Current Issues, News & Events
Parks Open House Meeting, Sept 29, 6 - 7:30pm
Help shape the future of Port Orford's parks and recreation offerings.
The City of Port Orford wants to hear from you. The City has started an update to its Citywide Parks Master Plan. The Plan will guide the City's efforts for providing high quality, community-driven parks, trails and recreation amenities throughout the Port Orford parks system.
A public open house meeting Sept 29 will launch the public conversation on our plan. Please drop in between 6 - 7:30pm to share your ideas and comments about recreation facilities and park and trail enhancements.
Your input is crucial to make sure program priorities are consistent with community interests.
Port Orford Parks Master Plan
How can Port Orford Parks meet your family's recreation needs?
You can help us create a plan for the next 10 years!
The city has started to update its Parks Master Plan. The new Plan will establish a road map for providing high quality, community-driven parks, trails and natural areas throughout Port Orford. This process gives us an excellent opportunity to identify ways in which to best serve the recreational needs of our growing community during the next 10 years.
Citizen input is crucial to make sure program goals and priorities are consistent with community needs and desires. There will be several opportunities for you to participate, including a public opinion survey and community discussions. Final review and adoption of the plan is targeted tentatively for January 2017.
Port lights are replaced, night skies benefit
Coos Curry Electric Coop recently replaced all the many lights in the port with the latest energy saving LED cutoff style fixtures. This will lower energy costs considerably and greatly benefit our shared night sky. Looking down on the port from the overlook at night there is an unmistakable difference. Down at the port docks leve,l the LED’s put the light to the task, eliminating sky glow in this concentrated field of light poles. They placed these new fixtures in the harshest environment in town to test their durability this winter. General Manager Roger Meader and the CCEC board of directors deserve many thanks for taking this step to update and replace our aging infrastructure. A reminder that Port Orford was the first city on the Oregon coast to put into place a Dark Sky Ordinance in 2010; the City of Bandon was the second in 2012.
Port Orford is now a Certified Local Government (CLG)
Port Orford became a Certified Local Government (CLG), a partnership with the State Historic Preservation Office and the National Park Service to promote historic preservation at the grass roots level. CLG's can tap into the technical expertise of many networks. Moreover, CLG's can access the portion of federal funds set aside by the State Historic Preservation Office. Becoming a CLG, Port Orford has a better opportunity to preserve some of its rich history and historic sites.
The process of becoming a CLG involved putting together a preservation ordinance and setting up a Historic Landmark Advisory Commission.
Water system plan grants!
The Oregon Business Development Department, Infrastructure Finance Authority, has announced the second quarter 2012 Community Development Block Grant awards. The City of Port Orford has been approved for two CDBG awards.
City of Port Orford – The City of Port Orford owns and operates a municipal water treatment, storage and distribution system. The city will utilize the $50,050 grant to retain the services of a professional engineer to prepare a water master plan in accordance with the Guidelines for Preparation of Planning Documents for Developing Community Water System Projects, which will be approved by the Oregon Health Authority – Drinking Water Program and OBDD-IFA.
City of Port Orford – The City of Port Orford owns and operates a municipal wastewater treatment, collection and disposal system. The city will utilize the $107,500 grant to retain the services of a professional engineer to prepare a wastewater facilities plan in accordance with the Guidelines for Preparation of Facilities Plans and Environmental Reports for Community Wastewater Projects, which will be approved by DEQ and OBDD-IFA.
It is anticipated that work will commence this fall on these projects.
Beachcombers or Birders Wanted!
Help make a difference for the environment by collecting data for the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST). COASST is a citizen science project dedicated to involving volunteers in the collection of high quality data on the status of coastal beaches, and trends of seabirds. Our goal is to assist government agencies and other organizations in making informed management and conservation decisions, and promote proactive citizen involvement and action. COASST volunteers systematically count and identify bird carcasses that wash ashore along ocean beaches from northern California to Alaska. Volunteers need NO experience with birds, just a commitment to survey a specific beach (about 3/4 mile) each month.
If you are interested in participating, join COASST staff for a full, 6-hour training session. Hear about how COASST started, learn how to use the custom Beached Birds field guide, and try out your new skills with some actual specimens. There is no charge to attend a training, but plan to provide a $20 refundable deposit if you would like to take home a COASST volunteer kit complete with a COASST Beached Birds field guide. Training activities take place indoors, and include a break for lunch - please pack your own or plan to buy lunch nearby.
Upcoming COASST training session:
SUNDAY AUGUST 26, 2012
12:00 am - 5:00 pm
Port Orford American Legion Hall - 421 11th St.
If you can’t attend these events, please check our website at www.coasst.org or call (206) 221-6893 for additional information on upcoming events and trainings. To reserve your spot at a training session, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-221-6893.
Mike Murphy's Report to the City Council about a new, free "Nixle Dial" alert system. Jan, 2012
Residents of the City of Port Orford (and all of Curry County) can now sign up for “Nixle Dial” which is a type of “reverse 911.” If there is information that emergency authorities wish to convey to a certain geographical area, they can broadcast this message by phone to everyone living in that area. This is done through the telephone landlines. You CAN ALSO use CELL PHONES by simply registering the number on the system. This will allow you to receive either a phone call or text message, again as you specify.
You have complete control over whether you are signed on to the system with your cell phones. You can add and delete your cell numbers as you see fit. However, I would strongly urge every citizen in Curry County to take full advantage of this new program. It is free to the Citizen, and will be another tool to warn people when needed.
I believe the county will be setting up warning areas for tsunami, and possibly other hazards. These areas will be “pre-designated” so they can be activated quickly when needed. Areas are defined using the GIS that the county has in place. Essentially, you draw an area on a map that you want the warning to be communicated to, and the system draws on the telephone landline database and calls all the numbers in that area (as well as cell phones that have “asked” to be included). This can be done quickly so the system can respond to rapidly changing events.
At this time, only the County 911 system will be able to put a message on the system and define an area to receive the warning. Since almost all emergencies, regardless of location, involve the County 911 system, I don’t see this as a particular problem, especially considering that it costs nothing to be a part of it. If emergency conditions affect only a certain area of the county, that area can be quickly defined, and notifications made to that area only.
This is a proprietary system, but is widely being adopted in many areas as a much lower cost alternative to “traditional reverse 911” systems. It has the same basic functionality (minus some bells and whistles) as a traditional reverse 911 system but at much lower cost to the jurisdiction.
At this time, the county website www.co.curry.or.us <http://www.co.curry.or.us> has a link to the system. Simply go to the county website and click on the link, follow the directions to set up your account and “register” your phone numbers.
Again, it is free to the Citizen, and can’t hurt. It might work very well. I have no direct experience with that part of the system. I am signed up with Nixle to receive the alerts on my cell phone. I will get the link on our website ASAP, and it may be there by time you read this.
Thank you Chief Combs for this information!
Link to set up your free Nixle alert account.
Letter to Oregon Dept of Aviation about Cape Blanco Airport. June 17, 2011
To Whom It May Concern:
We are writing this letter to you today to request that you do NOT transfer any responsibility or oversight of the Cape Blanco Airport to Curry County. We are the northern most incorporated City in Curry County, and are the closest municipality to the Cape Blanco Airport. We recognize the valuable asset that the airport provides. That airport is the only one in Curry County that can support large transport aircraft. It is a 5,100 foot strip, 150 feet wide, and is designed for large, heavy aircraft. It was built during the World War 2 era as an emergency landing strip for B-29 aircraft flying from Boeing Aircraft in Seattle to Alameda Air Station in California, where they were outfitted and sent across the Pacific Ocean to fight in that theater. In the event of a natural disaster, that airport will prove to be a godsend. This is the only airport capable of handling transport category aircraft in Coos and Curry Counties. It is centrally located for both.
There are two other airports in Curry County. One is the Gold Beach Municipal airport, which is at risk from even a distant tsunami; let alone the “big one” that WILL hit us, possibly sooner rather than later. That airport will be absolutely of no use whatsoever in the event of a local earthquake and tsunami, being only a few feet above sea level. This airport is operated by the Port of Gold Beach, and has basic aircraft services available. It does NOT have the load carrying capability for larger aircraft.
The second airport will also be of limited value in a disaster scenario. The Brookings airport is quite small, only 2900 foot runway, is surrounded by residential neighborhoods, and will prove problematic for any large scale activity. That airport is not suitable for larger, heavier aircraft, nor are the approaches acceptable for that use. Runway load capacity won’t support heavy aircraft. This airport is operated by Curry County and has NO basic aircraft services or fuel available. It is fine as a general aviation airport, suitable for smaller aircraft, which is its present function.
Bandon Airport is also a small strip, about half the length of Cape Blanco, and is a narrow strip surrounded by built infrastructure. It is not suitable for large aircraft, but is fine for general aviation aircraft, and has services available. It is operated by the State, and has enjoyed local support. Bandon airport has fuel, aircraft rentals, mechanics, etc. This airport has had significantly better management than the Brookings airport ever has under county ownership. The North Bend airport is the only other airport locally that is suitable for larger aircraft, but it is also near sea level and will be inundated WHEN the local earthquake and tsunami hit the coast, not to mention the liquefaction that will likely destroy the runways due to the alluvial nature of the underlying soils.
It is an interesting point that, in all cases, basic services are available in the local municipal airports, and the airports controlled by the State of Oregon, but not at the one airport controlled by Curry County even though it is located in the most populous city in the county.
Curry County, at present, is unable to provide the services it is required to provide. They have not enhanced the Brookings airport that they DO operate to any major extent. There is no fuel, nor are there any basic aircraft services there, except for tie downs, and some limited hangar leases to private parties. They have no business taking on another project when their funding is so nebulous that the county has threatened to dissolve into neighboring counties and thereby cease to exist as a county. Either that, or the County leadership has some other ideas, which have not been made public, to convert the Cape Blanco airport to some other use, or compromise its airfield use in some fashion for some other type of project. We believe that the State is a much better steward of the Cape Blanco Airport than Curry County would ever be.
We believe the County has no intention of spending their limited funds on airport enhancements. There is a reason they are negotiating with Oregon State Parks for additional land around the airport area. There are several real estate negotiations ongoing, ALL of which have been concealed from the public. If all is above board, why hasn’t any of this been discussed publicly? How can the county support expenditures in this fashion when basic services are being cut to the bone, or being spun off altogether? Their record of maintenance and enhancement of airports speaks for itself. The Brookings Airport, owned and operated by Curry County does not have basic services. The Port of Gold Beach does a better job with its airport than the county ever has. Their record speaks volumes.
The State of Oregon, through its Department of Aviation, has the responsibility to maintain the Cape Blanco airport as an airport and to enhance its use when possible as an airport. We are vitally concerned about keeping that facility as an airport that can be used in good times AND bad. We know that an airport, once lost, is gone forever. We have no trust that the County wishes to keep this functioning as an airport, despite assurances to the contrary. Please keep the airport in State hands, and under exclusive State control.
Thank you for your consideration of this request and information.
James Auborn, Mayor, City of Port Orford
David Smith, City Councilor
Caroline Clancy, City Councilor
William McArdle, City Councilor
Tim Pogwizd, City Councilor
Dianne Schofield, City Councilor
Scott Luhr, City Councilor
Letter to OPRD Cape Blanco Airport. June 17, 2011
Dear Mr. Wood:
We are writing this letter to you today to request that you do NOT transfer any responsibility or oversight of any State Park Property near Floras Lake/Blacklock Point to Curry County. We are the northern most incorporated City in Curry County, and are the closest municipality to the Floras Lake State Park property. We recognize the valuable asset that this State Park and natural area provides. Many of our Citizens utilize the area for hiking and enjoying the natural beauty of the area. Its primitive and unspoiled nature IS the attraction for many.
We know that the Curry County Commissioners are in negotiations with the State Department of Aviation to acquire the Cape Blanco State Airport. They are also negotiating, or planning to negotiate, with Oregon Parks and Recreation Department to acquire all or part of the State Park property associated with Floras Lake/Blacklock point. There are other real estate negotiations ongoing at this time in the area as well. All of these initiatives and real estate acquisition efforts have been done behind closed doors WITHOUT ANY public input whatsoever. No one has been able to ask questions to ascertain what is going on. The County leadership has kept all of this under wraps. They have also admitted negotiating with developers concerning the airport and “other lands” located nearby. If all is above board, why hasn’t any of this been discussed publicly? How can the county support expenditures and take on further responsibilities in this fashion when basic services are being cut to the bone, or being spun off altogether?
Perhaps the County leadership has some other ideas, which have not been made public; to convert the any lands owned or acquired to some other use or for some other type of project. We believe that the State is a much better steward of the Floras Lake State Park lands than Curry County would ever be.
The State of Oregon, through its Parks and Recreation Department, has the responsibility to maintain State Park lands in public use and enhance that public use whenever possible. We are vitally concerned about keeping that State Park land in public ownership, unencumbered by some development scheme done in secret. We have no trust that the County wishes to keep this functioning as a State Park, open for public access, despite assurances to the contrary. Please keep the State Parks land in State hands, and under exclusive State control.
Thank you for your consideration of this request and information.
James Auborn, Mayor, City of Port Orford
David Smith, City Councilor
Caroline Clancy, City Councilor
William McArdle, City Councilor
Tim Pogwizd, City Councilor
Dianne Schofield, City Councilor
Scott Luhr, City Councilor
Letter to County Commissioners about Cape Blanco Airport. June 24, 2011
The Port Orford Mayor and City Council directed me to write letters to the Oregon Department of Aviation, and to the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department opposing any transfers of property, authority, or responsibility for the Cape Blanco Airport, and any nearby Floras Lake State Park lands to Curry County.
This was a unanimous decision of the Mayor and City Council and was reached after considerable unanimous public input. The Mayor and City Council feel that the County should not attempt to take control of the Cape Blanco Airport since it is not able to fund other basic essential services due to financial constraints. Accepting further responsibilities with an already over stretched budget is not sound fiscal policy. The county does not make any money on the Brookings airport, and in fact, loses money and must subsidize that airport with funds, and personnel to accomplish the County’s responsibilities there.
The Mayor and Council also feels that the State Parks and Recreation Department would be much better stewards of the land around Floras Lake, and out to Blacklock Point, than the County. That natural area is very important to many of our citizens and affords recreational opportunities utilized by many of our local residents. The undeveloped natural beauty of the State Park lands IS the attraction for many of the visitors.
Please enter this correspondence and the attached copies of the letters sent to the respective State Agencies into the public record.
Thank you for your consideration of this matter.
Sincerely, Michael Murphy, City Administrator, City of Port Orford
Tsunami/Emergency Readiness Event coming to Port Orford
Jan 12,2011, 6 - 8pm, American Legion Hall
Earthquakes and tsunamis are worst case natural disasters, but the southern Oregon coast experiences other natural hazards ( windstorms, landslides, wildfires) that can impact your family and community. Being prepared for any type of emergency should be an important part of living where the earth meets the ocean.
We know the last, great earthquake and tsunami to hit Oregon happened just over 310 years ago. New scientific discoveries suggest we’re due for another large quake, sooner rather than later, that could be bigger than the recent Haitian and Chilean earthquakes combined.
For Earthquakes: What will our neighborhoods look like after the shaking stops? What will happen to local schools, roads and bridges? What about power, water and communications? How long will it take for help to arrive? How can we all work together to get prepared for “THE BIG ONE” in our future?
For Tsunamis: What do those sirens mean? What causes a tsunami? What’s the difference between a local and distance tsunami? Is my home or work in the tsunami inundation zone? Where should I go if I’m told to leave my house?
Join your Curry County neighbors at 3 upcoming town hall events to learn more about earthquakes, tsunamis, and other natural hazards in Oregon and how to get prepared:
In addition to state and local emergency preparedness experts and the Red Cross, there will be a free raffle of emergency kits and radios and other goodies, refreshments and a chance to learn about Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training and the innovative Map Your Neighborhood program on emergency preparedness.
James Roddey from the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI) will look at Native American legends and myths related to great earthquakes and tsunamis and startling new geologic discoveries, all in order to understand what will happen when “THE BIG ONE” hits.
Tsunami expert Dr. Rob Witter from DOGAMI will discuss the science behind the making of the brand new tsunami inundation and evacuation maps for Brookings, Gold Beach and Port Orford.
There will also be a free raffle for everyone who attends of Red Cross emergency kits, emergency preparedness radios and supplies, and much more.
Sponsored by the Curry County Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Services, the City of Port Orford, the Oregon Red Cross, Oregon Emergency Management, Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries and the National Weather Service.
For questions and more information, call Dave Lacey, South Coast Tsunami Outreach Coordinator at (541) 373-0487, Curry County Emergency Services Coordinator Don Kendall at (541) 247-3208, or James Roddey, Earth Sciences Information Officer, Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries at (971) 673-1543 office - (503) 807-8343 cell, or email@example.com. Learn more about earthquakes and tsunamis in Oregon online at: www.OregonGeology.org and wwwOregonTsunami.org
Visitor Center Status Report to County Commissioners
Nov 12, 2010
The Port Orford Ocean Resource Team (POORT) and City of Port Orford received a small Title 3 grant from Curry County that kept the Visitor Center upgrade portion of the Port Orford Economic Development Project from the Oregon Way program going over the past year. This program was directed toward replacing the deteriorating buildings at the Port of Port Orford, constructing a Marine Research Station and a Marine Interpretive Center. Oregon Way did not provide funding for any of these projects. The City and POORT have continued to work on incorporating an interpretive function into the Visitor Center at Battle Rock Park.
Mayor Jim Auborn, John Hewitt, and Leesa Cobb of POORT reported progress on these efforts at a workshop meeting of the Curry County Commissioners in Gold Beach on Wednesday, November 10. The Visitor Center was eligible for Title 3 (timber) funding because our Port Orford Stewardship Area emphasizes the land-sea connection and includes forest land in the entire north Curry County watershed.
We used this grant to keep Cheryl Coon, our consultant who worked on the Oregon Way program, directed toward the Visitor Center project and to conduct a survey of the property at Battle Rock Park. Cheryl was responsible for obtaining professional services from Rod Ashley of TVA Architects and Marie Naughton of Formations, Inc. to provide us with a conceptual design for a possible new Visitor Center and an Interpretive Plan pro bono. Susan Brown of Curry County Economic Development completed a Marine Interpretive Center Feasibility Study.
The property survey revealed that the Highway 101 right-of-way presently passes through the existing Visitor Center building. We are working with the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to resolve that problem and get permission to utilize the property higher up the bank on the south side of the highway. There is also a 1/3 acre piece of property toward the southeast corner of the park that we would like to acquire. The resulting site plan from the architect did not infringe on any existing parking space and kept the bioswale. We also required that a new building or modifications to the existing building be visible from the highway but not infringe on the ocean view.
John Hewitt generated some renderings of what a new Visitor Center might look like based on floor plans worked out with Rod Ashley and a local committee. These conceptual plans are for the purpose of attracting future funding and discussion. They are not definitive, especially since we don’t yet have a business plan or resources for construction and operation.
We worked with Cheryl and Oregon Sea Grant to work with and visit the Visitor Center at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, and with Formations to visit the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria. We established good working relations with them and were provided with a lot of good information. We continue to work productively with Dr. Stephen Brandt, Oregon Sea Grant Director, and Nancee Hunter, Marine Education Program Leader, but have yet to receive any financial support.
Cheryl arranged for a meeting in Salem with the heads of applicable state agencies and Travel Oregon earlier this year. There was support for the Visitor Center, but no financial commitment. Tim Wood, head of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), wanted to see the Feasibility Study developed into a more complete Business or Strategic Plan. Subsequent to this meeting, the city obtained a small grant from the Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) to fund a Strategic Plan thanks to Bob Bailey, Ocean and Coastal Services Director. We issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) and selected Umpqua Community Development (Umpqua) from the four organizations that responded. This work is just beginning and should take 3-6 months to complete.
We are continuing to make interim improvements on the existing Visitor Center building. The City put a new roof on the building a couple years ago. The Ford Family Foundation Leadership Class put in the bioswale last year working with a number of community organizations and individuals. Our Public Works Department completed an erosion control project on the east side of the building in conjunction with the bioswale project last year using labor from Sutter Creek Correctional Institution. Lisa Ehrle of By-the-Sea Gardens in Bandon advised us on both projects. Volunteers from a program with the Curry County Juvenile Department painted the building this past summer with materials supplied by the Parks Commission. The Parks Commission and Visitor Center Volunteers are planning to rearrange the interior of the Visitor Center to accommodate one or two displays, and we would like to get new interpretive signs at the wayfinder that feature the Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve/Marine Protected Area.
The Curry County Title 3 grant is complete but we are continuing to make slow and steady progress on upgrading our Visitor Center. We will do more community outreach and get more people and organizations involved as we complete our Strategic Plan with Umpqua. The city is fortunate to continue to work with POORT who has a new Resource Assistance for Rural Environments (RARE) intern, Stephanie Webb, assigned part-time on this project. Stephanie is also our newest member of the Parks Commission. The Visitor Center has received formal support from the Redfish Rocks Community Team along with the other elements of the Port Orford Economic Development Project. Although the Oregon Way program did not come to fruition in the way we originally hoped for, we are making progress.
Mayor Auborn speaks at Heceta Head Conference, Florence
Oct 29, 2010
Port Orford Mayor Jim Auborn was invited to participate in the 6th Annual Heceta Head Coastal Conference in Florence, OR, sponsored in partnership with Oregon Sea Grant, October 28-29, 2010. The theme of this year’s conference was “Oregon’s Ocean: Working Waterfronts. Approximately one hundred people representing: local, state, and federal government agencies; ocean oriented commercial and Non Governmental Organizations (NGO’s); and interested citizens attended.
The program included talks on Working Waterfronts in Oregon, The Role of Oregon’s Statewide Planning Program in Conservation and Development of Estuaries, Infrastructure and Service Needs for Commercial Fishing, Statewide Port’s Strategic Plan, the NOAA Fleet in Newport, Smart Growth for Coastal Communities and Waterfronts, and Partnerships and Opportunities for Oregon’s Waterfronts.
Mayor Auborn participated in a panel on “Taking Advantage of Opportunities” and presented a talk on “Working with NGO’s on in a Coastal Community.” His talk included discussion of working with the Port Orford Ocean Resource Team on our Storm Water Ordinance, the Community Stewardship Area, Water Festival, and Visitor Center/Marine Interpretive Center. He also described working with: the Friends of Elk River, Chamber of Commerce, and Kalmiopsis Audubon Society on the Copper Salmon Wilderness; our Redfish Rocks Community Team; the Library District and Friends on completion of our library; and with the Ford Family Foundation Leadership Class, Arts Council, Love Monkeys, and others on the bioswale at Battle Rock Park.
The conference provided opportunity to establish and develop new contacts for our mutual benefit. It presented a positive image of our community and how much collaboration with NGO’s and volunteers can accomplish.
The One-Stop Meeting in Salem about Port Orford's water situation.
Oct 12, 2010
Our One-Stop Meeting was conducted at the Oregon Business Development Department (OBDD), Infrastructure Finance Authority (IFA) in Salem the afternoon of October 12. Port Orford was represented by myself, Mike Murphy our City Administrator, Dave Johnson our Finance Director, and Steve Donovan of SHN Engineering our City Engineer. We drove from Port Orford to Salem and back in the same day using two vehicles to insure at least one of us got there on time.
This One-Stop Meeting was arranged with OBDD to provide us a two hour opportunity to present our Water Infrastructure project to all possible funding agencies together at the same time. Funding sources identified included: OBDD-IFA, United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development (USDA-RD), Water/Wastewater Fund (W/W), State Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund (SDWRLF), Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), and USDA Rural Utilities Service (USDA/RUS). A person from the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) also represented the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The meeting also included representatives from Coos Curry Douglas Economic Development (CCD) and Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) who assist us in securing funding.
I first introduced our City Engineer who led a power point presentation and discussion with the technical details of our Water Master Plan and the projects to replace our water distribution system and increase the size of our reservoir. Our Finance Director then presented and led a discussion on the financial details of the project, our water and wastewater rates, and existing debt. The City Administrator and I discussed the demographics of our community with emphasis on the fact that many of our citizens have trouble paying their existing water and sewer bills and the difficulty in increasing rates and/or getting new property tax levies passed in our economically depressed community.
We discussed three options for staging the project: one large project including both the distribution system and impoundment, separating the distribution system from the impoundment into two projects, and breaking the distribution system replacement into smaller pieces before increasing the size of the impoundment. The overall project size was just too big to include both the distribution system and impoundment in one project. We could not break down the distribution system replacement into smaller pieces and reasonably expect to show the amount of improvement necessary to fund individual smaller projects. The overall cost for multiple distribution system projects would also be greater. We focused on first replacing the majority of the distribution system to be followed by increasing the size of the impoundment. The impoundment project will require a considerable amount of time for environmental study and permitting. It therefore should logically follow the distribution system replacement.
We received a considerable amount of criticism from the IFA finance people for keeping our water and wastewater rates during the 1990’s below what was necessary to maintain and plan for upgrading the system. We are doing somewhat better now with our increasing tiered water rate structure but are still a little below where they think we should be and we are putting away nothing for long term component or system replacement. Their formal analysis showed that our Average Monthly Utility Rate is significantly above what they calculate as our Affordability Rate, and slightly below what is required for existing Monthly O&M + Debt service. It was more than apparent to all concerned that we were in trouble and all were willing to help as much as they could.
We worked with the various funding sources to put together several scenarios involving the maximum amount of grant funding available, low interest loans, and principle forgiveness. We even discussed the possibility of getting cited by the EPA or Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for being in non-compliance for health and safety reasons because of our inability to deliver required water pressure in certain areas of our system. This would qualify us for even lower interest rates on some of the loans that we’d be required to take out.
Our repeated personal contacts with individuals representing the various funding agencies, the state and federal agency heads, and the Governor’s Economic Revitalization Team (ERT) are paying off. The good news is that we’re receiving needed attention and positioning ourselves to receive the maximum amount of grant and principle forgiveness funding available. The bad news is that it is not yet sufficient to meet our need. We are positioned to receive the maximum CDBG and USDA/RUS grant funding available, and get the maximum amount of principle forgiveness from the SDWRLF. We also qualify for the lowest interest rates possible from the various loan funds and may get even lower rates if we’re cited for non-compliance in health and safety. An additional advantage for acting now is that interest rates are at historical low levels.
We will be meeting with our regional OBDD-IFA and USDA/RUS representatives to further refine and overall funding package before presenting it to you for consideration. RCAC and CDC Business Development will also be helping us. We’re very close to a solution that we may be able to afford and will keep you appraised on our progress.