Vernonia Local News

County Commissioners Have Coffee with Vernonians

Hyde says he’s not in favor of LNG project

CommissionersHydeBuxton-webAll three Columbia County Commissioners were on hand the morning of April 17 at a jam packed Black Iron Grill to have coffee and chat with Vernonia area citizens.

The visit was part of the Commissioners plan to visit each of the five cities in Columbia County to hear the concerns of the community.

The top item of concern was the proposed Oregon LNG and Oregon Pipeline projects, which was made obvious by the large number of red shirted activists in the room.

When asked what reasons they could site for supporting the LNG plant and pipeline which would transport natural gas across Columbia County, Commissioner Tony Hyde reversed previous statements he had made that indicated support of the project and stated he now believes the project has no reason for the support of the Board of Commissioners.

Hyde explained that the Commissioners have had several presentations about the proposed project over the last six years, which  Hyde called “purely conjecture,” and included the possibility of the gas line passing through the Mist fields and using storage facilities in that area in Columbia County.  Hyde then made the following statement to applause from the audience,  “What we found out recently was that this gas line that is going to the proposed ‘Baby Baghdad in the Bay,’ for lack of a better term, is not going to Mist field and has no reason for our support.”

Hyde went on to say that he did not believe the LNG plant, proposed to be constructed in Warrenton, will ever be built. “I know the Commissioners in Clatsop County don’t support it and that the citizens, experiencing a renaissance during the last decade in Astoria, are very reticent.”

Hyde added that he has had several conversations with local constituents which has helped add to his knowledge of the project and helped sway his opinion.

When asked if the Columbia County Board of Commissioners will take policy action and publicly oppose the project, Hyde backed off and said all three Commissioners have not discussed the issue as a Board.   Read More

Supporting Local Fire Protection: A Conversation with Chief Dean Smith

Vernonia citizens will have a chance to vote on two measures in the upcoming election that would support the Vernonia Rural Fire Protection District.  The Fire District has placed Measure 5-245, a ten year bond for the purchase of a new fire engine, and  Measure 5-246, a five year levy to fund a training officer for the district.  According to Vernonia Fire Chief Dean Smith, both Measures are vital for helping local fire fighters continue to provide quality service to the community.  The following is an excerpt from a recent conversation Vernonia’s Voice had with Chief Smith.

Vernonia’s Voice: Why are both these Measures so important for the Fire District? 

FireMeasures-ConversationDeanSmith-webChief Smith: The operating levy, Measure 5-264, is important because I’m the only paid responder we have.  I’m also paid to be an administrator.  The duties that are required within a fire district and the tasks that need to be managed are always increasing and so is the amount of training our volunteers are required to receive and stay  current on.  There is always something else that needs to be taken care of.

Our District is responding to a record number of  calls now and our volunteer levels have dropped to as low as I’ve ever seen them. We’re at a point where our district needs to have another body in here that can take some of these tasks that need to be managed.

What we need is a Training Captain that can be dedicated to oversight and look at all the aspects of our training program and make sure we’re covering and tracking all the certification for our volunteers and keeping their files up to date.  We need to make sure we’re meeting the needs and addressing the aspirations of our volunteers, so that we can see where they want to go and assist them in getting there.  It’s become imperative—we need another body here.  We can’t continue giving the level of service if we don’t.

Measure 5-245 is a bond for equipment.  We recently purchased a used engine from Banks for a heck of a deal.  The last bond we put out was in 2000 and it matured and was paid off in 2010.  In reality the District should have  immediately put out another bond.

VV: Why is it so important to have a paid Training Officer?

CS: We’ve used volunteers in that role for a long time.  The average time span that a volunteer lasts in that role is about three years.  And every training officer that we’ve had since I’ve been here, has not only stepped down from training, they’ve resigned from the department completely.  They get so burned out because there is so much extra work.  And the worst part is, the people we give the training responsibility to are usually some of our best volunteers and then we end up losing them.  They’re going to their regular jobs for forty hours a week and then they are volunteering here and then putting in all this extra work. Read More

City News

At the April 20, 2015 City Council Meeting:

Council Hears Presentation on Disaster Recovery – Council heard a presentation from Jim Tierney, Executive Director of Community Action Team (CAT), regarding Small Community Disaster Recovery.  Columbia County Flood Relief  and CAT were instrumental in assisting the City of Vernonia and its residents after the Flood of 2007.  Tierney told Council the community was able to secure funding and assistance totaling over $47 million from various sources during the recovery project.  He provided information documenting the recovery effort and said the documents could be used in the event of a future disaster.   Tierney noted that the immediate response by volunteers to gather data from damaged property owners led to 109 homes being lifted or bought out,  four commercial buyouts and one commercial flood-proofing project. The community received $2.5 million in faith group labor and  $250,000 in other volunteer labor.

Council Approves Spencer Park Fencing Plan – Council approved a plan presented by staff, and recommended by the Parks Committee, to install bollard and wire fencing around Spencer Park.  Council approved the estimated $5,000 expense based on the funding being available from the Parks budget.

Council Approves WWTP Funding- Council approved Resolution 05-15, approving  a State Revolving Fund Loan Agreement to fund the Waste Water Treatment Project.

Council Approves Funds Transfer-Council approved Resolution 06-15 for an interfund transfer in the Parks Budget in order to pay for new parks staff, pay for the major repair at Vernonia Lake, and install fencing at Spencer Field.  A total of $25,319 was transferred  from Building Operations and Maintenance, Advertising and Contingency line items to Salaries, FICA, Operational Materials and Contract Services.

Council Directs Lot Line Adjustment-Council directed staff to proceed with a lot line adjustment to establish a standard  lot size for the former cemetery care taker house at the top of Bridge Street.  The City is considering renovating and selling the home.

Council Offers Some Assistance on Water Bill – Council offered Jeff Harrison a 50% reduction on his water usage bill after he experienced a large and unnoticed water leak on his property on Springboard Lane.  Harrison previously told Council he repaired the leak as soon as it was identified but still received a bill for use of 219,900 gallons of water totaling $950.  Based on previous situations, Council offered Harrison a reduction of $457.29 and a payment plan for six months to pay for the water use during the leak.   Read More

An Opinion: Vote YES on All Three Measures

Election ballots arrived in the mail this week and local voters are being asked to make a choice on three critical ballot measures.  I am encouraging voters to support all three.

The Vernonia Rural Fire Protection District has placed two Measures on the ballot.  Measure 5-245 is a ten year bond for the purchase of a badly needed, new fire engine and would cost taxpayers 26 cents per thousand of assessed property value.  Measure 5-246 is a five year levy to fund the salary of a Training Captain to assist in the administration of the Department, mainly to organize the training of volunteers, as well as respond to calls when on duty.  This would cost taxpayers 32 cents per thousand of assessed value.

The Vernonia Fire Department currently has one paid responder, Chief Dean Smith.  According to Smith, volunteerism at the District is at an all time low and call volume is as high as it’s ever been.  State requirements for volunteer training continue to increase.  On top of that the VRFPD remains the lowest funded of any District in Columbia County.

Smith and the Vernonia Fire District are facing a perfect storm-a community that is too busy to volunteer, a limited training schedule to get the small number of volunteers they do have to meet state requirements, limited resources to fund operations and equipment,  and not enough responders to answer the larger volume of calls they are receiving.

As Smith likes to point out, he and his small band of dedicated volunteers don’t just respond to fires.  They assist the local ambulance service on EMS calls and also serve as the local rescue unit.  They handle anything from extrications from motor vehicle accidents, to providing traffic control, to  getting cats out of trees, and they have to be trained for all of them.   Read More

Gregory Wright Olson-Obituary

Gregory “G Dub” Wright Olson

Greg passed away after a nine-month valiant fight against pancreatic cancer.

He was born in Portland, OR, but grew up in Vernonia, OR on the family dairy.

Greg loved the outdoors – hunting, clamming, crabbing, mushrooming, but fishing was always #1; from trout to sturgeon, he enjoyed it all.  Greg loved fishing for salmon and steelhead on Dibblee Beach and would go sturgeon fishing any time he could.

He will be greatly missed by his mom Sally, second mom Frankie, sisters Debbie, Kim, Tracy (Mike) and Linell, nieces, nephews, Aunt Mary, uncles, cousins and ‘chosen brothers.’

A celebration of Greg’s life will be held at Dibblee Beach, Rainier, OR on Saturday, May 16, 2015 at 3:00 PM.  Please visit or email Tracy Anderson at for details.  Rock-n-Roll!

City Department Updates April 13 – May 1, 2015

Administration/Utility Billing

• As of May 1, 2015 the outstanding balances on active accounts are as follows: 90 days $39.55, 60 days $292.64, 30 days $1,859.75

•  Late fees will be applied and shut off notices will go out May 18, 2015. Shut offs will be on May 30,2015

•  Utilities clerk added 7 new water/sewer accounts to our billing system.

•  3 Mechanical permits were issued.


Police Department-VPD

• April 9th, 2015 – April 15th, 2015 – The total number of Calls for Service and Officer initiated activity was 50.

• April 16th, 2015 – April 29th, 2015 –The total number of Calls for Service and Officer initiated activity was 87.

• All VPD staff attended “Crisis Intervention training.” This training was free and a majority of Columbia County Law Enforcement agencies attended. The training provided some additional tools/ways to successfully deal with people in crisis or mentally ill.

• VPD has focused on identifying nuisance violations. Several residence took advantage of the “Vernonia Clean Up” weekend and corrected some of the violations. VPD is still working with several residences to correct other problems.


• The first budget meeting was held. The Budget Committee received the proposed budget and heard the Budget Message from the City Administrator. Brett Costley was elected to chair the committee with Susan Wagner as Vice Chair. For a copy of the proposed budget  contact Angie at or stop by City Hall.

• The advertisement for bids for the WWTP project has finally been published and contractors are already responding to the ad. We are scheduled to open bids by the end of May.  Read More

School Board Approves Charter Application

The Vernonia School Board met in a special meeting on April 21 and voted unanimously to approve and sponsor a Charter School application to the Oregon Department of Education (ODE).

The Charter application was prepared by a steering committee made up of school staff, parents, school board members, school district partners and other interested citizens.

The charter application  includes the entire Vernonia K-12 campus but leaves the Mist School separate from the charter and will require the creation of a separate School Board.

The District now has sixty days to submit the application and complete all paperwork with the ODE to become a Charter School in time for the start of the 2015-16 school year.


Camp 18 Logger Activities Scheduled for May 9

The annual Camp 18 Logger’s Memorial Dedication and Logging Exhibition will be held on Saturday, May 9 at the Camp 18 Logging Museum in Elsie, OR.  Admission is free.

The Logger’s Memorial starts at 10:00 AM and honors men and women that have had plaques placed in the Logger’s Memorial during the past year.

The Logging Exhibition will be loaded with lots of action from high school forestry teams along with local loggers competing in an assortment of logging skills.

For the first time the Museum’s Blacksmith shop will be open.

An auction will include one set of 11-21-5 steering tires donated by Superior Tires, a gun safe donated by Papé Machinery, a log truck load of firewood and a custom throwing axe.  Food and beverages will be available for purchase.

For more information contact Mark Standly, 503-343-0148 or Darlene Wilcoxen 503-728-2050.

Vernonia School to Celebrate Green Certifications

The Vernonia School District will celebrate receiving LEED Platinum and Three Green Globes certifications at a ceremony on Saturday, May 9 at 10:30 AM.

The Vernonia School is the first K-12 school building in the United States to receive the coveted LEED Platinum certification.

The LEED green building rating system, developed and administered by the U.S. Green Building Council  is the recognized standard for measuring building sustainability in the United States and in a number of other countries around the world.  It is designed to promote design and construction practices that increase profitability while reducing the negative environmental impacts of buildings and improving occupant health and well-being.

The LEED rating system offers four certification levels for new construction – Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum  in five green design categories: sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources and indoor environmental quality.

Green Globes is nationally recognized green rating assessment and certification program.

Local elected officials and other dignitaries will be in attendance.


Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals Upholds Clatsop County’s Decision Denying Gas Pipeline for Proposed Columbia River Liquefied Natural Gas Terminal

A state appeals board agreed with Clatsop County’s decision that a liquefied natural gas (LNG) pipeline would threaten public safety and improperly harm protected rivers and farmland. 

Today the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) ruled in favor of Clatsop County, upholding the County’s decision to deny a key permit for the Oregon LNG pipeline. Without the critical land use permit, the proposed LNG pipeline cannot be built, as state law prohibits the LNG company from securing state environmental permits or certifications without county land use permits.

“We are thrilled that LUBA chose to respect our county’s decision to deny Oregon LNG’s proposed natural gas export pipeline,” said Laurie Caplan, an Astoria resident and local activist representing Columbia Pacific Common Sense.

In today’s decision, LUBA ruled that Clatsop County properly decided that the LNG pipeline violates local laws designed to protect public safety and salmon. The County found that the pipeline operates with pressurized flammable and explosive gases that present a well-documented safety risk to nearby residential uses. The County also found that Oregon LNG’s plans to bore the pipeline under salmon-bearing rivers violated the requirement to protect the Columbia River estuary, an area at the center of regional and national efforts to recover endangered salmon.

“Today’s decision marks a significant turning point for LNG on the Columbia River,” stated Brett VandenHeuvel, Executive Director for Columbia Riverkeeper. “The people of Clatsop County want clean water, safe communities, and strong salmon runs. LNG development would take us in the wrong direction.” Read More