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Day: November 11, 2010

The Springs marks 10 years

The Springs at Sunnyview, an independent retirement living community, located in northeast Salem will be celebrating their 10th anniversary with an open house on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010 from 5p.m. to 7 p.m.

Several model apartments will be open for touring with hors d’oeuvres available at each apartment. The Springs chef will serve made-from-scratch soups and homemade bread in the lobby for guests. The dining room will feature an array of desserts and coffee.

The Springs is located at 1950 45th Ave N.E. and Sunnyview Rd, in Salem.

EPA will lead Keizer cleanup

Photo by Andrew Jackson/KEIZERTIMES

By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

Cleanup on a chemically-contaminated site at the southwest corner of Manbrin Drive and Cherry Avenue begins next week, supervised by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The problem, officials believe, stems from a dry cleaner that was located there from the 1960s until 1984. [MAP: 1]

City officials discovered in 2002 instances of PCE (perchloroethylene), a cleaner commonly used in dry cleaning in three shallow (defined as 100-150 feet) city wells. Two were permanently decommissioned, and another – at Willamette Manor Park – was closed, rebuilt and re-opened with a deeper well.

Kissler said that even when the discovery was made the detection level was below federal mandate; however, the city chose to stop using those wells.

Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality concluded the chemical was likely flowing westward toward the river, using drilling as well as samples from private, non-municipal wells on private properties. Of those, according to DEQ records, PCE or tetrachloroethene, a related chemical, showed up in 34 of 44 residential wells.

Owners were offered the choice to become city water customers as opposed to remaining on their private well, according to DEQ and city officials. Most accepted.

According to the state’s Environmental Cleanup Site Information (ECSI) database, DEQ officials were able in 2008 to say the Manbrin-Cherry site showed the highest concentration levels of PCE.

“At that point, we pretty much … said we had the smoking gun,” said Bryn Thoms, a DEQ project manager. “That’s when we went to the property owner and tagged them with responsibility.”

Current property owner is Mancher Properties, LLC. County records indicate the property was purchased in 1984.

According to Thoms, a consultant paid by Mancher Properties, LLC discovered “extremely high” levels of PCE directly under where the dry cleaning building was located.

Thoms said current and former property owners – as well as anyone who operated a facility on the property – are responsible for clean-up per Oregon law. The department is working to track down previous owners and users, some of whom are believed to be deceased.

Thoms confirmed Mancher Properties, LLC had been sent a “demand letter for repayment” of about $100,000.

The firm’s attorney has denied responsibility, Thoms said.

“We’re looking for other potentially responsible parties,” Thoms added. “We’re still looking at the current owners.”

Ben Bednarz, who owns Mancher Properties LLC, said the property had been purchased by his father, who has since died. Marion County property records show it was sold to Mancher in 1984, after Marion County took part of the property via eminent domain to widen Manbrin Drive and Cherry Avenue.

“We’ve spent, already, a couple hundred thousand dollars trying to deal with this,” Bednarz said. “… We’re an innocent party that purchased a piece of land someone messed up. We don’t have any more money to spend on it.”

He hopes the EPA and DEQ do more to seek out the dry cleaner’s owners or estate, noting the building was already demolished once his firm bought it.

He also questioned whether Marion County had done due diligence in removing pipes and other leftovers from the dry cleaners when it bought land to expand the two streets.

“I find it very strange that EPA and DEQ have only focused on this patch of land and haven’t looked for pollutants under Manbrin or Cherry,” he said. “My family, I would say, is aggressively green. We drive hybrid cars. We just put solar panels on four of our buildings. So this is very disturbing to us.”

The cleanup is being led by the EPA and Dan Heister, a federal on-scene coordinator. Cyclone fencing with tarps will be placed around the site, and passersby should expect to see “a large excavator, a front-loader … and it will look like we’re installing utilities. … Some people may be wearing respirators, but probably not.”

Heister said DEQ had identified a tear-shaped plume about a mile long going west from the site.

“This property is the top of the teardrop,” he said. It’s believed the particularly contaminated area is about 18 feet below the ground surface, sitting on top of a layer of clay below the topsoil.

“We get a lot of rain in the Willamette Valley, and what we believe is happening … when the water table gets high enough to get to that 18-foot level, it’s able to grab some of that contaminanation and continue to feed the plume,” Heister said. “… We’re going to apply soil amendments – an iron substance that naturally oxidizes the (PCE), put it down there at that interface level, and then fill the hole with clean soil.”

He said they plan to excavate a ditch about 18-20 feet deep, 10 feet wide and 20 feet long. It’s hoped the removal process will conclude by the end of the month.

Cell phone fee push starts Mon.

File Photo

By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

The framework for a fee on cell phone providers – and potentially affecting their customers – is on the agenda at the Nov. 15 Keizer City Council meeting.

If passed, the telecom ordinance would give councilors authority to assess a fee on gross percentages of telecommunication company revenue. City Manager Chris Eppley has initially proposed a 3 percent fee for wireless providers, but that won’t be set at the Nov. 15 meeting.

Eppley proposed the fees would be earmarked within the general fund for paying 911 costs as well as public safety communications, i.e. radio and other communication systems, and an area-wide records management system.

All three are managed by the Willamette Valley Communications Center. Keizer Police, along with Keizer Fire, Salem Police, some other Marion County agencies and all Polk County agencies, contract with WVCC to some extent.

The stated purpose is to recover some of the costs associated with providing 911 service to residents. The state assesses a 75-cent 911 fee on every phone line, cellular or land-based, and distributes portions to cities to cover the cost of 911 service.

However, these distributions alone do not cover the cost of providing 911 service, along with other tasks the city contracts with WVCC for, including providing a records management system and a radio communications system.

“This would also go towards that, which since the general fund is basically 80 percent police … those dollars basically translate directly into law enforcement,” Eppley said.

They don’t yet have solid revenue projections, he said.

In his memo to councilors Eppley also argues cell phone companies, unlike landline phone providers, don’t pay franchise fees, causing a potential equity issue.

Costs for dispatch assessed to member agencies are based on two factors: The population served and the number of calls a particular agency responds to.

The most recent numbers from the City of Keizer indicate the city netted $107,900 from the state’s 911 distributions. The city sent an additional $72,100 to Keizer Fire District.

However, the city’s bill for WVCC is expected to be $436,500 for the current fiscal year. The city also considers items like radio and mobile system support, officer cell phone allowances, the telephone system along with area-wide records management and information technology expenses as part of the overall impact of telecommunications on the city’s budget. According to figures from Finance Director Susan Gahlsdorf, the city has an annual net telecommunications deficit of $610,700, which must be filled in with general fund revenues – which funds police personnel expenses along with parks and other city expenses.

The cost to the Keizer Fire District for this fiscal year is budgeted at $319,732, according to a memorandum from Fire Chief Jeff Cowan.

“We’re trying to find ways to deal with that overwhelming cost,” Cowan said. “It’s taking away funds taxpayers give us to run the fire district. Ultimately, it puts boots on the street.”

The ordinance would allow for a minimum fee of $500 for telecom companies who have customers within Keizer. Those with gross revenues of less than $10,000 from Keizerites would be exempt.

Telecommunication carriers with equipment in the city right-of-way – such as Qwest, the city’s franchised telephone service provider – could pay up to 5 percent. However, Qwest already has a franchise agreement with the city and has been paying a percentage of gross revenues for quite some time.

The ordinance would affect companies like cell phone providers and CLECS (competitive local exchange centers), who are companies that lease space from the primary phone provider and also offer telephone or other communication services.

If passed it requires telecom companies providing services within Keizer to obtain a license from the city. Companies would report annual revenue and be assessed an amount based on the gross revenue, presuming the council acts to actually impose the fee.

At a work session Monday, Nov. 8, WVCC Director Mark Buchholz explained to councilors how the agency works and where costs come from.

The WVCC is part of the City of Salem, and various agencies choose to contract with them to provide services. Buchholz said the rates are based on the agency’s population served and the number of calls taken, and said money received from those agencies does not go into the City of Salem’s general fund.

It has about 60 employees, most of which are union-represented. Its budget is 80 percent personnel, Buchholz said.