Image provided by: University of Oregon Libraries; Eugene, OR
About The daily Astorian. (Astoria, Or.) 1961-current | View Entire Issue (Nov. 30, 2017)
ASTORIA HIGH SCHOOL WINTER SPORTS PREVIEWS PAGES 9A-10A
DailyAstorian.com // THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2017
145TH YEAR, NO. 109
in on new
IN A TIGHT SPOT
As county looks at jail relocation, deputies grapple
with the quirks of a 37-year-old lockup downtown
A bond failed this year
By EDWARD STRATTON
The Daily Astorian
The Port of Astoria and Life Flight Net-
work are close to finalizing a lease to build
a permanent crew quarters and hangar at the
Astoria Regional Airport.
Port staff is aiming to bring a 20-year
lease with the medevac service to the Port
Commission next month.
“I’m happy to see it come together,” said
Jim Knight, the Port’s executive director.
“It’s not the location I was hoping for.”
The Port attempted to pass a bond mea-
sure in May to develop about 10 acres at the
southern end of the airport, including a pad
for Life Flight to build a new hangar. Life
Flight received a $665,000 ConnectOre-
gon infrastructure grant to pay for the han-
gar, along with an internal investment of
$285,000. Despite broad support among
Clatsop County’s political leadership, the
bond measure was narrowly rejected by
“At the end of the day, the cost of devel-
opment at the south end was more than any
of us could have afforded” without outside
support, Knight said.
After the bond failed, Life Flight began
pursuing a deal to build in its current loca-
tion near the 12th Place entrance to the air-
port. The Port’s Airport Advisory Committee
had found the location unsuitable because of
conflicts with surrounding aviators.
“It’s going to meet our needs,” Life Flight
Regional Director Jacob Dalstra said of the
current location. “We’ve been working with
the Port to mitigate any of those concerns.”
Dalstra and Warrenton Base Manager
Dan Travers expressed their frustration to
the Port Commission last month about try-
ing reach a deal with the agency’s staff on
a final location before Life Flight needed to
get another extension on its grant with the
state. The Port Commission directed staff to
work out a solution.
The Port is hoping to have the new lease
executed by the end of the year to avoid Life
Flight needing another extension with the
state on its grant, Knight said. He said Life
Flight has agreed to take on all the infra-
structure costs for developing at the current
Life Flight has no timeline on when con-
struction might start, Dalstra said.
Life Flight Network
The hangar and crew quarters Life
Flight Network is planning to have built
at the Astoria Regional Airport is simi-
lar to bases the medevac service has in
other locations, such as Pendleton.
Photos by Colin Murphey/The Daily Astorian
Clatsop County Sheriff Tom Bergin, right, checks in on inmates at the county jail in Astoria Tuesday.
By JACK HEFFERNAN
The Daily Astorian
nmates at Clatsop County Jail typ-
ically eat week-old frozen dinners
shipped from eastern Washington
because there is no kitchen. But when the
food service recently encountered prob-
lems bringing meals, sheriff’s deputies
had to make pizza runs to Papa Murphy’s.
A recent meeting between an inmate
and a visitor went awry when another
inmate — sitting in the same small room
— pounced on him.
More than 60 inmates occupy the jail
in Astoria, which was originally designed
to hold 29 inmates when built in 1980.
From January to late September, an aver-
age of six inmates awaiting trial per week
were released early due to overcrowding.
The two dozen sheriff’s deputies who
work at the jail point to necessary upgrades
that would make their jobs easier.
“There’s just a lot of huge constraint
issues,” Sheriff Tom Bergin said. “It’s a
pain in the butt.”
In another attempt to address over-
crowding, the sheriff’s office may — for
the third time in the past two decades —
seek a bond measure. This time, the jail
would be relocated to the site of the for-
mer North Coast Youth Correctional
Facility in Warrenton, which closed in
October due to state budget cuts. Bergin
has said he would need a consensus from
county commissioners before moving for-
ward with a bond.
Sgt. Aaron Parks patrols the halls of the Clatsop County jail Tuesday.
Proposals to redesign the former youth
facility into a modern adult jail range from
$18 million to $28 million. The number of
inmates held there would range from 148
to 200 with the potential to expand to 252
in the future.
The other key feature of a potential
new jail, which would have a more mod-
ern, podular design, would be the ability
for deputies to supervise inmates more
where they are greeted by two deputies.
The roughly 150 square-foot room and a
single holding cell can often overwhelm
the deputies on weekends or spring break
“It can get cramped up, but we can
only do so much for officers’ safety,” Sgt.
Aaron Parks said.
The jail’s design does not allow depu-
ties to directly supervise inmates. Before
entering a room, they must ask a techni-
cian located in a control room to unlock
When people are arrested and taken to
the jail, they check in at a booking room,
See JAIL, Page 4A
Audit faults Oregon’s inability to detect improper Medicaid payments
State also initially
By CLAIRE WITHYCOMBE
SALEM — Following news that
the state may have improperly paid or
allocated about $186.4 million in Med-
icaid funds, a state audit has found that
the Oregon Health Authority lacks suf-
ficient processes to detect and prevent
It also recommends possible fixes,
saying that, among other findings, the
health authority should adopt certain
best practices, improve data matching
and integrity, and boost oversight of
The long-anticipated review was
released Wednesday morning by the
Oregon Secretary of State’s Office
after months of negative news about
the health agency’s handling of eligi-
bility and payment issues in the Med-
Medicaid is a health care pro-
gram for the poor and disabled jointly
funded by the state and federal gov-
ernment. Although the federal gov-
ernment shoulders much of the costs,
it’s up to the states to administer the
program, which is used by 1 million
The audit also found that the agency
doesn’t have “well-defined, consistent
and agencywide processes” to detect
improper payments, especially in the
state’s system of coordinated care.
Additionally, auditors found that
gaps in detecting and preventing
improper payments may also make it
more challenging for the payments to
Most recipients of Medicaid in Ore-
gon are enrolled in what’s called a coor-
dinated care organization, or CCO. A
CCO is essentially a regional network
of care providers who see Medicaid
patients. The state pays the CCO on a
per-patient basis every month.
In late October, news emerged
of $74 million in possible overpay-
ments to the CCOs between 2014
and 2016. The health authority has
already recouped $10.1 million of
that. The errors are likely due to mis-
classification of certain patients who
were also eligible for Medicare, the
federal health care program for the
elderly, and it’s not clear how much
of the money the state must repay the
In a statement Wednesday, Secre-
tary of State Dennis Richardson said
that the $74 million possible overpay-
ment was unrelated to issues identi-
fied in Wednesday’s audit. Further,
that issue was not reported to auditors,
but made public when The Oregonian
requested relevant public records.
The week before Thanksgiving, the
agency identified a litany of additional
problems, ranging from misallocation
of funds to possible overpayment, that
could total about $112.4 million more.
The Oregon Health Authority has
been under the microscope since May,
as it worked through a backlog of
about 115,000 patients whose qualifi-
cations for Medicaid were unclear.
See MEDICAID, Page 4A