Tag Archives: Senator Betsy Johnson

Oregon Rural Electric Co-op Association Recognizes Johnson as “Cooperator of the Year”

JohnsonCooperatoroftheYear-color-webAt their December 4th annual meeting in Salem, the Oregon Rural Electric Cooperative Association (ORECA) honored Senator Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) with the association’s “Cooperator of the Year” award.  The ORECA “Cooperator of the Year” is the organization’s most prestigious award given annually to an elected official.

ORECA recognized Senator Johnson for her bipartisan work in the legislature to represent the rural interest of her lower Columbia River district. Sen. Johnson is “an outstanding advocate for citizens in rural communities by helping keep energy costs low and decision making local,” said Ted Case, ORECA Executive Director.

Robert VanNatta, Board President of Vernonia-based West Oregon Electric Co-op, presented the award. “Senator Johnson knows the challenges we face each day to provide affordable, reliable power,” he said. “We have a forceful voice in the legislature.”

ORECA represents Oregon’s 18 electric cooperative utilities that receive emission-free hydroelectric resources marketed by the Bonneville Power Administration.  These co-ops serve in 30 of Oregon’s 36 counties and provide electricity to over 200,000 customers in rural and remote areas in Oregon.

Witt and Johnson Win Approval Of Grant For Vernonia School Fundraising Campaign

Representative Brad Witt and Senator Betsy Johnson have teamed up  to deliver $212,500 for the Vernonia School District to support the final fundraising efforts for the relocation and construction of the Vernonia Schools.

Witt (D-Clatskanie) and Johnson (D-Scappoose) worked with House and Senate leadership to win approval of the grant in a unanimous vote of the 20-member Legislative Emergency Board.  Funding for the grant will come from the Oregon Office of Emergency Management’s Local Disaster Assistance Loan and Grant Account.

“This grant is an investment in Vernonia’s future,” Witt said. “It will allow this remarkable community to move ahead with the amazing fund-raising effort that literally began before the flood waters in Vernonia receded seven years ago.”

Serious flooding in December 2007 destroyed the Vernonia’s schools. A replacement K-12 school facility, built on higher ground, opened in 2012.  The $40 million school project was funded by private donations, local, state and federal funds. A small amount remains to be raised. With the recent help from the Legislature and continuing private philanthropy, the goal of “closing the books” is within sight. Read More

School District Debt is Focus of Presentation to City Council

A team representing Vernonia School District 47J, including representative from the state,  county, the Governor’s office and the School District,  made a presentation to the Vernonia City Council at the July 7, 2014 City Council Meeting.

The presentation focused on the current financial situation of the School District.  According to members of the team, the District has over $5 million in long term capital construction debt, with annual payments of over $500,000.  The presentation included a request that the City of Vernonia forgive over $100,000 in debt the School District owes the City.

Aaron Miller introduced himself to the Council as the new Superintendent of the District as of July 1.  Miller told the Council he would like to work together and move forward.  “I think the relationship between the District and the City is a critical piece as we continue to move forward and revitalize our community after our natural disaster,” said Miller, referring to the 2007 flood which damaged all three schools and large parts of the rest of the community.  “I think we still have a lot of work left to do, but its good work and I think we are headed in the right direction.”

The total long term debt includes two loans the District still owes on the old middle school building totaling $887,577.  The District is scheduled to make an annual payment of $25,565  through 2022 and a second annual payment of $78,950 through 2024 on those two loans.  There are three  outstanding loans on the new school construction: An initial QSCB Construction Loan with a balance of over $2.8 million that includes annual payments of $206,538 through 2027; an Energy Construction Loan through the Cool Schools program with a balance of $970,035 and annual payments of $84,324 which also runs through 2027; and a second Cool Schools Loan with a balance of $1.237 million with annual payments of $106,152 through 2029.  In addition the School District owes the City of Vernonia for System Development Charges (SDCs).  That debt has a balance of $106,290 with an agreement for the District to pay $37,036 annually through 2016. Read More

Health Center Celebrates Groundbreaking

Six years after the Flood of 2007 damaged the health clinic in Vernonia, the new Vernonia Health Center took another major step towards becoming a reality on Friday, March 28, 2014.

Over 100 friends, family, dignitaries and citizens joined members of the Vernonia Health Board to celebrate the official groundbreaking for construction of the new health care facility on a rainy but   joyous day.

The event was held at the West Oregon Electric Cooperative truck bays and included speeches, light snacks and the ceremonial first shovels of dirt, which was held inside, due to the hard spring rain that was falling.

The first shovels of dirt! (L to R) Vernonia Mayor Josette Mitchell, Senator Betsy Johnson, County Commissioner Tony Hyde, Heather Lewis, Health Board members Wendy Sears, Bob Wagner and Ralph Keasey

The first shovels of dirt! (L to R) Vernonia Mayor Josette Mitchell, Senator Betsy Johnson, County Commissioner Tony Hyde, Heather Lewis, Health Board members Wendy Sears, Bob Wagner and Ralph Keasey

Health Board President Erika Paleck welcomed the crowd to what she called a ”…long, and overdue occasion.”

In her opening remarks Paleck lauded the efforts of the many groups, organizations, foundations, civic entities, professionals and individual volunteers who worked together to move the project forward.  Paleck noted that, not only was the Health Board breaking ground on a new facility, they were also breaking new ground on the rural health care paradigm as well.  “The old school paradigm said bring in a big conglomerate,” said Paleck.  “In the new paradigm the Vernonia Health Board is entering into partnerships that emphasize  not just primary care but partnerships that educate, that support  mental health, that help clients navigate through the insurance mazes and in general support the whole human being.”

Vernonia Health Board President Erika Paleck with an image of the new Health Center.

Vernonia Health Board President Erika Paleck with an image of the new Health Center.


Paleck was referring in part to the new operational partnerships the Vernonia Health Board has created with Pacific University and The Public Health Foundation of Columbia County. These partners are continuing to develop a new model for delivery of health care services in a rural setting. Pacific University is supporting the Health Center with student internships, research and professional advice.   The Public Health Foundation of Columbia County has provided care givers and staff.   “Our new partners provide us an opportunity to deliver services in the community and at the same time train badly needed next generation health care providers,” said Paleck. Read More

Senator Betsy Johnson Receives Hatfield Award

The League of Oregon Cities’ (LOC) prestigious Mark O. Hatfield Statesmanship Award was presented to Senator Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) during the League’s 88th Annual Conference, held September 26-28 at the Red Lion on the River.

Over her dedicated career in public service, Senator Johnson has cast many courageous votes that have prioritized the delivery of vital public services.  She has been a long-time champion and advocate for the Oregon Solutions program, leading the effort to secure the initial funding from the governor’s office to address repeated flooding in Tillamook County.  In 2007, when the city of Vernonia suffered major flooding, Senator Johnson was responsible for raising millions of dollars to replace the school buildings and other facilities.  She also worked with the city of Astoria and the Northwest Area Commission on Transportation to secure a $3.8 million grant to rebuild the failing 17th Street Pier, next to the Columbia Maritime Museum and home to the Coast Guard ships. Read More

Johnson Bill Protects Home Buyers

SenatorBetsyJohnsonEvery once in a while one citizen can make a difference.  Every once in a while our government does respond to the needs of citizens and take action.

Vernonia’s Voice was recently made aware of an example of government at work, doing what it was intended to do-protect  citizens.

Between the last two Oregon legislative sessions, State Senator  Betsy Johnson was contacted by several people who had purchased  homes in Vernonia from a private party; usually this was from a bank after foreclosure.

These homes  had been declared “Substantially Damaged” after being flooded in 2007.  A home is declared “Substantially Damaged” if it has been damaged by more than fifty percent of its value; being declared  “Substantially Damaged” is the trigger for receiving access to federal funds in a federally declared emergency.

The new homeowners that contacted Senator Johnson  were unaware that their properties had been flood damaged.  They were also unaware of the impact local development ordinances have on those flood damaged properties.   Read More

Senator Betsy Johnson & Representative Greg Smith Receive Honorary State FFA Degrees

SenatorBetsyJohnsonOn Saturday, March 23rd the Oregon FFA Association, with over 2,000 members in attendance, awarded Senator Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) and Representative Greg Smith (R-Heppner) with Honorary State FFA Degrees.

“The Honorary State FFA Degree is the highest honor our state association can bestow upon its friends,” said Lee Letsch, executive secretary. “It is because of the partnerships we develop with people such as Senator Johnson and Representative Smith that the FFA is able to grow and prosper.”

“It is a privilege to have a state senator and state representative as Honorary FFA State Degree members. We have always cherished this relationship in the past and are excited to continue this partnership with such outstanding individuals,” said Oregon FFA State President Jerry Risk.  Read More