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The New Era Paper
Sweet Home, Oregon
April 25, 2012     The New Era Paper
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April 25, 2012

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Page 8 Vot ii ("gMM| JNITV ]ZJ ,. ra - April 25, 2012 / Tucker From page 5 property, he said. "We don't plan to own them." The county's intent is to get the property clean and safe and then work out a process to benefit Sweet Home, Tucker said. The county also is looking seri- ously at offers on the land. It recently had a man make an offer. But the property is not ready yet, Tucker Said. It makes it attrac- tive if it's cleaned up. "I am actually very excited about the possibilities there," Tucker said. "There's a piece of that, that could be recreational or homes. There's a chunk that I be- lieve should stay industrial. It could be lots of different things. I believe it should always have an industrial component." Both Sweet Home and Linn County are dependent on local op- tion levies to fund law enforcement as a result of property tax limitations enacted during the 1990s. Both are now struggling and have had to cut service levels because local option levies are reduced prior to district permanent rates to meet property tax limitations. Three local option levies exist in Sweet Home, including the Sweet Home police levy, the library levy and the Linn County law en- forcement levy. Tucker doesn't like the idea of adding new taxing districts into the mix and compressing revenue fur- ther. "Realistically, I got in trouble in the last campaign for not supporting a countywide library," Tucker said. His concem is how the district per- manent rates impact the local option levies. Not everyone understands the impact of those districts, he said, and when communities and their leaders ask to form them, the county needs to think about the compression is- sue. Linn County Sheriff's Office recently cut 17 positions and laid off 13 employees, he noted. Sweet Home has cut a police officer position and a dislSatch po- sition. City officials are exploring ideas to address the problem. "I'm open to anything the city needs to operate the city," Tucker said, and he plans to learn more about possible solutions. Economic development and jobs are the biggest challenges fac- ing Linn County, he said. "In the care of our natural re- Will Tucker sources, for a while we've over- responded to the environmental mistakes of the past," Tucker said. "Now there is forest being put at risk." There is forest that can be logged, Tucker said. Economically, there are glim- mers of hope, he said, not only in timber but in a call center that em- .ploys 125 in Albany and another firm moving into Miltersburg using the enterprise zone designation to receive an exemption on property taxes for its equipment. Two other companies recently have made im- provements using the same benefit. The medical school in Lebanon is another success. Tucker has had several accom- plishments serving the past four years, he said. Among them, the county's outdoor assembly code has been strengthened, and the county is doing more. The changes have stopped raves, Tucker said. They've been held, with music blaring all night long, on Linn County farms. When this was going on, he said, he couldn't afiswer his phone or listen to messages fast enough. Tucker said he was able to get the Upper Calapooia Road opened up again. It had been closed by Wey- erhaeuser for several years. With assistance, he was able to locate a document recorded in San Francis- co that showed Weyerhaeuser had promised to return propei'ty in the area to the county. "There are so many things," Tucker said. "Everything from re- lationship building (which helped locate that document) to building infrastructure in our local communi- ties." The planned Veterans Home in Lebanon is another accomplishment for the county, he said. Directly and indirectly, it means jobs. SHHS Forestry Club members display their ribbons and trophies following the Knappa competition. Forestry Club scores second at Knappa competition The Sweet Home Forestry Club placed second overall at the Knappa forestry competition held the weekend of April 14. Kristen Tolle was all-around Jill. Multiple award, winners included cable splicers Justin Wolfe, Macy Cockrell, E.J. Nichol and Tim Shehan; crosscut competitors Curtis and Cody Froman, Nichol, Shehan, Kourtney Dixon, Tolle and Wolfe; pole and arbor climbers Sean Quackenbush, Tolle, Dixon, Julie Morgan, Jesse Davis, Wolfe and Shehan; and first-aid placers Curtis Froman, Morgan and Sequoia Stroup. "Everyone did a great job," said Advisor Dustin Nichol. "We are young team, with only 2 seniors, 10 sophomores and juniors and 10 freshman. Everyone is working very hard to position themselves for state in two weeks." This week, the club travels to Sabin in Clackamas, with competition starting at 10 a.m. and ending at 2 p.m. II Ruck From page 5 She and Tucker have different backgrounds, Ruck said. Tucker has a background in sales, real estate and marketing. Ruck's is in engineering and process improve- ment. It's two different ways of run- ning things, she said. "I've got a different perspective because 1 haven't been doing the same thing." She doesn't have preconceived notions or emotional attachments, she said. She is here to listen and ask questions. She's already ask- ing them, having visited each com- munity in the county; and she has returned with a variety of observa- tions and questions, such as "why does it take X amount of days to get a certain permit?" Every observation, she said, is an opportunity. Hearing something repeatedly neans it probably needs someone to look at it, Ruck said. She looks at the data and figures out how to solve the problem. That's where her analytical skill set comes into play. "The only thing I'm asking anybody is to really take a look at both candidates then make their best decision," Ruck said. The commissioners will de- cide the fate of some 380 acres of industrial land in Sweet Home. The county foreclosed on the former Willamette Industries mill prop- erty owned by Western States Land Reliance Trust for nonpayment of property taxes at the end of 2010. The property had been slated for commercial and residential devel- opments. What needs to happen is the county needs to sit down with the mayor, council and Chamber of Commerce and figure out what's missing and what's needed in Sweet Home, Ruck said. "Number one, I'd want to see what infrastructure there is on the property." If the infrastructure is there, then it should be shopped around, Ruck said. Lebanon has spent a lot of money to make its properties Chris Ruck shovel-ready. Likewise, she hopes "it gets squared away where it can be used for something else," Ruck said. It's too early to say what should hap- pen to the property. The question right now is how soon it will be cleaned up. --Both Sweet Home and Linn County are dependent on local op- tion levies to fund law enforcement as a result of property tax limita- tions enacted during the 1990s. Both are now struggling and have had to cut service levels because local option levies are reduced prior to district permanent rates to meet property tax limitations. Three local option levies' exist in Sweet Home, including the Sweet Home police levy, the library levy and the Linn County law enforce- ment levy. As a new Linn County Budget Committee member, Ruck said, she sat down with the county treasurer in January to learn her way around issues like this one. "We're going to be looking at a lot of things," Rucksaid. The compression problem results from districts competing for tax revenue, she said. Some districts that have outlived their purpose could be closed to help relieve some of the compression. There are couple of soil and water districts that were originally estab- lished as flood control districts, for example. They predated the dams, and the dams have taken over their function. She also looks at budgets for solutions, where improvements mean savings, she said. The Vet- erans Home in Lebanon is another answer, probably one of the most solid things done in a long time to improve the economy and ultimate- ly help with revenue problems. Likewise, the tourism indus- try is important, and county parks are economic development to her, Ruck said. Parks near the cities help generate business locally. With economic development, "every single idea that comes to light hopefully is well-vetted and finds a plan to get some traction and take hold," Ruck said. As she explores economic development, the county needs to know what skill sets employees have, finding out what businesses have closed, but that information hasn't been tracked. "As a candidate, I don't have access to what's there," she said. Meeting with people through- out the county, Ruck said, she has asked whether anyone has looked at what's going on in North Da- kota, which is experiencinga busi- ness boom. "What can we make and send there?" she asked. One person thought it was an interesting idea. Another said it would be a waste of time. A third person told her it was funny because two companies had asked for a quote on shipping to North Dakota. "As a temporary solution, it's something to think about," Ruck said. Ruck also wonders about things like demolition fees, she said. A permit may cost $500, while an old building sits and rots, spreading blight and deterioration in the cities. She suggests reducing those fees to zero and looking at other development fees. It's not going to cost taxpay- ers anything more, Ruck said, and it may result in development and putting people to work again. "That's more important at this point than raising revenue on somebody's balance sheet," Ruck said. "We need to review what's in place and put the welcome mat out."