Vernonia's voice. (Vernonia, OR) 2007-current, April 01, 2008, Image 1

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V E R N O N I A’ S
reflecting the spirit of our community
volume 1 issue 10
Pages 12 & 13
Vernonia Residents Are Coming Home
By Scott Laird
At a March 10 ceremony FEMA representatives, local dignitaries, and state emer-
gency management officers thanked property owners Gordon Smith and Chuck
Hendryx for their cooperation and consideration in leasing their property to FEMA.
Smith and Hendryx were instrumental in helping get the site ready to accept the
manufactured homes and in getting residents into them.
Glen Sachtleben, a FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer, congratulated the Vernonia
community and its residents for a job well done throughout the disaster and recov-
The property can ac-
commodate twenty-one
units and was revamped
by Dow Brothers Con-
struction who also re-
ceived praise for their
timely efforts. The site
was cleared and leveled,
and water, sewer and
electric utilities were
installed all in a matter
of about ten working
Smith and Hendryx
were each presented
with a framed plaque by FEMA Representative Sachtleben that contained a letter of
thanks and photos of the site under construction. “This is a big event for Vernonia,”
said Smith. “We’re glad we could help get housing for these people who have been
ery. “When the people here get knocked down, they want to get back up,” said Sa-
chtleben. “There is a belief and a feeling here that we see. When we come up here
it gives us a shot in the arm, helps us get motivated to do our jobs.”
Among those in attendance were Vernonia Mayor Sally Harrison, County Commis-
sioner Tony Hyde and State Senator Betsy Johnson.
The FEMA homes began arriving at the site on Monday March 17 and continued
to arrive throughout the week. A total of thirteen units were set to arrive. There
is a possibility thirteen more will be made available. “We have requests for more
than the twenty-one homes the site can hold,” said Christine May of FEMA Public
Affairs. “The number of homes needed keeps changing every day as other local op-
tions become available.”
Workers were working to connect utilities, install stairways for the front and back
entrances, and unpack the furniture that comes with the homes, getting them ready
for residents to move in at the end of March.
School District Considers Options
By Scott Laird
The Vernonia School District will be making some big decisions over the next few months. With all three school buildings still sitting in the
flood zone after being damaged during the flood of 2007, deciding whether to move the school campus or to rebuild on the same site is the first
main decision in what has become a very complicated equation.
fun on
the river
forging a
new life
welcome to
the world
Superintendent Dr. Ken Cox and School Board President
Kim Wallace have both publicly expressed their desire
to see the school campus relocated to higher ground. So
have a number of local residents. It is not hard to see
why moving the schools might be preferable to repairing
the old buildings. Among the many benefits:
• New facilities out of the flood zone would provide
a place that is safe for community children to attend
• The huge expense involved just to repair VHS (es-
timated at nearly $1,000,000) would still leave the
community with an aging facility that seems to be in
constant need of repairs
• Health and air quality concerns at WGS because of
previous flooding
• Space has become an issue at WGS since they are not
able to use the basement anymore for anything but
storage because of safety concerns
• Major concerns and questions about the ability of the
district to receive adequate insurance coverage for fa-
cilities that remain in the flood zone.
in 2005, has been repaired and is currently being used
as classroom space for high school students and the
district cafeteria. The high school building is unoc-
cupied and is sitting, waiting for decisions to be made
about its future. High school students are attending
classes in modular units that have been set up on the
campus and are serving as temporary classrooms.
“It is critical that we find a place where students and staff
can have some sense of security when they are at school
and do not worry whenever it rains,” commented Dr.
The district staff and school board have spent count-
less hours sorting through the funding, repair and
mitigation possibilities that the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) has put on the table,
weighing the possible options. All of the options
from FEMA are available only after all insurance
funds have been used.
(continued on page 9)
Currently WGS is being used by the elementary students
except for the downstairs basement level portion of the
building. The Vernonia Middle School, which was built
One immediate concern that needs to be addressed
is the lack of an adequate high school gymnasium
facility, not only for high school sporting events but
also for physical education classes. The district is
looking at one scenario in which FEMA repair funds
could be used to build a new metal pole barn type
building for a temporary gymnasium. The building
could be designed to be wet proof, meaning it could
be hosed out in the case of another flood. The build-
ing could be constructed to include shower and re-
stroom facilities and could potentially be used as a
public recreation facility by the community when the
schools relocate.