide ease of access to these services, but it will also improve the level of customer service that we can deliver to County residents," says Commissioner Garrett.
Columbia County's Building Official Suzie Dahl says, "Minimizing any inconvenience to the public while still ensuring that the department can offer its many important services has been one of the top concerns during the design phase of this project."
For more information on the move or services available from Land Development Services, please call 503-397-1501.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 11, 2021
Columbia County Joins in Celebrating the Scappoose Centennial
ST. HELENS, Oregon - The Columbia County Board of Commissioners would like to invite all Columbia County residents to help us commemorate the Scappoose Centennial. The City of Scappoose will be hosting a celebration that will include vendor booths, music, and several exciting events at both Veteran's and Heritage parks. The Scappoose Centennial Celebration will be held on Friday and Saturday, August 13th and 14th, 2021.
While you're at Veteran's Park, be sure to stop by our booth to see what's happening on the Crown Z Trail: information kiosks that share the trail's rich history, improved and updated trailhead locations, signage, and more! Then head over to Heritage Park and check out the historical display which includes a slide show developed by Les Waters, Curator for the Columbia County Museum Association. You will get to see lots of historical photos, articles, and facts that comprise the Crown Z Trail experience.
The Commissioners would like to extend a special "Thank You!" to the Columbia County Museum Association and the Crown Z Trail Committee for their invaluable assistance in conserving and communicating the fascinating history of the Crown Z Trail.
For specific information concerning Scappoose Centennial Celebration times and events, please visit http://www.Scappoose100.com.
You can find more information about the Columbia County Museum Association on their website at http://www.colcomuseum.org/.
(Columbia County, Oregon) – The Columbia County Board of Commissioners is now welcoming letters of interest and resumes for appointment to the open positions of County Assessor and County Clerk, due by 5 p.m. on May 15, 2021.
With the upcoming retirement of Assessor Sue Martin and the passing of Clerk Betty Huser prior to the completion of their elected terms, the County is opening the application process for these positions to all qualified, interested parties.
Minimum qualifications for each position are as follows:
· Citizen of the United States
· Elector under Oregon Constitution
· Resident for one year preceding the next election
· Qualified as a registered appraiser or is an appraiser trainee under ORS 308.015 and becomes registered appraiser within two years of taking office and has two years of office and accounting experience including in office management activities, or has two years of full time employment in an office of the County Assessor (not necessarily Columbia County). The Department of Revenue (DOR) has a certificate of compliance application and questionnaire to determine if this criteria is met. If qualified, the DOR will issue a certificate of compliance. (To be submitted after submission of letter of interest and resume.)
· Citizen of the United States
· Elector under the Oregon Constitution
· Resident for one year preceding the next election
For more information about these positions, please visit the Columbia County Human Resources website at https://www.columbiacountyor.gov/departments/HumanResources.
Please e-mail your letter of interest and resume to Columbia County Human Resources Director Jeanine Hohn at Jeanine.firstname.lastname@example.org by 5 p.m. on May 15, 2021.
(Columbia County, Oregon) – With great sadness, the Board of Commissioners of Columbia County regrets to announce the passing of Elizabeth “Betty” Huser, who has served as Columbia County Clerk for 32 years, on Monday, April 26.
Huser was born in Cumberland, Wisconsin near the Great Lakes, where her family had a cabin she loved to visit. Her family later moved to Scappoose where she graduated from Scappoose High School and began work for an insurance company in Portland.
Huser served as Mayor of Scappoose from 1979 to 1988 and was president of the Oregon Mayor Association in 1985. Upon her retirement from that position, former County Clerk Reta Kerry asked her to accept the appointment of County Clerk, and Huser has filled that role since. She was also a past president of the Columbia County League of Women Voters, past president of Scappoose Kiwanis, and was involved with the Scappoose Girl Scouts.
On Columbia County’s County Clerk website, Huser wrote in welcome, “I am honored that you have elected me to this important position since 1989. It has been my pleasure to issue marriage licenses, manage county elections and provide passports, among my other various duties.”
On Tuesday, April 27, the Board of Commissioners met with County Counsel to discuss how to fill Huser’s role as an elected official. The next election to fill the County Clerk position will be held in November of 2023, for a term of four years. The person appointed to fill the vacancy will serve until the beginning of January 2024.
With that in mind, the Board is opening an application process for those interested in the position. To qualify for the position, you must be a citizen of the United States, an elector under the Oregon Constitution, and a resident of Columbia County for at least one year. Interested parties should email a letter of interest and their resume to Human Resources Director Jeanine Hohn, at Jeanine.email@example.com.
In the interim, Chief Deputy Don Clack will continue to perform the official acts and duties of the office.
Multiple outbreaks linked to rise in cases could shift Columbia County back to High Risk
(Columbia County, Oregon) – Columbia County recently linked several COVID-19 cases to recent gatherings and activities in North County. If this trend continues, it could shift Columbia County back into the High Risk Category and lead to stricter capacity restrictions and gathering limits.
Residents should be advised that cases are also trending up across the state. The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) COVID-19 Weekly Report, released on Thursday, April 1, reported 2,456 new daily cases of COVID-19 during the week of Monday, March 22 through Sunday, March 28. That represents a 28% increase from the previous week.
Given the rise in new cases, Columbia County Public Health would like to remind our communities that it is important for us to continue to pull together and take the necessary precautionary measures that will help us prevent additional outbreaks and further rise in cases. Increased local spread not only endangers our vulnerable citizens, it disrupts businesses and schools. Community members can prevent further cases by continuing to wear our masks while socializing, frequent hand washing, and maintaining physical distance.
Most importantly, we can continue to follow the recommendations of limiting the amount of people who gather socially in one place. In counties classified as Moderate Risk, indoor social and at-home gatherings should be limited to a maximum of eight people from no more than two households. Outdoor social and at-home gatherings should be limited to a maximum of ten people.
Even for those who are already vaccinated, it is still important to follow these recommendations while in public or at work. For more information on how to protect yourself and others when you’ve been vaccinated, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/fully-vaccinated.html
In addition to setting risk levels based on recent case counts and test positivity, residents can stay informed by reviewing the OHA’s weekly outbreak report here: https://www.oregon.gov/oha/covid19/Documents/DataReports/Weekly-Outbreak-COVID-19-Report.pdf
(Columbia County, Oregon) – The Columbia County Second Amendment Sanctuary Ordinance, recently adopted by the Columbia County Board of Commissioners to implement the intent of the voters as demonstrated by the passage of the “Second Amendment Preservation Ordinance” in 2018 and the “Second Amendment Sanctuary Ordinance” in 2020, will now move on to Validation proceedings in Columbia County Circuit Court.
In passing the Ordinance, many provisions of both Measures 5-270 and 5-278 remain the same. The Ordinance amended the Second Amendment Sanctuary Ordinance to incorporate provisions of the Second Amendment Preservation Ordinance where it differed from the Second Amendment Sanctuary Ordinance. The new Ordinance’s adoption kept it consistent with County practice and corrected scrivener errors in the Acts while preserving the intent of the voters. The Second Amendment Preservation Ordinance was then repealed.
The passage of the two initiatives and subsequent adopted Ordinance raises several important legal questions about what firearm regulations can be enforced in Columbia County, according to County Counsel Sarah Hanson. To gain clarity from the Court about the matter, the County filed a “Petition for Validation of Local Government Action,” which authorizes the circuit court to conduct a judicial examination of the Ordinance and provide a judgment of the court as to its regularity and legality.
“This will allow the Court to tell us whether the County can actually decline to enforce certain state laws, and it will tell us how to abide by the will of the voters to the extent that we can,” Hanson said. “It will also safeguard the County in the event we’re ever sued by an organization, for example - a gun safety group, due to the measures.”
Notice and summons to the County and all electors or interested persons will be posted once a week for the next three weeks. Any interested person will have ten days from the date of the final publication to appear and contest the regularity, legality, validity, and effect of the Ordinance.
“As Columbia County Sheriff, it is my responsibility to ensure the rights of all of our citizens are protected, including the 2nd Amendment right to bear arms,” Sheriff Brian Pixley said. “I look forward to the validation process so we can move forward with the will of the voters”.
BEFORE THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY, sitting as the
COLUMBIA COUNTY DEVELOPMENT AGENCY
TO: ALL INTERESTED PARTIES
The Columbia County Development Agency (Agency) has published the FY 2019/2020 Annual Report. It is on file at the offices of the Board of County Commissioners located in the Columbia County Courthouse, Room 331, at 230 Strand Street, St. Helens, OR 97051 and with the Agency. The full information is available to all interested persons. In FY 2019/2020, the Agency received $3,433,327 in property tax revenue. Expenditures from FY 2019/2020 were $1,257,739. The estimated tax revenues for FY 2020/2021 are $2,665,000. The 2020/2021 budget includes $9,508,000 in revenues and expenditures. The impact of carrying out the urban renewal plan on the tax collections for the preceding year for all taxing districts is shown in the table below. The remaining maximum indebtedness for the Area is $15,465,462.75.
Taxing Jurisdiction Foregone Revenue to CCDA Foregone Revenue as % of Total Permanent Rate Levy
Columbia County $485,432 6.20%
Columbia 4H & Extension $19,551 6.10%
Col 9-1-1 Comm District $88,819 6.20%
Columbia Vector $44,223 7.20%
Rainier Cemetery $24,580 24.30%
Clatskanie Park & Rec $121,142 35.20%
Clatskanie Library $99,735 34.80%
Port of Columbia County $30,764 7.20%
Columbia SWCD $34,570 6.20%
Clatskanie RFPD $598,438 35.70%
NW Regional ESD $53,068 0.40%
Clatskanie 6J School District $1,602,919 30.80%
(Columbia County, Oregon) – In partnership with the Columbia County Economic Team (CCET), Columbia County recently distributed $929,274 worth of Small Business Grant dollars to 159 Columbia County small businesses and non-profits.
The grant dollars were distributed across eight cities and towns and awarded by size of company – the majority of which were smaller sole proprietorships. The local hospitality industry alone received $258,978.
“Our businesses and communities need this money here,” Columbia County Commissioner Henry Heimuller said. “We were determined not to send a single cent back that would benefit the citizens of Columbia County.”
According to CCET Executive Director, Paul Vogel, the process to take business applications and ensure the distribution of the money was a significant team effort.
“The State had to contract with the County, the County had to contract with an entity to help develop and administer the program – and selected us, we had to coordinate with County finance and attorneys to get it all put together in compliance with state and federal guidelines,” Vogel said. “We spent nearly a full day on the phone to make sure all the T’s were crossed and the I’s dotted.”
The County received confirmation and details about its allocation from the state in early December, including the amount it had to work with, and were told that money had to be out the door by December 30. CCET and the County were able to work together to get the program up and running, materials developed and applications for the grant dollars made available by December 9. This gave businesses ten days to file them.
Each application was individually checked twice before the awards were made on December 30.
“The thing that really stood out to me in this last round, it was more money, and for a lot of people this was their first time applying. They were new recipients. That tells you what you already sense - there’s a whole lot of need out there,” Vogel said.
Vogel said the grant process has been an excellent lens into small business in the Columbia County community. Those involved feel as though they’ve gotten to know Columbia County companies better than they ever had before, which is beneficial looking forward and building resilience.
This is the third round of Emergency Small Business Grants in which CCET has been involved. The first two were funded directly by Business Oregon, with the County Commissioners providing a match for Round 1. Rounds 1 and 2 were administered jointly by CCET and the Columbia Pacific Economic Development District (Col-Pac).
Even so, small business grants like these are a bit of a new thing, according to Vogel, brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis. After an admittedly rough first round for many applicants, Vogel said CCET took some steps to assist businesses in preparing – including workshops to help businesses with basic business preparation that help make them stronger businesses, as well as applicants.
The second round got better, Vogel said, and this round of grant funding went much smoother, although the condensed time crunch created its own challenges.
“It was a bunch of long hours. We’ve got a tally – I don’t even know how many hours,” Vogel said. “You know you’re going to be able to help small businesses and non-profits, and that’s what keeps you going, the effort to help with that is worthwhile. I feel like I benefitted a lot from understanding a lot more of what they’re dealing with in terms of their cost and how they’ve adapted.”
Vogel said Columbia County is faring better than the coast, in some respects, as coastal towns have lower populations and rely on destination foot traffic – and much of the grant funding was based on population. However, Vogel said restaurants, bars and retail are struggling as much in Columbia County as anywhere else.
“We’re not heavy on the hospitality industry, but each of our communities has restaurants, bars, motels and retail that are the soul of the community. They’re having a hard time with it. While we’re doing these grants, we’re trying to promote the hell out of these businesses,” Vogel said. “Our communities are the way they are because of the businesses that are here. Make sure those folks see you darken their doorways and make sure to help those who help our communities remain what they are.”
BEFORE THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
2021 ANNUAL MEETING NOTICE
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/357054141 United States (Toll Free): 1 866 899 4679 Access Code: 357-054-141
https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/357054141 United States (Toll Free): 1 866 899 4679 Access Code: 357-054-141.
Dated this 6th day of January, 2021
BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY,
BY: s/ Margaret Magruder
Margaret Magruder, Chair
PUBLIC MEETING NOTICE
Spotlight News please publish in your January 15, 2021 addition.
The Chronicle please publish in your January 13. 2021 addition.
This notice will also be posted at www.columbiacountyor.gov
(Columbia County, Oregon) – On Monday, January 4, Judge Ted Grove swore in three officials who won their elections in November.
Commissioner Margaret Magruder, re-elected for her second term to Position 1, was first elected in November 2016. A lifelong resident of Clatskanie, Oregon, she has more than two decades of public service involving Columbia County business, government, and non-profits. As a County Commissioner, Magruder’s primary focus is economic development, natural resources, and infrastructure.
“It is a privilege to serve the citizens of Columbia County for the next four years,” Magruder said. “I look forward to working to bring improved technology, new jobs, and good health to Columbia County.”
Commissioner Casey Garrett, elected in November for his first term to Position 3, has been working for the County for six years as the Director of General Services. He has been a resident of St. Helens for 14 years and was raised outside of Scappoose in Chapman. As a County Commissioner, Garrett is focused on economic growth and living wage jobs, increasing access to public lands, and improved customer service.
MaryAnn Guess, newly elected as County Treasurer, has worked in the Columbia County Tax Office for 18 years, and became the County’s Tax Collector in 2015. Guess also served on the County Fair Board for eight years.
“My family has been in Columbia County for the past 50 years,” Guess said. “I will continue to be transparent in performing the duties of County Treasurer as I do as the County’s Tax Collector.”
This will be Guess’s first term as County Treasurer.
BEFORE THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY, OREGON
In the Matter of the Application by the Port )
of Columbia County for a Comprehensive Plan ) NOTICE OF REVISED SCHEDULE
Amendment, Zone Change and Goal 3 ) FOR REMAND PROCEEDINGS
Exception to Reclassify and Rezone Property ) (PUBLICATION)
from Primary Agriculture (PA-80) to Resource )
Industrial Planned Development (RIPD) for an )
837 Acre Expansion of Port Westward on )
Remand from the Oregon Land Use Board of )
Dated this 18th day of December, 2020.
BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY, OREGON
By: s/Alex Tardif
Alex Tardif, Chair
Chronicle: Please publish in your December 23, 2020 issue.
Chief: Please publish in your December 23, 2020 issue.
(Columbia County, Oregon) – Thanks to the efforts of two local men who donated their time and skill, the Columbia County Courthouse has a brand-new set of doors designed to harken back to the building’s original, historic splendor – just in time for Christmas.
The discussion to replace the doors began two years ago when Director of General Services, Casey Garrett, had local Bob Ekstrom of The Door Works, come down to look at the aluminum doors that had been in place at the courthouse for some time, but did not fit the building aesthetically.
“We thought, ‘why don’t we just get rid of this stuff that’s really inappropriate for the building and get the doors back on here that are more historically accurate,’” Ekstrom said.
They then tapped local builder Jim Mask, of Storyline Fabrication, and with the help of the Columbia County Historical Society and Museum Association, set about determining what the original courthouse doors would have looked like when the building was first constructed. According to Garrett, the museum unearthed some old photos to send to Mask so he could get started on the designs.
“We couldn’t tell from the pictures if the doors were made from fir or oak, so we actually went and looked at some of the older buildings that were original around town and found that oak was not abnormal,” Garrett said. “It’s a much stronger material, so we decided to go with the oak.”
Mask and Esktrom said they mimicked the old photos to the best of their ability. They wanted to ensure the hardware looked as close to the photos as possible, and Mask was able to locate door handles from a building in Portland constructed during the same time period. Additionally, the shelf on the door and the weather strips on the front are from a tree Mask cut down himself.
“The current requirements for security and access control, you know, the fob card and the door locks release electronically – that all had to be set into the door pretty much to the ultimate capacity of what the door even allowed,” Mask said. “So, we have something that looks like it’s back in 1906 and works for 2020 with access control. They’re pretty high-end locks.”
For his part, Mask said he’d visited the building six or seven years prior and thought the doors didn’t fit the building and it had been bothering him ever since. So, the endeavor became a true passion project for each of them. Mask and Ekstrom donated all of the manhours they contributed to the project, and Ekstrom was able to spec out the hardware so that the County didn’t have to pay a markup, which Garrett said saved the County thousands of dollars.
“They’re highly skilled craftsman,” Garrett said. “The main cost was the technology for the locks. There are four magnets now that keep the door locked, and when you walk down the stairs, a censor recognizes you and unlocks the door.”
Garrett said when the County returns to normal operating hours, the doors are designed to automatically lock and unlock for business hours.
When Ekstrom and Mask were asked why the doors became such a passion project for them, and why they would go through so much trouble, essentially, for free, Ekstrom said, “We live in Columbia County, and we think the county should have first-rate everything and those doors were definitely not first-rate. Now things are as good as we can see they should be.”
In the future, Garrett said there are more plans to restore the Columbia County Courthouse to a more authentic, historically accurate design. The next project will be to open the original ceiling back up in the main lobby of the courthouse, where the original millwork will be restored to look as it did when the building was first constructed.
(Columbia County, Oregon) – In partnership with the Oregon Health Authority, the Columbia County Public Health Department is offering free COVID-19 testing clinics throughout the month of December.
One person will be allowed per appointment, and each person must register individually. Registration assistance will be available at each event for those without internet access. Those with internet access can register and select your appointment time at www.doineedacovid19test.com.
These free testing clinics will be drive-thru and everyone is welcome. No insurance is required for your appointment. The tests are quick and pain-free, self-administered nasal swabs.
December 2, 9, 16, and 30 (no testing on 12/23)
St. Helens High School
2375 Gable Road
St. Helens, Oregon
General questions about COVID-19 can be answered by calling 2-1-1. Questions about your specific medical needs should be directed to your health care provider. If you cannot find the information you need via the Columbia County Public Health website (https://www.columbiacountyor.gov/departments/PublicHealth) or at the number provided, call Columbia County Public Health at 503-397-7247.
(Columbia County, Oregon) - Columbia County has suffered its third loss to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Oregon Health Authority statistics reported on Saturday, November 21.
The 75-year-old Columbia County woman was Oregon's 815th COVID-19 death. She tested positive on October 23 and died on November 19, at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center. She had underlying conditions.
“Coronavirus is real and we do see deadly effects from this virus,” Dr. Joe Skariah, Portland Residency Director for OHSU said. “We know what we can do right now and that’s what we need to be doing. Wear a mask, social distance, practice good hygiene – it will protect you and those around you.”
Columbia County is currently experiencing a surge in coronavirus cases, and the likelihood of coming into contact with Covid-19 is higher than it’s ever been within our community. According to Columbia County Public Health Director, Michael Paul, we have a test positivity rate and the number of new cases per week have been steadily increasing for several weeks. Additionally, weekly hospitalizations from Covid-19 continue to break records. As of today, there are 456 coronavirus patients hospitalized across Oregon. 44 of those patients were hospitalized since Friday.
“We want people to know their individual actions have consequences for the community. You can infect others without knowing it,” Paul said. “Healthcare workers are asking for our help. Businesses have had to close to comply with the freeze, and we need this freeze to work so we don’t have to do it again.”
Due to the surge in cases, Columbia County Public Health is asking that any citizen who tests positive begin reaching out to their close contacts themselves.
“We will continue to try to reach everyone within 24 hours, but we have reached a tipping point that requires us to implement surge protocols,” Paul said.
This means that not all positive Covid-19 cases will get a full public health follow-up, and contacts may not hear directly from local public health contact tracers in a timely manner. Those who test positive should review the Columbia County Public Health’s “After Testing Guide” and follow the instructions below:
Key points for patients:
Anyone getting COVID-19 testing should stay home until they hear about test results. That includes people without symptoms.
If your test is positive:
If your test is negative:
Additional statewide information concerning COVID-19-related demographics and information about positive cases can be found on the Oregon Health Authority's website at https://govstatus.egov.com/OR-OHA-COVID-19.
General questions about COVID-19 can be answered by calling 2-1-1. Questions about your specific medical needs should be directed to your health care provider. If you cannot find the information you need via the website and number provided here, call Columbia County Public Health at 503-397-7247
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
November 12, 2020
Schools aim for January reopening if County COVID-19 rates remain low through the holidays
(Columbia County, Oregon) – With so much weighing heavily on the minds of Columbia County residents – Covid fatigue, election fatigue, which mask to wear on what day – the one thing we can all do is turn our minds to our children. The call is out for Columbia County to come together (by way of social distancing) to make it our collective priority to get our kids back to school by January 4.
The Oregon Department of Education (ODE), as part of its planned guidance and metrics review process, recently released an update to the “Ready Schools, Safe Learners” guidance, which includes updated metrics Columbia County must meet to return to in-person instruction.
According to the ODE, a key lesson from the review of national school data is that Oregon school districts can help protect student and staff health and well-being during in-person instruction when community spread is sufficiently low and when school districts strictly adhere to the health and safety protocols now in place in Oregon.
While Oregon has experienced a recent spike in Covid cases, the metrics set forth by the ODE, working closely with the Oregon Health Authority, have set goals that each county has met previously. Work conducted by public health authorities across the state, including Columbia County’s own Public Health Department, has learned many of these cases and contacts were tied to small gatherings, where practical Covid-related safety measures were too relaxed.
“The current spike appears to be driven more by social and family gatherings where people let their guard down because they are comfortable with those they are around,” St. Helens School District Superintendent Scot Stockwell said. “We are all feeling Covid Fatigue at this time, yet if we don’t maintain good social distancing and wear masks, we put all of the sacrifices we’ve already made at risk of being worthless.”
As of October 19, masks are required statewide for people age five and older in:
· All workplaces, indoor public spaces, public and private colleges and universities, and indoor and outdoor markets.
· Outdoor public spaces when physical distancing of at least six feet is not possible.
· People with a disability or medical condition may request accommodation from the business if they cannot wear one.
We’re all longing for human connection, but when it comes to small gatherings for the holidays, birthday parties, reunions, weddings, funerals, church services, family get-togethers, political events, and others, remember:
· Indoor social gatherings in Oregon are limited to 10 people.
· Face coverings are required in indoor public spaces and outdoors when you can’t keep six feet from others.
· If you feel sick, don’t go. Stay home and away from others.
· Keep it limited: limit the number of people you spend time with outside your household, and the number of gatherings you attend.
· Keep it short: cut down on the amount of time you spend with people outside your household, especially if meeting indoors.
· Stay six feet away from those you don’t live with and use waves or hand signals to greet guests.
· Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands – before and after hanging out.
· Try not to touch surfaces and disinfect them after each use.
· Limit sharing of food, drink, and utensils.
· Avoid singing, chanting, or shouting inside. If you do, wear masks, give people space, and open windows.
Columbia County Public Health Director, Michael Paul, said he and his department have heard from people in all age groups and walks of life who had admittedly failed to appreciate how contagious COVID-19 is. Others have had a household member bring the virus home.
“As you follow the metrics outlined for returning to in-person instruction, I can’t overemphasize the importance of wearing masks and practicing good social distancing if we want to bring kids back to school anytime soon,” Stockwell said.
Remember, a January school reopening is only possible if we all celebrate the holidays responsibly and keep our Covid rates low over the coming weeks.
For more information about the “Ready Schools, Safe Learners” guidance, visit: https://www.oregon.gov/ode/students-and-family/healthsafety/Pages/Planning-for-the-2020-21-School-Year.aspx.
For more information about how to plan small gatherings safely, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/large-events/considerations-for-events-gatherings.html.
Keep an eye on our Facebook page for more Covid-safety tips, and to see how and why the residents in Columbia County mask up: https://www.facebook.com/columbiacountyoregon.
Current advisory committee openings:
Jail Operating Citizens Advisory Committee
Open position that will be available December, 2020
4-H Extension Service District Budget Committee
Ambulance Service Advisory Committee
Budget Committee / County
Budget Committee / Meadowview Service District
Civil Service Commission
CZ Trail Advisory Committee
Local Public Safety Coordinating Council
Parks Advisory Committee
Solid Waste Advisory Committee
Traffic Safety Committee
to apply please visit
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Monday, September 28, 2020
Columbia County Fairgrounds successfully manages wildfire support operation
(Columbia County, Oregon) - Things at the Columbia County Fairgrounds are finally slowing down a bit, following three weeks of an epic operation pulled together on the fly to support 40 wildfire evacuees and well over 400 animals.
On Tuesday, September 8, the Columbia County Fairgrounds opened their doors as an emergency evacuation site for families fleeing the historic 2020 wildfires. It took an estimated 4,546 volunteer hours contributed by 550 volunteers to manage the influx of livestock, displaced people, and donations from the community. Columbia County Emergency Management was also tapped to help oversee the operation, and other agencies on site included the Columbia County Sheriff's Office, Search and Rescue, and CERT.
"We've had some excellent volunteers. Our Fair board has done spectacular work, along with the Grange and all of the local committees and commissions and folks that have helped out," Fair Board member Julie Pelletier said. "Community support and donations of hay and feed from businesses like Dahlgren's to Senator Johnson to just a myriad of folks that kicked in and came together on this thing. Our appreciation, 100 percent, goes to the community for their outpouring of support."
The Fairgrounds volunteers were able to provide evacuees with a variety of essential items such as clothing, hygiene supplies and food. They quickly learned that other evacuation sites were overwhelmed and in need of supplies provided by a generous rally of support from the community, and shifted into a distribution center, tapping drivers to ship supplies to other communities in need.
"I have seen carts upon carts come through the doors of the Columbia County Fairgrounds full of supplies, gift cards, and cash donations that are literally life changing for these evacuees," volunteer Amanda Normine said. "I saw social media do so much good with groups like Cowgirl 911 coming to the aid of animals who otherwise would have perished in the blaze. My mornings have been blessed by coming in to watch volunteers, young and old alike, working side by side to do literally every job imaginable with no complaining."
United Way of Columbia County donors provided indoor shelter at the Best Western for six family groups who had health conditions that required them to get clear of the hazardous air that hovered in St. Helens for several days. Air filtration systems were provided for two families sheltered at the Fairgrounds with children who were asthmatic. Essential nutrition and health supplies were provided to an evacuee who had recently undergone oral surgery.
By Sunday, September 20, all the evacuees had safely returned home, and the pavilion remained stocked full of donated items and volunteers were still taking frequent calls from various communities who were in desperate need of supplies.
"With the agreement of the team who was volunteering at the time, we made a decision to continue accepting donations once our evacuees went home so that we could continue assisting sites who were in need of additional items," volunteer Halsey Hendrickson said. "We are one of the only remaining sites where donations are being accepted, and we are now known as a 'hub' for making sure that evacuation sites around the state have resources for their families."
The Fairgrounds volunteer team, with the aid of multiple volunteer drivers, have shipped supplies to the communities of Glide, Talent, Phoenix, Otis, Lincoln City, and Estacada in Oregon, and to Okanogan County, Washington. Hendrickson said they are still actively working to look for more places that need help, adding the Otis site director has called them a "lifeline."
The Fairgrounds estimated they have received 13,500 pounds of clothing donations, 9,000 pounds in diapers, 15,000 pounds of toiletry items, 36,000 pounds of baby supplies, 6,000 pounds in adult hygiene products, 12,000 pounds of bedding, 8,000 pounds of pet food and 9,500 pounds of pet supplies. Many of those donations have already been shipped out to communities in need.
Local restaurants also rallied to serve both hot meals, snacks, and beverages to the volunteers and evacuees. With their support, they were able to provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Local donors included El Tapatio, Sunshine Pizza, Rosebud Cafe, Bamford Bakery, Scappoose Bagel, Walking Waffles, Fultanos Pizza, Deer Island Store, Dockside Restaurant, Plymouth Pub, Warren Country Inn, Dominos Pizza, Ixtapa Restaurant, Nois Kitchen, Wild Currant, and Oriental Cafe. Local organizations such as the Elks Lodge, Moose Lodge, Columbia County Sheriff's Office, and Community Meals/First Lutheran Church.
"We were also able to provide meals to the Donald, Oregon Fire Department Firefighters," volunteer Toni Nelson, who managed the kitchen, said. "We have residents of the Donald, Oregon area that evacuated animals to our fairgrounds. I checked with them daily and they have been able to send leftover meals back with them to provide hot meals for approximately 25 firefighters."
The Columbia County Fairgrounds will also be looking towards upcoming fundraising opportunities to help cover the costs of the effort and to make up the potential $42,000 in revenue loss expected.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
September 13, 2020
Wildfire Relief Fund launched to provide aid and support in Columbia County
(Columbia County, Oregon) – United Way of Columbia County, in partnership with Columbia County Emergency Management and the Columbia County Fair Board, recently established the Wildfire Relief Fund in order to more efficiently funnel donations to those affected by the September 2020 wildfires. The Wildfire Relief Fund is live and open for donations at InRoads Credit Union, and 100 percent of the donations received will go directly to wildfire relief in Columbia County.
“This money will go towards supporting individuals effected by the wildfires, front-line agency needs, and reimbursements for needs that have already been met,” Executive Director of United Way, Claire Catt said.
Donations will still be accepted at the Columbia County Fairgrounds Office, located at 58892 Sausler Road in St. Helens, and/or through United Way of Columbia County at www.unitedwayofcolumbiacounty.com.
Donations can also be made through InRoads Credit Union by phone or in person:
Account name: Wildfire Relief Fund
Account Number: 747285-26
The Columbia County Fairgrounds is still open and accepting displaced families, as well as acting as a distribution point for supply needs in other areas. The Fairgrounds only has outdoor sheltering space available. For those in need of indoor sheltering, visit:
Families in need of supplies may pick up donated items from the Fairgrounds, and do not need to be a Columbia County resident to do so. Families in need do not need to call first. Simply enter through Gate 4 and look for a volunteer.
Livestock accommodations are still available for horses, cattle, sheep, pigs, goats, chickens/birds, and rabbits.
For more information, call the Columbia County Fair Grounds at 503-397-4231.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
September 10, 2020
Columbia County Fairgrounds seeks community support as wildfire evacuees arrive
(Columbia County, Oregon) – The Columbia County Fairgrounds have opened their doors to house displaced people and livestock fleeing from the recent rash of wildfires across Oregon and Washington, with more expected soon. As of Thursday afternoon, September 10, Clackamas County has entered a Level 2 evacuation notice and is preparing to evacuate the Clackamas County Fairgrounds. An estimated third of the animals being sheltered there will soon be on their way to the Columbia County Fairgrounds.
“We are simply trying to be as prepared as we possibly can,” Fair Board Member Julie Pellater said.
By Thursday afternoon, the Fairgrounds had sheltered sheep, cows, chickens, goats, hogs, around 30 horses, and several displaced families that are sleeping on the grounds in tents and trailers. The Fair Board is reaching out to the community for help with supplies for the evacuees.
“A lot of these people had to get out in a hurry. Maybe they didn’t have lead ropes and they just had to throw their horses in and go,” Fair Board Member Laken Gortler said. “Whatever you have that you think we could use, please bring it.”
The community is asked to pay attention to the Columbia County Fairgrounds Facebook page for additional needs as they arise. With the influx of additional animals, there are concerns about providing adequate space and volunteers to meet the workload.
“We need volunteers, prayers, and your support,” Pellater said. “We need resources. If you have space for an animal or you can take in a family in need, please do. Sleeping bags are a need right now, tents – anything. If we get full, we’re one of the last places they can go.”
There are volunteers with trailers willing to pick up evacuees if necessary. They will also come to your house to pick up donations if you are unable to transport them to the Fairgrounds yourself. The Fair Board is also asking for donations to help offset the cost of rising electricity and water bills.
“Our Fair Board is doing spectacular work along with the Grange and all of the local committees and commissions and folks that are helping out,” Commissioner Henry Heimuller said. “The community support and donations of hay and feed from businesses like Dahlgren’s to Senator Betsy Johnson and a myriad of folks kicking in and coming together on this thing has been amazing. Our appreciation is 100 percent to the community.”
To volunteer or make a donation to the Columbia County Fairgrounds, call 503-397-4231.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Columbia County Board of Commissioners approve lease of John Gumm School
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
JULY 9, 2020
Columbia County Board of Commissioners passes resolution in support of racial equality
(Columbia County, Oregon) - On Wednesday, July 8, the Board of Commissioners of Columbia County unanimously passed Resolution 66-2020 in the interest of furthering the County's commitment to embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion.
The matter was discussed during the County's Wednesday morning regular session, where several Columbia County residents came before the Board to voice their concerns around racial equality in our community and in support of forward momentum.
Previously, in Resolution 15-2018, Columbia County adopted a Vision that states in part, "We will cultivate a dependable and responsible system that supports our community and provides access to the services our residents need and desire."
The Board believes Resolution 66-2020 to be a practical next step in realizing that Vision, but also recognizes it is only one step on a journey of many that we, as a community, must walk together.
Resolution 66-2020 resolves the following:
The Board of Commissioners is looking forward to working with our community partners, stakeholders, and citizens to realize this Vision. Together, we believe we can build a community that is inclusive and welcoming to all, and one in which each voice is valued.
Read the full Resolution here: https://www.columbiacountyor.gov/media/Board/Order%20Resolutions/Order%20Resolutions%202020/66-2020%20In%20the%20Matter%20of%20Affirming%20Columbia%20County%27s%20Commitment%20to%20Addressing%20Systemic%20Racism,%20and%20Proclaiming%20June%2019%20as%20Juneteenth.pdf
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
April 21, 2020
Cascades Tissue Group donates 300 cases of toilet paper to Columbia County
(St. Helens, Oregon) - With toilet paper in high demand and sometimes difficult to find, Columbia County reached out to the Cascades Tissue Group for help supplying our local organizations and citizens in need.
"On Friday, we got a call back from the local plant manager, Brian Dietz, and said they'd really like to help us out and offered to give us 300 cases of toilet paper to distribute to those folks," Commissioner Henry Heimuller said.
It took a group of volunteers, with help from the Work Crew, two trips to unload the full supply at the Columbia County Fairgrounds. The product will go to Community Action Team, food banks, senior centers and other social service organizations that can distribute it to those in need.
"Everybody's trying to make this work and do things for others and help our own neighbors out a little bit," Heimuller said. "So, special thanks to our business partners and certainly to Cascades Tissue in Scappoose."
If you've been unable to find toilet paper, please call the Board of Commissioners Office at 503-397-4322.
BEFORE THE BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS
FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
1. Notice is hereby given that the Columbia County Board of Commissioners will hold a public meeting on Wednesday April 22, 2020 at or after 10:00 a.m. at the Columbia County Court House, via telecommunication.
2. The purpose of this notice is to notify interested parties that the Board of Commissioner may consider a Supplemental Budget.
3.This is a public meeting. Interested parties may attend via telecommunication and may be heard. Columbia County does not discriminate on the basis of disability and will provide reasonable accommodations in accordance with the County's ADA Policy. To request accommodations or to review the County's ADA Policy, please contact the Board of Commissioners Office at 503-397-4322.
Dated this 13th day of April, 2020.
BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY, OREGON
By: _____s/Alex Tardif____
Alex Tardif, Chair
PUBLIC MEETING NOTICE
For your information:
BEFORE THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY
SPECIAL MEETING NOTICE
Updated this 27th day of March, 2020
BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
FOR COLUMBIA COUNTY,
BY: ___s/Alex Tardif______
Alex Tardif, Chair
For immediate release: March 26, 2020
The Columbia County Board of Commissioners signed the amended Order No. 31-2020, on March 25, 2020 “In the Matter of Adopting a Temporary Policy to Close County Facilities to the Public in Response to COVID-19.
The Columbia County Commissioners are committed to making every effort to stop and prevent the spread of the virus to our citizens. In that endeavor, we will be closing Columbia County offices in the courthouse and of site facilities with the exception of the Columbia County Transfer Station. Services will be provided online and by phone. Departmental phone numbers are listed below. You are encouraged to utilize online services where applicable at www.columbiacountyor.gov
We also recommend that all of our citizens practice personal responsibility in following the CDC’s recommended social distancing guidelines. We encourage everyone in the days ahead to conduct as much business as possible online and by phone.
County staff will move forward following Gov. Kate Brown’s current recommendations, and are currently working to reorganize our administrative processes to keep in line with best practices around social distancing.
The Columbia County Transfer station is operating on regular business hours they can be reached by calling 503-397-9811.
County Departments may be reached by using the numbers listed below.
Juvenile Department 503-397-0275
Adult Department 503-397-6253
Offsite County Offices:
Columbia County employees will remain on the job and working to fulfill the obligations of the county.
# # #
Amended Order No. 31-2020 attached
Jan. 9, 2010
The Columbia County Board of Commissioners yesterday approved a Strategic Plan for the county. The Plan, which was developed by a team of staff members from various departments and work levels, contains goals and outcomes that the county will work towards in the next one to three years. Internally focused, the plan identifies three major areas the county will address. They include Communications, Organizational Excellence, and Economic Stability and Economic Development. Individual strategic initiatives and action plans to achieve outcomes identified in the Plan will be developed and implemented by additional teams.
The Columbia County Board of Commissioners has adopted a report that details new revenue sources that have the potential to improve the county’s fiscal position over the next three to five years. The report, entitled “Fiscal Sustainability in Columbia County: A Path Forward” is the result of months of technical work and discussion regarding revenues and expenditures as well as funding needs for the county.
The board utilized the services of ECONorthwest to research more than a dozen possible revenue sources that would fund a variety of county services. An ad-hoc advisory committee of residents and representatives of county business, public health, education and economic development interests provided feedback on the possible methods and to inform the process.
“Oregon property tax laws have hampered the ability of local governments to raise one of the most important revenue sources that they can access,” said Commissioner Alex Tardif, who served as board liaison to the study, which took place over six months. “With Measures 5 and 50 limiting the growth of property taxes, counties across the state have had to look at alternative methods to fund critical county services.”
The purpose of the study was to create a funding strategy that would provide a sustainable solution to funding challenges, meet a variety of county-wide needs, and would be understood and supported by the community. The study will also guide the county’s strategic decision-making processes in the coming years.
The report adopted by the commission identifies 15 potential methods that if successful, would raise an estimated $242 million from community fees, local option levies, service districts and a variety of user taxes. The funds would be directed towards roadway use, operating and capital expenses, and maintenance, among other needs. Cities would also benefit financially from the approval of some of the methods.
With help from county staff and the advisory committee, the potential new revenue tools were evaluated across five criteria. These include legality, efficiency, proportionality/equity, political feasibility and magnitude of additional funding. Based on that evaluation, the advisory committee narrowed down the revenue tools to a short list of those with the most near-term viability. ECONorthwest then projected funding capacity for those tools and built funding scenarios to meet the county’s unmet funding needs.
“We know that doing nothing and maintaining the status quo will harm the county’s ability to fund the services our residents want and need,” said Tardif. “We have projected that over the next five years, to simply maintain our existing level of services and make vital capital improvements, we would need at least $29 million.”
Tardif further explained that for the county to fund any increases in service needs and to implement other projects identified as high priority, an additional $42 million in revenue would be needed. These high priority projects include improving public health, transportation and safety services, road maintenance, and bringing broadband to residents across the county.
“The Board of Commissioners recognizes that any new revenue sources could impact county businesses and residents, therefore, they should be fair and equitable,” Tardif said. “But our residents are the ultimate decision-makers; what we have done is to create a framework for them to understand the needs, trade-offs and ways to improve their county’s fiscal situation.”