Vernonia's voice. (Vernonia, OR) 2007-current, February 01, 2008, Page 19, Image 19

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voice schools
No Gym of Their Own, No Problem
By Scott Laird
It all started for me with an anonymous phone tip. The caller who left the
message on my cell phone stated that she was the grandmother of one of the Ver-
nonia Varsity Basketball players. The team didn’t have a place to practice and had
a game scheduled the next night. The play-
ers hadn’t been able to travel to Scappoose
this morning for practice as was the nor-
mal routine during flood recovery because
of inclement weather, so the team had de-
cided to meet that afternoon at the covered
outdoor play area at Washington Grade
School, and “...keep up with the game.
These kids are dedicated,” said the voice.
“They don’t have a gym of their own, and I
thought it might be of interest.”
The team really seemed to be enjoying themselves. There were smiles all
around, and the “oohs” and “aahs” when someone made an especially tough shot as
well as the usual ribbing and trash talk that goes with street ball. The players seemed
to especially enjoy the chance to play against their
coaches who were on the court to even out the
teams. Coach Aubin seemed especially proficient
in trash talk.
I asked Coach Aubin how the season was
going so far. “This is our best start since I’ve been
coaching for five years,” said Aubin. “We’ve won
six and lost five, but are only one and three in
league play. But four of the five games we lost
were close.”
I asked coach Aubin how the flood affected
the team. “We’ve tried to maintain our focus, but
it’s been hard,” he said. “There has been so much
uncertainty; we just never know what’s going to
be happening from one minute to the next. We’ve
had to travel so much, and the weather hasn’t co-
operated. We don’t have a home gym and no home
crowds. And the guys just aren’t getting the rest
they need.”
Well, it was of interest, so I headed
down to the play area. This was the mid-
dle of January remember, and it was one
of those cold, wet, blustery January days.
There they were: thirteen players and two
coaches getting in some court time. The
team was playing two games of three-on-
three, winner stays on the court. I caught
Coach Ted Aubin, a middle school Social
Studies teacher, and the Varsity head coach,
between games.
“But we just wanted to get out here and have some fun today.”
“This was assistant coach David Weller’s idea,” said Coach Aubin. “He said
‘Let’s get together today and just play.’ It wasn’t mandatory, but thirteen of our
eighteen players showed up.”
As I zipped up my jacket against the cold and wiped my runny nose, I
thought that I couldn’t agree more with the grandmother who tipped me off:
“Those kids are dedicated.”
City and Schools Hold Meetings to Begin Flood Recovery
By Scott Laird
by the city that will act as a guide to the upcoming ers must lift the home, move the home, or destroy
recovery and rebuilding in the community.
the home. FEMA representatives said flexibility has
The meeting proved to be an opportunity for all been built into this determination; this allows some
council and commission members to develop a better property owners to receive a percentage finding that
understanding of the decisions facing the community. would be more advantageous to their situation. It was
There were FEMA staff members on hand to answer noted that because the city is responsible for meet-
questions and clarify policy.
ing the requirements for bringing homes into compli-
The community received some good news when ance, the city is ultimately responsible for making the
they heard that FEMA is expected to have new flood “substantially damaged” determination. The city is
maps drawn and available by the end of January. This required to maintain compliance in order to remain
will allow property owners, who wish to raise struc- part of the National Flood Insurance Program that al-
tures, to begin construction much sooner than antici- lows property owners to purchase flood insurance at
pated. The speed with which the new maps were cre- better rates. It was suggested that property owners
ated was termed unprecedented.
who do not have flood insurance consider purchasing
Because the City of Vernonia does have a Hazard it at this time.
Mitigation Plan already in place, it puts the commu-
nity in a good position to receive funding assistance
The Planning Commission and City Council will
for mitigation to make things safer. These funds hold another Study Session on Monday February 4..
would be in addition to what individual citizens are There will be a Public Hearing on February 7 at
receiving for personal damages and losses. FEMA 5:00 p.m. before the Planning Commission Meet-
will make available funding that is equal to 20% of ing at the Scout Cabin and a Public Hearing at 7:00
the total spent on personal losses. This money is ex- p.m. before a special City Council Meeting, also at
pect to total around $20 million and will be distribut- the Scout Cabin. All three meetings are open to the
ed through a competitive grant program across all the public. The Study Session is not intended for pub-
eight counties affected by the December emergencies. lic comment. Public comment will be taken at both
County Commissioner Hyde recommended that Co- Public Hearings.
lumbia County and Ver-
nonia apply together. It
is estimated that ninety-
three percent of the losses
in Columbia County oc-
curred in the Vernonia re-
Another major point
of discussion was the
Substantial Damage de-
termination on properties.
If a property has been
deemed damaged greater
than fifty percent of the
value of the structure, it is
considered “substantially
damaged.” These proper-
ties may become eligible
for additional funding but
also have three options
622 Bridge Street Vernonia, OR 97064
on how to deal with their
phone (503) 429-0880 -- fax (503) 429-0881
issues: property own-
On January 17, 2008 both the Vernonia School
Board and the Vernonia City Government held meet-
ings designed to begin the process of planning their
recovery from the flooding of December 2007.
The School Board met at the Community Church
and began with updates on the current situation for
students. Superintendent Ken Cox outlined the pro-
posed schedule for bringing students back to Vernonia
to begin attending classes by the end of January in
the modular units that have been set up on school
property. He announced that the Middle School is to
be reoccupied and requested authorization from the
board to make any changes necessary to the proposed
calendar at his discretion.
The meeting was then opened for public com-
ment. Among the comments and ideas that were ex-
pressed was an overwhelming desire to relocate the
schools to a safer location. It was also suggested that
the schools stay in the city limits and that keeping the
schools within walking distance to downtown would
allow the community to retain its vibrant feel.
There appear to be three possible options to the
school situation: repair and reoccupy, raise up the
buildings above flood level, or build in a new loca-
tion. The general feeling expressed was that no one
wants to repair and reoccupy.
There was discussion about the feasibility of se-
curing funding necessary for a project of this scope.
County Commissioner Tony Hyde discussed the com-
pelling case that Vernonia has at this time and men-
tioned the possibility of the federal supplemental bud-
get, that may be passed in March, as one source of
funding. Superintendent Cox stated the district had
received preliminary estimates of around $45 million
dollars for three new buildings not including the pur-
chase of property.
The majority of citizens who spoke were in favor
of moving the schools to a new location. They stressed
that the current buildings are inadequate – they want
their children to be safe. The school buildings in turn
would be available as an evacuation center in the case
of a disaster emergency, and that this was an oppor-
tunity for this community to fix a problem and gain
something of which we can be proud.
The same evening the Planning Commission and
the City Council held a joint study session at the Scout
Cabin. The Planning Commission and the Council are
working together to draft an ordinance to be adopted
to p