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Transit district terms shorter than board members thought

At the first meeting this month of the new Douglas County Transit District Board, Kat Stone was surprised to discover she was beginning a six-month term instead of a four-year term on the board.

The meeting began with the drawing of lots. Each of the board’s seven members drew a number out of a hat. Douglas County Clerk Patricia Hitt subsequently explained members with numbers one through three, including Stone, would be up for re-election in May 2019. The remaining four board members would be up for re-election after two-and-a-half years, in May 2021.

Nobody is serving a four-year term.

Stone thought this procedure was unfair to the voters because two of three members drawing the shortest terms had the highest vote totals in the November election—Jennifer Bragg, with 14,073 votes, and Stone herself, with 12,205 votes.

“It’s just bizarre that the two highest vote-getters and two of the three women on the board have to run again in six months,” Stone said.

Peculiar as it sounds, though, the drawing of lots is what Oregon law mandates. Hitt explained the lots guarantee that terms are staggered so all seven positions don’t come up for re-election at the same time. Hitt said the exact method for drawing lots isn’t specified in the law. Some boards draw numbers, some draw straws, and some even throw dice, she said.

Bragg shares Stone’s frustration that six months from now she’ll have to go back and ask for votes again. She said most voters thought they already gave her a four-year term.

“I feel like it’s a slap in the face to the voters in Douglas County to not have all the information up front,” she said.

Hitt said each of the transit board members will be able to run for re-election, and the winners of all the upcoming elections will serve four-year terms.

The reason some positions come up for re-election so soon, six months from now, is that the Douglas County Board of Commissioners formed the district in 2018, an even-numbered year. Had the district been formed in 2019, three positions would have lasted two years, until 2021, and four would have lasted four years, until 2023.

There’s another wrinkle to the process. The county has asked the state for a special administrative rule establishing separate, numbered positions for subsequent transit district elections. If it’s approved, each current board member would fill a numbered seat, such as “Position 1” or “Position 7,” based on the number drawn by lot. All the positions would remain at-large, rather than representing geographic districts, leaving challengers the choice of which incumbents to run against.

The third board member to draw a short term was Mark Hendershott. The longer terms were drawn by Mike Baker, Sheri Moothart, John Parker and John Campbell.

DEQ: Douglas County Landfill passed most recent inspection

Senior Staff Writer

The Douglas County Landfill has passed its most recent inspection by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

The DEQ said in a Nov. 30 report the county government is in compliance with its permit to operate the landfill. That’s based on the results of a Nov. 14 inspection. The News-Review obtained a copy of the inspection report last week.

In it, DEQ engineer James McCourt said the landfill had previously been inspected on April 26 and had faced an unannounced partial review on April 12 based on complaints. The complaints mentioned appear to be a reference to allegations by former county commissioner candidate Victor Petrucci. Petrucci told the DEQ that leachate was pouring out of the landfill and into a creek on his property, which is adjacent to and downhill from the landfill; however, the DEQ found no sign of leachate release into the creek during its April inspections.

In the report, McCourt referred to a March 2017 incident, when “a significant observable leachate release occurred.” County officials have said that happened because heavy rains coincided with a power failure. Without power, a leachate pump stopped working and leachate was released from the landfill. That spill was the subject of a DEQ warning letter.

In his November report, McCourt approved of the county’s current leachate control measures. In the past, leachate was diverted through a series of treatment ponds, which could overflow during heavy rains, but those have been decommissioned. The leachate is currently piped into to a 350,000-gallon tank, where it’s stored until it can be offloaded on trucks and transported for transfer to the Winston-Green wastewater treatment system. Soil and grass have also been used to cover part of the landfill and keep stormwater out, and culverts have been created to divert stormwater away from the landfill. And a backup generator is now available should the power go out.

The landfill’s current life expectancy, according to McCourt, is another 27 years. That means the county will probably have to either create another landfill or begin hauling trash to landfills in other counties by 2045. In the meantime, the county has to provide the state with financial assurance that it will have enough money to cover landfill closing costs. McCourt wrote that the county failed its financial assurance test in 2016, but he said it has since completed the necessary steps to comply with state regulations.

Douglas County Commissioner Chris Boice said Solid Waste Department employees, the public works director and the commissioners have worked hard to run a first-class landfill facility.

“Our goal has always and will continue to be operating within the regulatory boundaries that exist. We have a good working relationship with the staff of Oregon DEQ and appreciate that relationship very much. I would like to thank the Solid Waste staff and Oregon DEQ for working together toward the common goal of meeting or exceeding regulatory requirements,” Boice said. “We are definitely heading in the right direction.”

MSullivan / MICHAEL SULLIVAN/The News-Review  

Umpqua Community College professor MIck Davis gestures towards a projection displaying a page of the text book that he is writing for his students. The page features an illustration by Roseburg artist Sasha Lynch who contributed to the book.

Rudolph Run collected 895 toys for kids in Douglas County

Motorcycles, emergency vehicles and two box trucks emblazoned with “Mahalo” on the sides filled the streets on Saturday morning for the annual Cascade Community Credit Union Rudolph Run.

Eighteen sponsoring businesses collected and bought 895 toys for children from low-income families and in the foster care system.

Cheryl Carson, the community partnership coordinator at the Department of Human Services, said the toys will go to more than 350 families who might not otherwise be able to buy a gift for their children.

“For most of these kids, they don’t get new things, they don’t get new clothes, sometimes they don’t even get a lot of meals,” Carson said. “They really are going without a lot of things, so to have a brand new toy for Christmas, it’s something that can bring a lot of light to a world that can be a little bit dark for kids.”

DHS received all of the gifts at the end of the run and spent this week sorting them by age group and inviting parents to come by and choose the toys for their children.

“The parents get to come in, and they get to shop,” Carson said. “It’s a connecting and it’s a bonding experience. Rather than the parent getting a wrapped gift, they pick it. It has meaning to them as they present it to the child.”

Carson said these parents often miss out on the joy of being able to give their children new toys and the Rudolph Run allows them to experience that joy.

“The expression on the parents’ faces when they come in and they see the room full of toys, some of them are just in awe that so many people in the community have given,” Carson said. “Not only is it a gift to the child, it’s a gift to the parent that this community cares about their child. A lot of people in Douglas County struggle themselves, yet still, people are giving to this program to make sure kids have Christmas.”

Mahalo Heating and Air Conditioning owner Erin Gogal said the two Mahalo trucks and an ambulance were just some of the vehicles filled with toys. She estimated $25,000 worth of toys were taken to the Department of Human Services.

Carson said it’s been going on longer than she’s been at DHS and she started 15 years ago. This is Mahalo’s 11th year being a sponsor for the event. Gogal said when her business started sponsoring, it was in the middle of the recession and a hard year for everyone, but she saw the community step up and has done it every year since.

“It was our first year in business and we just kind of fell into it,” Gogal said. “One time experiencing the event and we were sold. It’s the official kickoff of the holiday spirit for me. I think everybody has that child in their heart and they want to be a part of it.”