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April 6: Lane County Public Safety Levy

Disclaimer: This article reflects only the views of the author. It does not reflect the views of either of the participants in the forum or of the Springfield City Club.

On April 6, Sheriff Cliff Harrold, and Mr. Jacob Trewe, of Healing not Handcuffs, discussed renewal of the Lane County Public Safety Levy, a measure that will appear on the May 16 ballot. Sheriff Harrold urged support of the levy renewal and Mr. Trewe urged that renewal be rejected. The levy renewal will be at the same rate as is currently imposed, meaning that there will be no increase in taxes on any property as a result of approval.

Perhaps the most fascinating part of the discussion was how much Sheriff Harrold and Mr. Trewe agreed on the ultimate solution to dealing with one of the major public safety issues facing Lane County. Each agreed that incarceration was not the preferred approach, but rather solutions which created motivations and opportunities to avoid engaging in criminal behavior instead of imprisoning those who commit those crimes. Each suggested restorative justice approaches, improved mental health support, addressing the issue of chronic homelessness, providing ways for individuals to avoid getting caught in the cycle of addiction, and the like.

View the full program either on the City Club Facebook page or by downloading the Zoom recording (Caution, the Zoom recording is almost 900 MB of data.) 

Sheriff Harrold saw the levy renewal as important because without the levy, he believes he would be forced to eliminate the limited amount of those services he can now provide because they do not fall within the narrow ambit of his statutory duty to maintain and operate a jail and arrest alleged offenders. He said he would be obliged to repurpose the general fund money he receives to fund those programs to fulfill the essential statutory duties.

Mr. Trewe suggested that if the levy were to be rejected, the Sheriff’s office could still maintain a limited scale of the Department’s statutory duties and still offer programs which are now funded out of the county general fund.

Both agreed that ultimately the need is to have a conversation with the community and develop a revenue source that can fund a full set of alternative programs designed to avoid incarceration.

The challenge with that approach is best explained by referring to a question posed by someone who attended the forum over Zoom. This individual asked why they, as a Springfield resident, are obliged to pay a tax levied to fund the Springfield jail, as an employee working in Eugene, to pay the Eugene Public safety Tax, and at the same time pay “this third tax” to pay for the Sheriff’s functions. The individual suggested that this tax burden was too great. Focusing on the tax burden, rather than on the need to accomplish the goals of reducing criminal activity, often leads to one conclusion – opposition to any form of taxation, regardless of its purpose.

March 16: Representative Val Hoyle

Representative Val Hoyle was clear about her priorities as a new member of Congress from the 4th Congressional District: the Coos Bay North Bend container port. In her first visit to the Springfield City Club since her election, she described that project as her “first, second and third priority.” Fortunately, she has positioned herself in the Congress to be a strong advocate for the project. Even though one of the many freshman members of the House, she managed to secure an appointment to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where her predecessor served for many years. It is unusual, she said, for a new member of the House to get such a prestigious committee assignment.

Already, she has spent significant time working on building support for the project. She has been aided by the fact that the private company who would build the project, which involves dredging the Coos Bay channel, building the port, and expanding and improving rail service, is located in the Congressional District of the Republican chair of the Committee. This gives her an opportunity to build bipartisan support for the project.

Even with this project, which she says will create 9000 jobs on the coast as her main focus, she is working to establish a reputation as a congress member who will be willing to work across the aisle when appropriate, by securing support for two amendments to pending legislation which passed with unanimous support. Her focus, she said, “is finding ways to work together with people who want to get things done.”

She was clear, however, that there are significant challenges to working in the present Congress. She reported that while that chair of the transportation committee was clear that he wants the committee to “be boring” and focus on getting work down, her other committee assignment, to Natural Resources, will apparently operate differently. The first meeting of the Committee she said, focused on whether the members could bring guns to the meetings.

One of the first pieces of legislation she has signed on to sponsor is a modification to Social Security which would require high income individuals to resume contributions to the system if they make more than $250,000 a year. (At present no contributions are required on earnings above $160,000.) Were it to pass, which she concedes is doubtful in this Congress, it would stabilize social Security for 75 years as well as support a $250 a month increase in benefits across the board. This is important for this District she said, since over half of the seniors in the district rely on social Security for their retirement income.

Another bill she mentioned is one that tracks her recent experience as State Commissioner o9f the Bureau of Labor and Industries. That bill would offer tax credits to employers who are creative in how they hire and train employees. She focused attention on the apprenticeship model and the successful efforts in Oregon to create certifications in skills that do not require a four-year college degree. She specifically mentioned several of the programs that Lane Community College offers in medical technology, nursing, and traditional trades fields as examples of the sorts of programs that could be developed. It is important she said, “to change the present model where schools are paid for getting butts in the seats” and replace it with models that focus on rewarding successful outcomes.

Asked about the likelihood of success in getting approvals for the Container port project, she pointed to the fact that the current West Coast shipping ports are generally land locked and cannot expand significantly, and that all of them require days to get products from the open ocean to the port facility. “Coos Bay would be 90 minutes from open ocean to port with direct rail connections that could cut as much a s two days off of the supply chain.” She said there was no organized opposition, either in the Congress or locally to the project, unlike the controversial Jordan Cove project, although she acknowledged that work needs to be done to reassure local communities and the fishing industry that the part of the proposal that calls for offshore wind generation of electricity can be accomplished with adverse environmental effects.

Not only would the port project generate jobs by itself, she said, but it would provide an essential stimulation to the housing market. There are simply no homes available, at any level, along the coast. The need to supply housing for up to 9000 new workers would be a massive stimulus to build housing.

Rep. Hoyle was not optimistic about parts of the President’s budget which offer subsidies to help increase pay for child care workers. Unfortunately, she said, the slim Republican majority, and the decision of the speaker to yield much of his power to the extremist element of the Republican Party, make ideas like this, just like the demand for an assault weapons ban, things that are not likely to see success in this Congress.

June 15: Springfield Police Department

Springfield Police Chief Andrew Shearer told City Club he felt the department was in a pretty decent spot in terms of staffing. He reported that there are presently nine vacancies in addition to the 69 sworn officers (including the chief). He said the word is getting out that Springfield is a place where you might want to be a police officer. That is fortunate, he said, because the market for hiring officers is extremely tight. One group he would clearly like to increase is the corps of Community Service Officers. These non-sworn employees help relieve the burden on sworn offices by taking a lot of calls that do not require a sworn officer. He also was very happy to have the support of CAHOOTS, which now has a vehicle based in Springfield to relief pressure on patrol officers. The Chief noted that before the pandemic the Department had about 30 volunteers to help;’ now that is down to about 6 and he hopes to restore the level as he can get additional volunteers to step forward. The Department is now developing a Downtown Volunteer Program to help move that goal forward.
Chief Shearer also introduced Deputy Chief Jamie Resch, a recent addition to the staff who comes with 24 years of policing experience in Portland. The Deputy Chief, which is a new position in Springfield, handles day to day operations of the department, making it possible for the Chief to oversee budget, recruitment and hiring, and public information and community outreach.
Chief Shearer reviewed the legislative agenda that the department is following, noting that just that morning the State Senate had apparently resolved the deadlock that had prevented them from achieving a quorum.

Deputy Chief Resch was asked to describe the process for handling a call for an apparently homeless person occupying space near a business. She said that the primary focus would be to try and defuse the situation so that the individual was not a challenge but without needing to take the person into custody. She said that when it becomes necessary to take a person into custody in that situation, the department has few resources to help deal with the situation. They are limited to writing a trespassing report which get referred to the District Attorney for prosecution but that given the volume of more serious allegations of criminal activity, those rarely are prosecuted.
The chief did note that the existence of the municipal jail was a resource that most jurisdictions do not have. The possibility of incarcerating individuals for misdemeanors he described as a tremendous resource to remove people from disruptive behavior.
The chief also described a new program the department has initiated – the Trauma Intervention Program of TIPS. He said that when offices respond to a traumatic event, a crime or even just a natural death, they have had no way to provide support to those affected by the trauma of the event. Now they have a group of experienced volunteers who can be asked to come to a scene and provide support to an individual so that the officers don’t simply show up and then leave an individual to cope with the aftermath.
Chief Shearer was asked about the recently announced Lane Conty Stabilization Center. He responded that there is a large funding gap both in terms of building and operating such a center. A lot needs to be done, he said, before that can become a reality.


Lane Transit District Update: February 16

Jameson T. Auten, the recently appointed Chief Executive Officer of the Lane Transit District, presented an expansive and, to most citizens, novel, view of the role of LTD in the community at the February 16, City Club program. “LTD must move away from being a public transit system,” he said, suggesting that the future of LTD was as an aggregator and facilitator of not only its fixed route system, but also “everything but the bus.”

Mr. Auten, who comes to LTD from the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority (KCATA), where he served as the agency’s Deputy CEO/Chief Operating Officer, said his professional background in transportation demand management has drawn him to the conclusion that transportation must be “mode agnostic,” offering a wide variety of opportunities in how to get from point A to point B, including those that are not operated by an agency like LTD. He envisions LTD as a mobility space, from where a resident can get access to programs as diverse as bike sharing, car and van pools, pedestrian access, paratransit, many of which would be provided by entities other than LTD, as well as the customary fixed route services.

He envisions that the services LTD provides directly will also shift, in the future, away from the “hub and spoke” model where all service runs through a fixed central station to a service where “micro transit” which could well be an on-demand service, provides connections to a spine like the current EmX line in Springfield. As an example, he wondered if service to Coburg, which now runs as a fixed route from the town of Coburg to the downtown Eugene station, might not be more efficiently provided by offering “micro transit” (which he imagined as “like Uber in a larger vehicle”) as an on-demand service connecting to the EmX line in Gateway.

He was also critical of the current model for paratransit, which operates as Ride Source, because it lacks flexibility and immediacy, forcing those whose abilities necessitate them using the service, to plan travel long in advance with limited time windows. Many communities, he said, are exploring ways to improve their paratransit service and make if more effective as an on-demand service.

Responding to a question of how he would address the common perception that low ridership means the system is not useful, he said LTD must learn to focus public attention not on the ridership statistics, but rather on the outcomes that using public transportation, in all its many forms, facilitates. Transportation is vital to a community he said, not in terms of those statistics but in how it facilitates outcomes in other areas like employment, healthcare, and education.

Creating a new model for LTD will, he said, require extensive community conversations. He noted that the recent Moving Ahead initiative had a bad outcome. That effort is on pause and LTD will over the next several months be soliciting community feedback and developing a “best in class” process to determine the interests of stakeholders. This will include an external steering committee and an evaluation of whether or not the bus system meets the needs of the community and what it might look like if LTD were to rethink what it should look like. He noted that similar conversations are occurring in most communities across the country as society adjusts to the changes that have come out of the pandemic. He hopes that a new business case for LTD can be developed over the next 18 months.

He believes that LTD should not be wedded to the image of 40- and 60-foot fixed route vehicles. Those, he said, are not typically found in communities the size of the Eugene-Springfield area, and are more typical of San Francisco, Los Angelese or Philadelphia. Here the service needs to be tailored to how the community sees that its needs can best be met.

Mr. Auten reported that while before the pandemic fare box revenue made up 15 to 18 percent of total revenue, ridership has fallen and farebox revenue yields about 10 percent, that prompted a question about the desirability of zero fare service. He responded that Kansas City has recent experience with zero fare service, first as an incentive coupled to their development of a Bus Rapid Transit system and then later as all fares were suspended during the pandemic. That experience was not positive, he said. Although their might have been a small economic benefit to riders, behavior problems increased. Mr. Auten said that bus operators had reported similar results when LTD fares were suspended during the pandemic.

LTD should be a complete member of the community he said. He pointed to examples where other jurisdictions had repurposed uses that had ended their service life could be transformed into other useful roles. He cited an example in San Francisco where a bus had been converted into a community showering facility for use by the unhoused and other examples where retired buses had been converted into food pantries.

March 2: Disciples of Dirt

Mountain bike riding is a sport with growing popularity in this area where cities are surrounded by forests well-suited for riding. Disciples of Dirt Mountain Bike Club (DOD) boasts members from all over the Pacific Northwest and beyond, but focuses efforts within Oregon’s Southern Willamette Valley, where the club was founded, and the majority of its membership lives and rides. Club members share a high level of passion for mountain biking and the DOD is well known within the cycling world for being stewards of our local trails and champions for improved trail access for cyclists. What may be less known about Disciples of Dirt is that it is also a leader in the maintenance, rehabilitation, and construction of new trails in the forests. Peter O’Toole, the “Trail Czar” of Disciples of Dirt, talked to City Club on March 2nd not only about the sport, but about the club’s major efforts to making mountain riding more available to the community. Although the club’s roots are in the Oakridge area, they have expanded, both in terms of riding opportunities and trail development, to several other areas in Lane County.

For the past several years they have worked on trail development in the area know as the Carpenter Bypass, near Lorane. (For a map of that area click the Carpenter Bypass Map.) As the unofficial use of the trails in that area grew from 2010-2012, the Club petitioned the Bureau of Land Management, who was responsible for the public lands where the trails ere located, to officially sanction use of the trails for bike riding. Although BLM did so, the public process was somewhat controversial because of concerns from equestrian riders who had also been using the tails. Ultimately BLM decided that the trails would be managed [primarily for bike riding other uses, such as equestrian use, would be allowed a well. So far, conflicts have proved to be minimal. In addition to getting approval for the tails that existed, the club also secured a grant for BLM to construct trails with the intent of moving all of the tails off of private property and on to publicly owned property. So far, the club has invested of $75,000 in trail repair and rehabilitation in the area and plans to build a mile of new trails this spring.

The club has also made a major investment in the potential for developing trails in the Thurston Natural area just east of the Springfield City limits. Beginning in 2017 the club collaborated with Willamalane Park and Recreation District to develop a plan for 4.5 miles in the Natural Area. (See the THNA Trail Map.) In addition, the club has collaborated in a plan to develop more trails inn an area adjacent to the Willamalane managed area that is the subject of a proposed timber sale. Those plans were incorporated in the National Environmental Policy Act process surrounding the timber sale. Development of those trails has stalled however, because of litigation challenging the timber sale. BLM has concluded that without the timber sale being approved it cannot move ahead with the bike trail plan and is now contemplating moving ahead with a new harvest proposal for the timber sale that would not include the bike trails as an element. The club has taken issue with this approach, pointing out that the previous process contemplated the trails and because of that they are considered reasonably likely activities that should be considered in the next NEPA evaluation.

Mr. O’Toole said they had not experienced NEPA issues in work on the Carpenter Bypass trail system because those trails, even the part that were “rogue” trails that had not been approved, were preexisting features of the land and, accordingly, categorically excluded from NEPA analysis. Trails are typically about 40 inches wide, and for environmental purposes are considered to have a 50-foot buffer from the trail centerline. Mr. O’Toole said new trails are generally constructed using mechanical equipment for dirt removal with volunteers doing finishing work by hand.

Disciples of Dirt has about 150 members, although may more individuals regularly ride the trails in the local area, some of whom are current or former members. The club does occasionally support specified kids rides to help introduce younger riders to the sport and last fall hosted a skills clinic to help riders maintain and improve their riding abilities. Mr. O’Toole said it is very important to make sure riders have good equipment. The typical mountain bike cost at least $1,500 to $3,000, when some going for as much as $10,000. While those costs are high, he said, it is important to make sure that your equipment is of high quality and in good condition for safe riding.

In response to a question, Mr. O’Toole said that most riders and trail managers have no objection to electric pedal-assist bicycles. BLM does not have a  vigorous enforcement policy and thus pedal-assist electric bikes are generally not a problem, although motorcycles are not permitted on trails

The club is now involved with BLM on yet another project in the Oakridge area. The Cloverpatch project will seek to complete a loop of about 30 miles near the town of West Fir. The club will be doing the scoping of the trails for BLM. They are about 18 months into the project, with about two more years to go, Mr. O’Toole said.

With respect to some environmental concerns, Mr. O’Toole said that it is important to understand the nature of the land where trails are bult. He said that while trails in the Carpenter Bypass can be used year-round, many of the trails built in the Thurston area would not be useable in the winter because of different soil and drainage conditions.


Housing in Springfield: February 2


Like every city in Oregon, Springfield faces a number of housing challenges, Katie Carroll and Erin Fifeld told City Club on February 2. At direction of the Council, they aid, staff is pursuing several alternatives to achieve the strategic goal of the Council: to make Springfield a welcoming community for all people in every stage of life. The PowerPoint presentation can be found HERE.

Ms. Carroll, the City’s Housing Analyst, described the existing housing stock as challenging. Over 70% of housing in the City Is either single family or duplex, with only about 30 percent in three or more unit buildings. It is also older stock, she said: over 80 percent of the housing is more than 20 years old. Although new multifamily housing grew in 2022, that was after a significant decline in 2021.

Housing is also, she said, becoming more and more expensive. Springfield prices, which averaged under $200,000 in 2015 rose to almost $450,000 by the second quarter of 2022. tenants in rental housing face even greater challenges, she said. While almost half of rentals are under $1,000 per month, a significant portion grow up as high as $1,500. This is particularly problematic since the annual income of renters is significantly below the median of all residents. As a result, almost half of all renters are “cost-burdened” in that they are paying more than 30 percent of their income to cover the cost of housing.

In addition to these challenges, homeless appears to again be on the rise in the community.

To address the challenges, Ms. Carroll said, the Council has directed staff to pursue number of objectives. These include implementation of an overnight parking program, a program to permit temporary RV occupancy on private property. The City is also seeking to establish a new Egan Warming Center site.

Ms. Fifeld, the City’s Economic Development Analyst, pointed to several initiatives designed to encourage the development of affordable housing. In addition to federal funds that are available, the City has been authorized a $3 million grant in state funds to create a manufactured dwelling park. The state funds can be used to purchase land which would then be developed by a non-profit partner. The City is now looking for partners or other agencies that have available land to take advantage of the grant.

The City also will waive certain development fees for non-profit organizations who wish to develop affordable housing and will offer a 20-year property tax exemption for low income development. The Council has also allocated up to $300,000 in waivers of systems development charges  for projects which can offer affordable home ownership. This is in line with the Council’s goal to prioritize home ownership. SDC waivers to present challenges, however, since the revenues collected from SDCs are essential if the City is to construct the infrastructure necessary to support future development. Most recently, the City took steps to ease the development of accessory dwelling units, which allow for increased residential density. In response to a question, City staff said that 48 ADUs have been approved since the program was begun in 2018.

The City is also taking steps to support the affordability of rental housing. Already in place is a property tax exemption for Low income rental property, and the City may consider a property tax exemption for multi-family housing in the near future. The City is making available some one time Community development Block Gant COVID funding for rent assistance for low income households.

For low-income homeowners the City also has its home repair program which can offer homeowners up to $10,000 for repairs. Last year 78 homeowners took advantage of that program as well as its home ownership program under which the City can loan up to $25,000 toward the down payment related costs of buying a qualified home in Springfield.  The loan is interest-free and repayment is generally not required until the home is sold, refinanced, or transferred.

Finally, the City is moving ahead with its Land Development Code update, which generally refreshes the code relating to land development and also responds to the action of the state legislature under House Bill 20-01 which requires that duplexes up to fourplexes be allowed in all areas =zoned for single family residential housing. Part of the response to that requirement is an increased focus on what is described as “middle housing” – denser development that allows for townhomes and cottage cluster development.

2023 Legislative Session: January 19


The current session of the Oregon Legislative Assembly, which opened last week, will be driven by the need to adopt a budget, according to Rep. John Lively, who briefed the Springfield City Club on January 19. Rep. Lively said that as the session opens, it appears that the state will face a deficit of more the $500 million. While that number is somewhat artificial, because it is based on extrapolating current spending and revenue estimates, the deficit is likely to get worse because revenue estimates are based on assumed population growth and recently Oregon’s population has declined. That shift can be critical for a state like Oregon which is heavily dependent on income taxes for revenue, he said. The challenge is compounded by the fact that Oregon has a new governor: Gov. Kotek is still reviewing a draft budget and it will not be available until February 1. Already, Rep. Lively said, there are requests for billions of dollars in new funds. There are requests for $800 million in additional spending for K-12 education and higher education institutions are seeking multiple billions of dollars in new funding. While all the requests, he added, are for good things, all the need simply cannot be met. Although the legislative policy committees may seek to fund many of these alternatives, the need of the Ways and Means committees to assure that the budget is balanced may leave many of these needs unfulfilled.

The 2023 session is, for the first time in three years, being held within the Capitol building. After two years operating remotely because of the pandemic, legislators are now able to conduct hearings in person and meet in session on the floor. Even though the legislature is once again meeting at the Capitol, there is much that is new about how the public can interact. Most of the capitol is closed to the public for renovation and seismic upgrades and those who wish to participate in the legislative process must adapt to some new methods of operation. More information on that topic can be found online at the Oregon Legislative Information Service (OLIS). Two important links discuss how to submit testimony to the Legislature SUBMIT TESTIMONY. and how to attend committee meetings remotely ONLINE VERBAL TESTIMONY. Even the most minor details of changes can be important. Rep. Lively, who is now serving his sixth term in the legislature is now representing District 7, which covers much the same geographical area as did his former district 12. The significance of the detail is that even his phone number has changed. Since phone numbers are assigned based on the district number, he now can be reached at 503-986-1407.

This session has an unusually large number of new legislators. Rep. Lively said that 21 of the 60 members of the House of Representatives have never served in the Legislature and even more are not familiar with how the legislature operates in the Capitol. Rep. Lively observed that over two-thirds of the members of the Economic Development and Small Business Committee on which he serves, are new to the legislature.

The highest priority policy issues for this session will probably not come as a surprise to Oregonians according to Rep. Lively. He said that housing and homelessness is high on everyone’s agenda. Climate change has been a major issue at most sessions in the recent past and will be again. There was significant funding for behavioral health initiatives in the last session, and there will be efforts to sustain that going forward. Everyone, he said, is dissatisfied with what is happening in K-12 education. While he said the Student Success Act approved in the last session has done some good there are still difficulties in how a student’s progress is being evaluated. Expansion of broadband service will also be a priority as the Legislature works to assure that federal money becoming available is effectively applied in the state. Likewise, federal money to expand American production of semiconductors will become available this year and the legislature must develop a way to effectively use it.

Turning to his personal priorities for the session, Rep. Lively first mentioned the work he is doing to create a conversation on how to develop and implement Climate Friendly and Equitable Communities rules, an area where he is working closely with Springfield officials to develop a better solution than the one size fits all that has emerged from the Department of Land Conservation and Development.

Rep. Lively also is interested in raising the threshold at which the Oregon Estate Tax begins to apply. At $1 million. It nis among the lowest in the nation. He would like to see the threshold raised so that it affects fewer people, noting that even a modest family that owns a $500,000 home (not unusual in Oregon at present) could find itself subject to the Estate tax.

In response to a question, he said he will be working to develop legislation which can ease the burden on constructing affordable homes by providing state support to encourage cities to reduce or eliminate system development charges on affordably priced homes. While he said Springfield is moving in that direction on its own, the SDC funds that are foregone are needed to assure that infrastructure can be built to support development. While the charges don’t have a major impact on higher cost homes, they can be a real impediment to developing lower cost housing.

Rep. Lively was asked about legislative steps that might be taken to deal with recent initiatives approved by the voters. On the health care initiative, he does not expect significant action. While the measure enshrines in the constitution the right to heath care, no funding was supported. He noted that Oregon actually has a fairly good system of health care but that to make it completely universal would require billions of dollars that simply do not exist.
He does expect the legislature to try to make some changes to help implement the provisions of Measure 110 which decriminalizes possession of certain substances. The roll out of the measure was less than satisfactory, and the state us still seeking a way to get people to take advantage of the o to receive treatment reduce drug dependency.

He also said that Senator Prozanski, whose district now includes Springfield, will be looking to how to implement Measure 114 in a way that is consistent with the will of the voters and the constitution, but that it is not likely that much will be finalized while current litigation is pending. The legislature will, he said, be asked to provide funding for expanded background checks.

Finally, when asked about the status of the Road User Fee project he said that the work ODOT has done has clearly demonstrated that it is a more equitable way to fund road maintenance and operations than is the fuel tax, it now remains to aid a date by which the state will require that new vehicles be subject to the charge in lieu of the fuel tax.

In this session, Rep. Lively is serving as the Chair of the Committee on Gambling Regulation and the Chair of the Committee on Higher Education, as well as serving on the Economic Development and Small Business Committee and as an alternate on the Committee on Conduct.

For those of you who missed Representative Lively’s preview of the legislative session, the video is available on Facebook at this link: WATCH VIDEO.


January 5 — Metropolitan Wastewater Management Commission

What happens when you flush your toilet or let water run down the sink? Many of us don’t know, and perhaps most do not care, as long as it is gone, but management of sanitary sewer systems is one of the most critical functions in keeping residents healthy. In our area, that task is managed by the Metropolitan Wastewater Management Commission (“MWMC”). MWMC is the governing body for the Eugene/Springfield regional sewer treatment system and is, perhaps remarkably, a government agency with no employees that exists through the cooperation of the cities of Springfield and Eugene and Lane County.

On January 5 City Club members and guests learned how this agency manages to address the critical problem of wastewater management for the 250 thousand residents of the urban area. Our presenters were Matt Stouder, the Environmental Services Division Director in the Development and Public Works department of the City of Springfield, and Michelle Miranda, the Wastewater Division Manager in the Public Works Department of the City of Eugene. Mr. Stouder also serves as the General Manager of MWMC, and Ms. Miranda also serves as the Operations Manger of the MWMC Regional Water Pollution Contorl Facility – the wastewater treatment plan that serves residents and business in the cities and urban growth areas surrounding Eugene and Springfield.

Mr. Stouder explain that the regional system has its origins in the federal Clean Water Act passed in 1972. At that time, both the cities of Springfield and of Eugene had local sewer treatment facilities that were in need of major repairs and updating. One of the features of the Clean Water Act was that federal funds were available for sewer treatment systems, but only if they served a region not a single city. That incentive motivated the cities, with the support of the County, who was able to provide additional financial security, to form the MWMC in 1974 and secure funding for a regional plant (80 percent of the plant cost was cove red by federal funds). That plant opened in 1984 and has served the area ever since.

Now, wastewater from each city is carried to the plant, first through local sewer lines and then a series of regional sewer lines and pump stations. It is treated at the plant and the cleaned water is returned to the Willamette River, while the solids removed from the waste stream are treated at a drying facility located several miles north of the plant and then used to provide nutrients for corps like grass seed, or, more recently a plantation of over 400 acres of poplar trees which are harvested every 12 years to provide lumber and wood chips.

According to Ms. Miranda, MWMC operates and manages over $450 million in assets including, in addition to the treatment plant, 850 miles of regional sewer pipe and 49 pump stations. (In addition, each City also operates and maintains local sewer pipes and pump stations. The dividing line between local and regional facilities is that once a pipe handles wastewater from more than on jurisdiction, it is treated as a regional facility.

The Treatment plan received a new federal permit from DEQ in November. One of the features of the new permit is a new level of temperature regulation, since temperature is treated at a pollutant for purposes of measuring the pollution returned to the river at the end of the treatment process. To insure that the facility complies with the new permit, MWMC is now working with organizations Like Fresh Water Trust to plant trees along the Springfield Millrace and along the banks of the McKenzie River, from which both the Eugene Water and electric Board and the Springfield Utility Board draw water for their residents.

Other resource recovery projects are high on MWMC’s lists of current tasks. Not only do they use recycled water in the treatment process and to irrigate the poplar plantation, as well as use waste solids for the poplar farm and grass seed farms in the area, but they are also addressing the need to deal with the quantity of methane that isa natural byproduct of the treatment process. For some time, the plant has generated some of its own electrical needs by using the methane, but now they have recently partnered with NW Natural to clean methane and inject it into the NW Natural system to be available to consumers and businesses who use natural gas. Mr. Stouder said this $14 million project could generate as much as $1-2 million in annual revenue, which will provide a buffer against future rate increase once the cost of the project is recovered. He said that he did not expect the recent actions of the City of Eugene which may prohibit new natural gas connections to have a major impact on that cost recovery, since the gas in the NW Natural system could still be used in other places.

Other issues on the horizon include the possibility of additional users of the regional facility. Lane County has been studying the expansion of the Goshen area, south of Eugene, for additional industrial development. T

hat area has no sewer system and one of the possibilities is to convey the area’s wastewater to MWMC. That may raise interesting questions about whether or not to treat the area as simply a customer or to expect that Goshen will become a partner in the regional system. Mr. Stouder said that capacity would not be an issue for MWMC because the typical flow to the f=alant is about 30 million gallons per day, while the system is sized to handle 277 million. When asked about the large difference, he responded that during the winter months, because of seasonal rain, the area’s water table rises, in many cases, to ab

ove the level of the pipes. This means that ground water can flow into the sewer system and be carried to the plant through leaks and cracks made by tree roots and other defects. All of this inflow must be treated as if it is the same as residential or industrial sewage.

Mr. Stouder added that in addition to Goshen, Lane Community College which presently has its own plan, as well as Cresswell may be explore using MWMC facilities in the future.

One progra

m operated by MWMC which may well be unfamiliar is its commercial and industrial pretreatment program. MWMC works with local businesses, particularly those who use pollutants in their production activities, to eliminate many of those pollutants before wastewater enters the system. A comm on subject is the fat, oil and grease filter that typically are installed in all food production faculties to keep that mat

erial out of the sewer system where it can clog pipes and cause problems in treatment of wastewater at the plant.



December 15 — Team Springfield

Among governmental agencies, Team Springfield is something of a rarity: a gathering of multiple agencies having jurisdiction over the same geographical area to help coordinate activities and collaborate for the overall benefit of the public. The Chief Executive Officers of the Team Springfield agencies visited with City Club on December 15 to explain what the team is and how it works. At the session were Nancy Newton, Springfield City manager, Michael Wargo, Superintendent of Willamalane Park and recreation District, Todd Hamilton School District 19 Superintendent and Jeff Nelson, Superintendent of the Springfield Utility Board.

Team Springfield was formed in 1999 as an outgrowth of the visioning exercise called Springfield Tomorrow initiated by the City and involving all the governmental agencies. Since 1999 both executives and elected members of the agencies have met periodically to plan and coordinate on many projects. That 20-year history served the community well when the pandemic struck in 2020. Faced with the challenges of dealing with closures and services challenges, the leaders of Team Springfield stepped up and began weekly coordination to provide the public with common and consistent messages about how local governments were dealing with pandemic issues, as well as coordinating their activities as best they could to assure continuity of public services in the face of lockdowns and the other mandates that were imposed to fight the pandemic.

This level of coordination included developing means to respond to new mandates from the Governor’s office, sometimes when the agencies had less that 48 hours to implemented actions, the Teams Springfield agencies were still able to develop common approaches and language to assure that the public and agency personnel got consistent and sensible messages.

Much effort was also devoted to increased partnering on programming. As one example, the partners arranged for funding so that children outside the City could still receive library cards without cost to them or their parents. The agencies were also able to continue the 1Pass summer program which funded free transit cards for students to many summer activities. They also worked together to establish a public equestrian trail on property owner jointly by several of the agencies in the victim of Clearwater Park.

Recruitment continues to be a major issue particularly for Willamalane and School District 19. Most of the Willamalane positions that deal directly with the public and program participants are low paying jobs which compete with fast food companies on wages. The difficulty recruiting for these positions has forced cutbacks in some programs.


The School District faces a different problem. Before the pandemic over 30- percent of the teaching staff was eligible to retire. Many left the profession as the pandemic worsened and the district does not have a p8ipleing for recruitment from local colleges. Instead of hiring people as substitute for two years before putting them on permanent staff, the district now hires directly out of school when it can and recruits out of state as well as locally.

The agencies are continuing to work on local projects. SUB is under construction with a new substation in Glenwood to support the City’s efforts to expand development there and is working on constructing a new water treatment facility in eastern Springfield at a site adjacent to School District property as well as planning to perfect its existing water rights to the McKenzie River. SUB is also continuing to move toward supporting advance telecommunications in Springfield. In addition to using its dark fiber to support local hospitals and schools, SUB has initiated a net neighborhood project to test other providers ability to use facilities to provide improved broadband access to two neigho9rhoods in Springfield.

The Team Springfield slide presentation is available HERE and you may View the program on Facebook

December 1 — Season of Giving

Holiday Giving Programs in Springfield

At the December 1 program Springfield City Club highlighted programs focusing on support for community residents. Tracy Kribs, of the Willamalane Park and Recreation District and Gabriela Commons and Julia Gutierrez of the Daisy Chain program, which supports those who are pregnant, described their efforts. YHou may view the program on Facebook HERE

Ms. Kribs focused on programs that occur at the Adult Community Center, located just north of Island Park. She emphasized four programs that provide services to senior and disabled citizens.

The largest support program she mentioned was the weekly food pantry which serves over 50 adults every week. An unusual feature of this food pantry is its support from the Burrito Brigade, a volunteer organized that rescues food from restaurants and other food stores that can still be used and distributed through the food pantry. She noted that food insecurity is a pervasive problem for seniors. Older adults, she said, are three times more likely to suffer from food insecurity than is the general population. The food pantry works in conjunction with Willamalane Community Breakfast program, which offers a once-a-month breakfast for anyone over 50. While the program, for now, remains a drive-by effort, Ms. Kribs says that Willamalane hopes to get back to an in-person program next spring. Finally, to help alleviate food insecurity, the agency also operates the local Meals on Wheels program.

Willamalane also for the second year is offering year around energy assistance, funded by a grant from Lane County, as well as providing senior health benefit assistance to help seniors navigate the complexities of Medicare and Medicaid.

Finally, she described the agencies annual giving program, which started as an effort by Willamalane employees to provide gifts to students in Springfield Schools who might not otherwise receive holiday presents, but has grown tremendously in the past several areas, particularly during the pandemic. Now, rather than operating a giving tree which many of us are familiar with, the giving program has gone digital during the pandemic and functions as an Amazon wish list. From the original effort which provided 50 to 75 gifts a season, the program grew to over 100 when the agency placed trees in many of its locations and now, with the program being fully digital, they anticipate helping as many as 300 children. They have also expanded to include disabled adults and veterans. More information can be found on the agency’s website at the Giving Season link.

Gabriela Commons and Julia Gutierrez of Daisy Chain are both fully trained doulas, but their services at Daisy chain go well beyond simply assisting at birth. The provide, at no charge support to all pregnant persons throughout the pregnancy to its conclusion, as well as post-partum services for up to a year. This includes helping the pregnant person make informed decisions about her pregnancy. They support all pregnancy outcomes whether the result is birth or some other alternative. They also provide training and support for lactation.

Gabriela said it is very important to meet their clients where they are, whatever emotional or physical state they are in. The find clients by networking with other social services agencies, by word of mouth and by being out on the streets where they can come across someone who is pregnant or someone who knows another who needs support during a pregnancy.

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