Even though it was sheltered by apartment buildings, see what the wind did to this two-story tall tree – and to the building behind it …

The roots simply gave way, and allowed this tree to fall into the apartments behind it.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The storm on the evening of Wednesday, February 6, kept many people awake, as wind-blown rain pelted their windows, rattled their doors, and swayed trees in their yards.

But the force of the wind did unexpected damage to an apartment building in the 3700 block of SE Francis Street, just south of SE Powell Boulevard, that night.

A resident of those apartments, later watching the cleanup work being done, commented “At first I thought it was just branches brushing against the awning, being blown by the wind. It seemed a little louder and then it was quiet. But then I heard voices outside, came out and took a look, and saw that the tree had fallen over into the apartment building.”

The damage to the structure appeared light; no one was injured in the incident. However several late-sleeping residents nearby came out to see why the noise of chainsaws and a chipper-grinder howled throughout the morning, as crews removed the tree.

Regular care can’t always prevent a tree from falling over, but care can be more cost-effective than simply letting one fall over and damage your building.

Inspection is cheaper than damage repair
We asked Rob Crouch, Urban Forest Coordinator, Portland Parks & Recreation, why an apparently sturdy tree might fall over, even though it was partially sheltered by the wind.

“It could be root rot, or a micro-gust of wind pushed it over,” said Crouch, adding that he hadn’t inspected the tree. “Rain-saturated soil could contribute to it being uprooted. But we have saturated soil every year here.”

Crouch recommended that property owners have a licensed arborist evaluate large trees every two or three years. “They can appropriately prune trees, and spot decaying and dying trees and provide preventative services. It’s a lot less expensive to have your trees evaluated than to removed from a building’s roof or walls after they’ve fallen.”

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

If it passes, Multnomah County consumer car and truck registration fees will go up by nearly $50 per renewal; but commercial trucks get a free ride. See why the County Chair hopes you’ll vote for this tax anyway …

Explaining the county’s need for additional funds for bridge maintenance, Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler talks about the history of our aging bridges.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler is barnstorming the district, hoping citizens will shoulder the fiscal weight of fixing up the county’s sagging bridges.

At sparsely-attended a meeting in SE Portland on February 4, Chair Wheeler reminded attendees that the county, not the city, is responsible for all of the bridges that cross the Willamette River: the Broadway, Burnside, Hawthorne, Morrison, Sauvie Island, and Sellwood.

“These bridges range in age from 50 to 98 years,” Wheeler began. “Each day more than 180,000 vehicles cross the bridges, in addition to an estimated 12,000 bicyclists and thousands of pedestrians.”

Wheeler, supported at this meeting by County Commissioner Lisa Naito and staff transportation bureau staff members, said the county has a 20-year bridge repair capital shortfall of $490 million.

Chair Wheeler says the structural integrity of the bridges are at stake.

Reliability, integrity and seismic upgrades
“Four of our bridges have moveable lift spans,” Wheeler noted. “All machinery is old, and all of it needs work.”

The Broadway Bridge, he said, lifts and rolls back on big wheels. “When these bridges are repaired or upgraded, all of the parts must be custom made. We had a full metal shop at the base of the Burnside Bridge to custom make parts for that bridge.”

Wheeler next spoke about preserving the structural integrity of the structures and surfaces. “When you look at the corroded steel that needs replacement, the paint needed to help to preserve our bridges, and the deteriorating concrete on these bridges, it is clear we must take action.”

Additionally, the County Chair pointed out that these bridges need to be upgraded to modern seismic standards, too.

Calling the Sellwood Bridge the ‘poster child’ for bridges in need of repair, he says the fee increase will give the county money to leverage state and federal funds.

Sellwood: a ‘poster child’
“Of all the bridges that need attention,” Wheeler went on, “The Sellwood Bridge is the ‘poster child’. It was first opened in 1925. What many people don’t know is that it’s perhaps the nation’s first ‘green’ bridge – many parts used to build this bridge were recycled from the old Burnside Bridge when it was replaced.

Wheeler noted that the west end of this narrow bridge sags, has corroded steel and cracked concrete, and is too weak to support bus or truck traffic. “We estimate it will cost $300 Million, or more, to repair or replace this bridge.”

Sings the budget blues
Presenting the message long-sent by Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams, Wheeler bemoaned state’s limited per-gallon gas tax, without increase since 1994. “The revenue is flat, and our costs are up: The cost of asphalt is up 59%, steel up 128% and overall construction costs are up 85% since our last gas tax increase.”

The Board of County Commissioners, explained Wheeler, is considering referring a measure for the May ballot that would increase the county vehicle registration fee by $24 per vehicle, per year. Motorcycles will see a $12 per vehicle per year increase.

“The public has a fair right to say yes or no. We have the obligation to be honest about what it means it ‘live within our means’. If the increased fee is earmarked for roads and bridges, this measure looks best. It’s a straight up or straight down vote on whether or not to support this infrastructure.”

Multnomah County Commissioner Lisa Naito, county bridge project information officer Mike Pullen, and Chair Wheeler field questions.

Federal budget cycle causes urgency
Wheeler said $100 Million of the funds raised will be earmarked for the County’s share of the Sellwood Bridge project.

“We have to go to the regional and state government for funding; this measure doesn’t let the state or federal government off the hook. Federal Transportation Bill negotiations start this year; the next round is 6 years away. We need this money to help leverage federal funding.”

Questions and Answers

Q Many people from Clackamas, Washington and Columbia county use the Sellwood Bridge. Why not impose a toll?

A Wheeler: “I agree completely. We were pre-empted from charging tolls on County bridges when the state gave us the responsibility to care for the bridges. But, these bridges are undoubtedly part of the regional infrastructure picture. We need a Regional Bridge Authority. It is absurd that Multnomah County residents are solely responsible [to pay] for maintaining these bridges. We need the region to chip in.”

Q Commercial vehicles do more damage to bridges than consumer trucks or cars. Why aren’t they charged an additional licensing fee?

A Wheeler: “Commercial vehicles pay fees based on a different formula. We are, by state law, pre-empted from changing those fees.”

Q Why not an additional gas tax? Even visitors from out-of-state have to buy fuel.

A Wheeler: “There are very powerful lobbies involved. Big oil interests have deep pockets. Dealers will be upset in Multnomah County because they say a higher tax here will put them at a competitive disadvantage.”

Naito: “I think we can invoke a gas tax, but voters didn’t support it like they did the [increased] registration fee when we polled on the question. And, the state legislature is considering increasing the tax on gas to support state-wide transportation projects.”

Q What do you say to residents of the City of Maywood Park [landlocked within the City of Portland and in Multnomah County] who claim the fee increase is unfair because they’re being taxed for bridges they seldom use?

A Wheeler: All of the Maywood Park residents – if they get mail, or use goods and services that come into their community, make use of these bridges.  Secondarily, the bridges are a part of the regional transportation infrastructure. If a bridge goes down for extended maintenance, everyone will feel the impact.”

More meetings to come
In closing, Wheeler stated, “We have to be honest. If it doesn’t pass, we are where we are today. We will live within our means. We’ll reevaluate all of our projects in terms of maintenance and repair.

“The cost is $2 per month per vehicle. This is not something we take lightly. The alternate question is, ‘If not this, then what?’ I’m not trying to cram this down anyone’s throat. It is very important to the vitality and economic stability of the entire community.”

The remaining town hall events are scheduled for:

  • Monday, February 11, 6 – 8 pm, Multnomah Building, Boardroom, 501 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Portland
  • Tuesday, February 19, 6 – 8 pm, North Portland Health Clinic, 9000 N. Lombard Blvd., Portland

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Was he holding his ex-girlfriend hostage in the SE Powell Boulevard Motel 6 room with a gun? See why police took no chances, and called in SERT officers …

Because the suspect was reportedly using a handgun to hold a woman hostage, police officers and the SERT team closed down SE Powell Boulevard for blocks around the Motel 6.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Agreeing to meet and “work out problems” in their estranged relationship, 37-year-old Kenneth Clowers and 32-year-old Angel Crowe checked into the Motel 6 in the 3100 block of SE Powell Boulevard the evening of Monday, February 4.

According to Portland Police Bureau spokesman, Sgt. Brian Schmautz, the couple’s subsequent discussion was lubricated with spirits. “After quite a bit of alcohol consumption – about a half-gallon of vodka consumed by both people – Clowers and Crowe began to fight, sometime during the night or the following morning.”

At the front door of the motel, officers continued to gather information about the incident that mobilized the SERT squad.

When things started going badly, apparently Crowe picked up her cell phone, Schmautz said, and called her mother. Crowe’s mom then called 9-1-1 about 11:15 a.m. on Feb. 5 saying her daughter was being held against her will, at gunpoint.

“Because a gun was reportedly involved,” Schmautz told us, “police officers set up a parameter, isolated the motel room, and identified both the man and woman. Both individuals are known to police.”

Officers checked on the victim, reportedly punched during the incident, before she was taken to the hospital for evaluation.

As Special Emergency Response Team (SERT) officers scrambled into the area, hostage negotiators opened contact with Clowers. SE Powell Boulevard, from SE 32nd Avenue west to Cleveland High School – which was placed in a precautionary lockdown during the event – was closed to traffic.

“Negotiators reported hearing Crowe yelling, ‘He doesn’t have a gun’ in the background. We didn’t know if she was being coerced into saying that, or if Clowers was trying to provoke police into taking deadly force,” Schmautz added.

An officer stands guard, as SERT officers go through the motel room in search of a handgun, but found none.

About 12:30 p.m., negotiators convinced Clowers to surrender. Indeed, no handgun was found in the motel room.

“The only injury was to Crowe,” said Schmautz. “She was punched sometime during the incident. It was not a traumatic injury; officers later interviewed her at the hospital.”

Kenneth Clowers has been charged with Violation of a Restraining Order, Assault in the Fourth Degree (Domestic Violence), and Coercion.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Check out the energy at this event, where the only “rumble” were the bass notes blasting out of loudspeakers, as dancers acrobatically swiveled, spun and did handstands …

Break-dancers from miles around show their moves in this unique dance contest they call a “battle”.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The name of the event itself, “Arcane Arts 2: The Apocalypse“, sounds like an invitation to a gang fight. But this “battle”, as participants call it, is actually a rather civilized dance contest.

“We held our first event if the kind last year,” says a Portland Parks & Recreation employee Trevor Todd, manager of the Parkrose SUN Community School. “Over 400 showed up, and it became an ‘instant’ annual event. This year we’ve got a crowd of nearly 600.”

Nearly 600 break-dance affictionados enjoy the heavy beat and light-on-the-feet moves of the battling dancers.

In “break-dance battle” competition, we learn, competing teams, or “crews”, of five members each take turns demonstrating their acrobatic hip-hop dance steps that include handstands, cartwheels, spins, and squat-steps reminiscent of traditional Russian dancing.

“They’re battling for a $500 grand prize,” Todd says. “We’ve got local break-dance and music celebrities judging the crews’ performances. DJ Sugarman, DJ from Arizona, is mixing the music.”

Parkrose joins the dance battle circuit
For some time, other battles have been hosted at colleges, such as Portland State University and Reed College, Todd tells us. “We’re becoming a break-dancing hub out here.”

In addition to checking out the newest and most creative dance steps, people who attend this event also consider it a social venue, Todd explains. “They wouldn’t call it ‘networking’, but that’s what it is for them. They get to see what moves the other teams have put together.”

The dancers put their heart, soul, and all of their bodies into their performances, Todd continues. “They definitely they blow off some steam in the process; they call it a ‘battle’ for good reason.”

MC Robert Moore, credited with bringing the dance competition to Parkrose, announces the next crews up to “battle”.

Crediting the Parkrose SUN Community School instructor – and tonight’s Master of Ceremonies – Robert Moore with creating this event at Parkrose High, Todd explains, “He’s brought everything together for this battle, from getting the judges, to the DJ, to printing and distributing the fliers.”

Under Moore’s tutelage, between 30 and 50 of kids and young adults gather at Parkrose High to practice their steps – and learn new ones – three times each week. “The sessions draw from not only Parkrose, but also David Douglas, Centennial, Reynolds, Madison and Benson High Schools,” reports Todd.

One of Skoolie B’s “Mini Bs” – a seven-year-old from his class at Mt. Scott Community Center – impresses the crowd.

Mini-Bees bust a move
This enthusiastic crowd of hip-hop dance aficionados loudly laud dance moves that can only be described as acrobatic – they twist, turn, and jump as the dancers each take their turn.

But the crowd doesn’t reserve cheers for only a few participants. When the 6- and 7-year olds from the class at Mt. Scott Community Center led by “Skoolie B” take the floor, they shout their approval for the youngsters’ dance antics.

Instead of hogging the spotlight, Skoolie B leads off with a couple of steps, and lets his “Mini-Bs” take over.

Skoolie B, also known as Marko Bome, says he’s happy to see his Mini Bs so well received. “We’re from inner SE Portland, you know, Brooklyn and Richmond and those neighborhoods. I have about 30 kids that come to the class. They work hard; they deserve to show their stuff here.”

While enthusiastic about the music and dance, the crowd at the “Arcane Arts 2: The Apocalypse” battle is mellow.

Says dance keeps one grounded
A graduate of Cleveland High School, Bome says, of the art form: “It’s true freedom of expression. It keeps you grounded, keeps your body up, and makes you feel good about yourself. And, it keeps you out of trouble.”

Looking over the crowd, gathered around center court at the Parkrose High gym, Bome adds, “Look at all these people here, there are no problems; everyone’s having a great time.”

Even if you can’t dance a step, Natalie Caminiti and Gina Richardson can help you look cool with one of these limited-edition T-Shirts they’re selling.

The winner is …
The “Massive Knuckle Force” crew won the team prize. We’re told they are a “super-group” recently formed from members of Massive Monkees (Seattle, 2004 World B-Boy Champions) and Knucklehead Zoo (Las Vegas) and other crews. They beat “The Freshest Kids” in the finals.

“Kareem”, a member of Massive Knuckle Force, won the individual prize.

If you are interested in getting involved, contact Trevor Todd, Parkrose SUN Community School, at (503) 408-2640.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Whether they’re interested in architecture, construction, or engineering – see why this new charter school is attracting the interest of students across East Multnomah County …

Prospective ACE Academy students take a look around one of the facilities that will participate in the new school’s program.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
There hasn’t been a new charter school established in Multnomah County for quite some time. But the ACE Academy has been attracting the interest of high-school age students, even though it won’t open until autumn, 2008.

Parents and students are getting a sneak-peak at one of the training facilities that will be used, and learn about the program, at a series of “information nights” run by the new school’s staff.

Michael Taylor tells why the ACE Academy “model of education” is great for students considering going into architecture, construction, and engineering careers.

“They’re getting to experience an overview of our program,” stated one of the school’s directors, Michael Taylor. “They’re looking at what they’re going to learn and how the topics will be taught. In our case, both of these models are unique. And, they hear about the advantages of going to school with us, as opposed to a more traditional school.”

Also present at the open houses are industry partners. On the night we visited, an architect and a contractor told why they love their professions – and answered questions.

Father and son, Foster and Caleb Thompson, tour a construction training facility after learning about the ACE Academy program.

Wants an early start
After the formal presentation, we spoke with Parkrose High School sophomore, Caleb Thompson. “I’m thinking about this for next year. I want to come here, because I like instruction. I work with my dad in construction all the time. It’ll be a good thing to start learning early.”

His father, Foster Thompson, said he liked the ACE Academy concept. “I think it’s an excellent idea that students spend some time in the trade and the rest of their time in their high school environment. If they learn a trade, from the ground up, while in high school, it would give them a boost getting a job later.”

At an ACE Academy information night, contractor Eric Jackson of Charter Construction, answers questions about the construction trade.

Two more nights next week
On February 11 and 14, ACE Academy is holding two more information nights for prospective students.

Parents and high school age students in East Multnomah County will discover how this school will help students excel in the fields of architecture, construction and engineering.

These open houses run from 6:00 – 7:30 p.m. 4222 NE 158th Ave., Portland, OR 97230. Call Michael Taylor at (503) 546-9928 for more information.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Catch up on all of the new things happening in and around members of the Parkrose Business Association, right here …

Outgoing Parkrose Business Association president Mark W. Eves, of Eves & Wade LLP, welcomes this year’s president, Jon Turino, Farmer’s Insurance, to the podium at the organization’s January meeting at Steamer’s Restaurant & Lounge.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Membership growth, successful scholarship grants funding, a new venue for the Parkrose Cruise-in, the introduction of a new member – and a new outdoor market for the Parkrose area – highlighted the January meeting of the Parkrose Business Association (PBA).

At this luncheon meeting, held monthly at Steamer’s Restaurant & Lounge on NE Sandy Boulevard, just east of NE 82nd Avenue of Roses, was called to order by their newly-elected president, Jon Turino, Farmer’s Insurance.

Parkrose Farmer’s Market president, Steve Voorhees, is welcomed as a new member by Jon Turino.

Parkrose gains a new Farmer’s Market
According to a new member of the association, Steve Voorhees, president of the recently-established Parkrose Farmer’s Market, the first market day will be on May 3.

Because it will be held in the east parking lot of Parkrose High School, this will be a tobacco-free market – perhaps the first such in Portland. “In addition to locally-grown vegetables and fruits, we have had interest from meat, poultry, and lamb vendors,” said Voorhees.

Shoppers won’t find knick-knacks, or poor quality produce, Voorhees assured. “All of the vendors are being juried – that is, our board members must approve both the vendor, and their merchandise, for them to be in our market.” Their next jury session is 7:00 p.m. on March 6 at Portland Fire & Rescue Station #2 on NE 122nd Ave., just north of the train tracks along Sandy Boulevard.

Steve Voorhees tells the group he’d like to see produce shoppers who once shopped at Rossi Farms keep on spending their money in Parkrose – at the new farmer’s market.

No stranger to farmer’s markets, Voorhees told the group his family has been a vendor at the Gresham Farmer’s Market for 19 years. “My in-laws were one of the original Italian farmers in the area. We still farm three acres, by hand. We’ve seen what works, and what doesn’t, at a market.”

Voorhees said his family closed their farm stand “because the neighborhood has gotten too bad. It seemed too unsafe for the kids and Grandma to work our stand on NE Sandy Boulevard. When Rossi Farms closed, we decided to try and keep shoppers in Parkrose instead of traveling elsewhere to buy their fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Learn more from their web site; CLICK HERE; or e-mail Voorhees at steve_voorhees@q.com.

Revamped Cruise-in plans
The big news in Mark Eves’ “State of the PBA” address was regarding the organization’s annual event, the Parkrose Cruise-in.

“This event is in the process of being reinvented,” stated Eves. “Since its inception – thanks to our sponsors – the event has been successful. It has allowed us to grow from granting one $1,000 Parkrose High School senior scholarship, to five each year.”

Although the group has enjoyed being the only Portland Rose Festival event east of the I-205 freeway for many years, Eves went on, the event has been susceptible to unpredictable end-of-June weather.

“This year, we’re holding it the first week in August,” declared Eves. “And it will be staged in the middle of our business district. We want to celebrate our businesses and our community with the ‘2008 Parkrose Festival and Cruise-in’.”

In his “State of the PBA” talk, Mark Eves tells why planners forecast sunny weather for the 2008 Parkrose Cruise-in.

Shares benchmarks of success
“Today, the PBA and Parkrose Business Foundation (the nonprofit arm of the organization) is healthy and growing,” continued Eves. “Today, we have 90 members. We have very low turnover. And, I recommend we set a goal to increase to 150 members within three years.

“The PBA we has an excellent board of directors and officers who are committed using their experience and dedication to making our area a better place to do business and live.

“Our finances are in stable condition, with good cash reserves.

“Good monthly meetings are vital to our existence. With the continuing help of Kyle Ziegler, we will continue to have interesting and challenging speakers.

“And, want to recognize our committee for long-range planning; we call it our ‘Dream Team’. Chair Gale Bash and the committee are exploring new ideas and activities, including a crab feed, golf tournament, Texas Hold ’em tournament, a wine-tasting dinner, and a special calendar with photos from past and present.”

Come join in
This friendly group meets at one of our favorite restaurants. You’re invited to come at 11:30 a.m. on April 21 and meet this group of fun, energized business people. You’ll get the best business lunch at town at Steamers Restaurant, 8303 NE Sandy Boulevard (just east of NE 82nd Avenue); NO reservations required. For more information on the PBA, CLICK HERE.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

It didn’t swallow it up, but this sinkhole gave the crew a scare, as their truck started sliding down into the pavement. See exclusive photos here …

While the truck wasn’t buried, the crews had to scramble out, for fear it might disappear into a sinkhole. PWB photo

Story and some photos by David F. Ashton
The combination of cold weather, and old water main pipes, has caused water line ruptures across the city.

The event on January 30 gave Portland Water Bureau (PWB) workers a real scare, when they pulled up to see why water was gushing up from the pavement on SE 32nd Avenue, a block south of SE Powell Boulevard.

“As a crewmember backed his vehicle up to begin repair work,” says PWB spokesperson Jennie Day, “the ground caved in, taking the driver’s side of the vehicle with it.”

The driver emerged, unscathed, Day reports. “The vehicle, however, was not so lucky. It took two different tow trucks nearly two hours to pull it out of the sinkhole.”

Although it was damaged from the sinkhole episode, PWB workers kept the truck on-scene after it was pulled out of the street. “It’s got everything we need in it, and we had to get to work,” a crewmember explained.

Crew leaders believe that the integrity of the pavement was compromised when dirt under the street surface was washed away by gushing water from the break of an 8-inch water main. The crew had no way of knowing that the ground beneath the surface had given away.

Another “day at the office” for a Portland Water Bureau crew, as they repair not one, but two breaks in the water main. Yup, that’s the rescued truck in the background!

Residents on SE 32nd between Powell and Francis were without water service while crews repaired the line. Service was restored at 5 pm that afternoon, Day confirms.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

TV star Shannon Quimby’s project to recycle an old home into a brand-new one even includes the landscaping. See what she’s doing with trees that are in the way of the new construction …

Shannon Quimby, the “Q-Renew” star from the HGTV network, stands by a camellia tree’s root ball before it is moved 22 feet northward. She says moving it fits with her “reuse everything” philosophy – and saves money as well.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Shannon Quimby, the “Q-Renew” gal seen on the Home & Garden TV Network is sticking with her publicized mission to reuse everything while rebuilding of her home at 2022 SE Rex Street in the Westmorland Neighborhood.

She calls it the “REX (Reuse Everything eXperiment) Project”.

“I said I was saving and reusing everything,” Quimby tells us, “and I am including the six mature camellias.”

With the help of a half-dozen workers – and a gigantic crane – she’s transplanting the trees, on site in different locations.

Trees aloft! A giant crane easily lifts the trees to be replanted in another part of the yard.

Massive move saves money
“Isn’t this costing you a fortune?” we ask.

Quimby replies, “Actually it’s saving me money.  If I had to replace all of these trees, doing landscaping, and if I had purchased these trees, it would cost over $25,000.  To dig the trees, ball the roots, and move them is going to cost about $10,000. So I’m way ahead of the game. And, these camellias have been here for years and years.  So not only am I saving money, I’m saving part of the neighborhood.”

City arborists told Quimby that the holly tree on the property was on their nuisance list and she could chop it down. “We did. But, now we’re milling it into an interior exposed column in the new family room and dining room area.”

You can follow her adventure – recycling an entire house and yard, board by board – at her web site: www.ShannonQuimby.com.

It takes one huge crane to lift trees weighing thousands of pounds – but that expense is only half the price of buying replacement trees, Quimby says.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

It’s called the “East Lents Floodplain Restoration Project”. Discover why citizens who live and work along outer SE Foster Rd. say they’re cautiously optimistic about the city’s effort to reduce flooding …

Many people turned out to learn more about the East Lents Floodplain Restoration Project, and share their concerns

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Remember early December rainstorms that caused outer SE Foster Road to flood and close for two days?

This flooding in the Lents Neighborhood is a symptom of a long-standing problem which the City of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) staff is working to resolve.

On January 22, BES staffers held an open house to discuss their plan to reduce flooding – the plan is called the “East Lents Floodplain Restoration Project”.

Lents neighbor Joyce Beedle talks with Marie Johnson, BES Program Coordinator for the Johnson Creek Watershed Program.

Extra channel to absorb storm surges
“We’re here to share with people the initial design work done,” Marie Johnson, BES Coordinator, Johnson Creek Watershed Program, tells us. “This is a project that will be built south of SE Foster Road, between the former Freeway Lands Company site and about SE 112th Ave.”

Looking at a proposed design map, we see they propose to build a new channel that snakes around existing properties. We ask if this project will impinge on established neighbors.

“Our design ideas take advantage of BES-owned properties,” explains Johnson. “We’ll use them to the extent we can – with the budget we have. It’s always been our assumption in this part of the project that we are working on BES property we currently own.”

Johnson again asserts that this is an early design. “There’ll be a lot more work on it as we go along.”

Timetable spelled out
The design work will happen over the next year or so, Johnson informs us, and then will go into the permitting process. Actual construction is scheduled for year 2010.

Here’s the early design project drawing for the plan floated by BES that will add an extension to Johnson Creek that is designed to absorb the higher levels of water produced by major storms.

Gives historical perspective on creek floods
Saying she’s witness to the history of the area, neighbor Joann Davis mentions that she grew up living close to Johnson Creek. “I now live within two blocks of where I grew up; my folks purchased in 1930 at SE 101st Avenue and SE Boise Street.”

While she doesn’t live directly on the creek, Davis says, “It affects my community. I remember when Johnson Creek used to flood much worse than it does now. A lot of the kids I went to school with were flooded out every year.”

Comparatively speaking, Davis goes on, “things now are very good. Flooding is just one of those things that happen. I think what BES is going to help. I’ve seen it help already.”

City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services engineer Dave Whitaker answers questions posed by Lents neighbor Ed Fitzgerald about the East Lents Floodplain Restoration Project.

Thinks City takes it seriously
Lents neighbor Ed Fitzgerald says that, although he lives in the flood-prone area between SE 106th and 108th Avenues, south of SE Foster Road, “In the ’96 flood, we had a couple of inches of water in our house. We were indirectly affected by our last high-water episode. My house was okay, but I couldn’t get out for 12 to 15 hours, because Foster Road was flooded.”

Regarding the proposed solution, Fitzgerald comments, “I think they’re taking the flooding seriously. I’m not sure what the solution is, but they are looking at the problem. I’m interested in what they’re proposing, because their Brookside Project doesn’t seem designed to handle rain runoff like it is supposed to do.”

Expresses cost concerns
Wes Wolfe, a board member for the neighborhood association, says he’s just speaking for himself, and says, “I’m here because I’m real curious about the different proposed plans for this project. I don’t know what could go wrong with it; I think it may do the job. And it looks like they’ve learned from their other projects; I can see they’re getting better and better.”

A concern for one unidentified resident, who lives near SE 108th Avenue and Foster Road, is the cost. “It is expensive. It looks like there is a lot of overhead that is not construction costs.”

Shares her misgivings
Joyce Beedle, a long time Lents neighbor who lives within the floodplain area, says she thinks the finished project will be great.

But, “I have a couple misgivings. One is that I would like there to be more than 30 days for us to look at the plan and think about it, and come up with suggestions. It’s taken BES years to come this far, and 30 days seems a short response time.”

Another trepidation Beedle expresses is past communication problems with the BES. “We do have some history. Sometimes, we’ve had rapid response to our concerns; other times, things been pretty dismal. So my trepidation is, which way will this project go? We’ve talked about how desperately we want the BES to be responsible, accountable contractors.”

Nevertheless, adds Beedle, she’s hopeful: “Actually, really hopeful. We have really good communication going now. I’m looking forward to how cool it could make the neighborhood.”

“Can the City make water run uphill? Asks neighbor Chuck Glasco.

Questions water running uphill
“I know the City of Portland can do some wonderful things,” muses neighbor Chuck Glasco, “but I don’t think they can make water run uphill. It looks like the southern area of the project will turn into a pond, instead of emptying out where it ties into Johnson Creek.”

Glasco points out that the surface elevation at SE Foster Road is considerably higher than at the southern point of the proposed creek extension. “It looks like the elevation rise could be to 3 feet.”

We wanted to find the answer to Glasco’s interesting question, because we checked the topographical maps and what he said was true. But time ran out to learn the answer; the Lents Neighborhood Association’s meeting was starting in the same space.

Later, Scott Clement, BES Supervising Engineer went over the proposal with us and provided the answer.

“No, we can’t make water flow uphill,” comments Clement. “The general fall of the land in that area is, north to south, high to low. But the level of the creek doesn’t follow that topography. In this case, the fall of the creek is from east to west. Indeed, the water will be flowing downhill.”

BES to review citizen input
“We’ll take input from this meeting, and from the review of the pre-design reports, and consider that, in finishing the final design,” Johnson informs. “From there, we’ll hire a design firm that will go with a critique of the process and come up with a ‘30% design’. Then we’ll go back to the community and share the design of them. We’ll also think about construction impacts, and how we mitigate for those with the neighbors.”

Their web site isn’t up yet, Johnson says, but encourages people to call her at (503) 823-6199, or e-mail her at Marie.Johnson@bes.ci.portland.or.us, for more information.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

This driver must have been in a big hurry while traveling SE Holgate Blvd. in the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood …

Officials say the driver of this car jumped the green light and plowed into a pickup truck making a left turn on to SE 112th Ave.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Witnesses say they were astonished to see a car “not even slow down” as it headed westbound on SE Holgate Blvd on January 28 about 3:15 p.m.

“The blue car was going way too fast,” Estella Gomez tells us. “I was standing here, waiting for a bus, and the car looked like it didn’t even slow down a bit before it hit the truck.”

This 1/2-ton pickup truck was spun 90 degrees by the impact from the car that collided with it.

The driver the pickup truck says he was driving eastbound on SE Holgate St., and was about to turn left (north) on SE 112th Ave. As the traffic control signal at the intersection turned yellow the car in front of him made the left-hand turn and he followed it.

The impact drives the pickup truck into another car, stopped at the intersection, facing south, preparing to make a right-hand turn on to SE Holgate Blvd.

“I don’t even think the guy in the blue car slowed down a bit,” said the driver of the pickup truck.  “It’s as if he didn’t have a red light or anything.  He just plowed right into me.”

Even though the driver was stopped at the intersection, the accident destroyed her car.

The woman driving that car waiting at the light looked visibly shaken by the sudden collision that totaled her car. “When I close my eyes, all I can see is this big old pickup truck flying right at me and landing on my car’s hood.”

Police officials were unable to report whether or not a citation was issued. No traumatic injuries were reported in the three-car smash-up.

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Although other houses are close by, neighbors chose simply to gawk at the blaze, instead of calling 9-1-1. Their neglect, it appears, cost a human life. Read why you can’t blame the fire department for being late to this fire …

When the firefighters finally located it, far from where first reported, this house was blazing. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

Story and some photos by David F. Ashton
The early Sunday morning house fire – officials guess it started about 7:30 a.m. – was burning furiously. It was “fully involved”, as firefighters say, by the time they pulled up at 7:45 a.m.

Huge flames were belching out of the house at 4429 SE 65th Avenue, on the north side of SE Holgate Boulevard, two blocks from SE Foster Road, as crews quickly pulled hoses, set up ladders, and sprinted into action.

Two residents of the house escaped the inferno, but Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) firefighters located an unconscious occupant in a second floor bedroom next to the room engulfed with flames. The fire fighters rushed the victim to safety, for treatment by the ambulance crew on-scene – and after CPR, he was rushed to the Burn Center at Emanuel Hospital.

What the official PF&R photos don’t show are the neighbors standing around watching the fire – and no one calling 911 for help. Dick Harris, PF&R photo

Hidden spaces hinder quenching
“The attack on the fire was a challenge for crews,” reported PF&R spokesperson Kim Kosmas, “because the home had many hidden spaces in the walls and attic in which the fire spread. The fire burned most of the second floor, the attic, and later the kitchen, which was located on the first floor.”

The crews of seven fire engines and two trucks battled the blaze until past 9 a.m., Kosmas said, and kept on working, putting out hot spots, until early afternoon.

Wrong address delays response
Typically, fire crews arrive within minutes. Their timely response saves lives and reduces property damage.

In this case, Kosmos reported, a call to 9-1-1 said that the house was located at SE 61st Street at SE Holgate Boulevard. When crews arrived in the area, they found no fire; but after hunting around the neighborhood, they noticed smoke coming from SE 65th & SE Holgate.

We later checked in with PF&R Public Information Officer, Lt. Allen Oswalt, to find out what went wrong.

“The woman who called in the fire to the 9-1-1 Center was driving through the neighborhood,” said Oswalt. “She was unfamiliar with the area, and wasn’t sure of her location. Even though firefighters were directed to the wrong address, she did the right thing, and called.”

This fire left the house a total loss, injured two residents, and killed another.

Many cell phones to take photos, not call 9-1-1
When we visited the scene of the fire later in the week, the devastation was apparent. The entire back half of the residence gaped open, and burned timbers, walls, and furnishings were exposed to the elements.

We spoke with a neighbor who was also looking at the damage. He didn’t want to identify himself, but said, “It seems like the whole neighborhood was out watching the fire. One guy was videoing it; lots of cell phones were out – taking pictures.”

“Did you call 9-1-1?” we ask.

“No,” was the response. “I thought someone else did. It was a huge fire.”

Back at the office, we learned the man whom firefighters rescued, Bradley Holsclaw, age 28, died the following morning, according to the Multnomah County Medical Examiner.

We asked Lt. Oswalt if the preoccupation with photographing the fire – instead of calling it in – could have cost Holsclaw his life.

This rain-soaked makeshift lawn shrine is in memory of Bradley Holsclaw, the man who died in the fire.

“We’ll never know,” replied Oswalt, and he made this appeal: “Please, if you see a fire, don’t assume someone else is calling 9-1-1 for help. We don’t mind getting a dozen calls reporting a fire. We use information gathered from each call to help our crews prepare, en route, for what to expect – and to verify the exact location.”

While not an official finding, Oswalt said he understands there wasn’t a working smoke and fire detector in the house. “It’s a good idea to have two or more. They’re inexpensive, and they save lives.”

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

EXN Exclusive! While still sturdy, this outer East Portland’s gymnasium floor was pitted, scarred, and warped. Find who paid to have the indoor sports flooring completely resurfaced … and why …

Portland Trail Blazers mascot Blaze clowns and whoops up the students and staff at Marshall Campus, as the new gym floor dedication begins.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Until this season, the caustic epithet “Jail Blazers” seemed appropriate for the professional basketball team whose members, for many years, could neither win games – nor stay out of trouble with the law.

But, capitalizing on their winning streak, the Portland Trail Blazers are building on their new winning ways outside the Rose Garden, with a community-service effort they call “Make it Better”.

Outer East Portland school benefits
On January 28, we’re attending a special rally at the 900-student Marshall Campus (formerly known as Marshall High School) on SE 91st Avenue, just east of Eastport Plaza.

“We are dedicating a newly-refinished gym floor,” beams Tom Hewitt, a teacher at Marshall High School attached to “BizTech Academy”. “It’s good to make a big difference for our kids and the community.”

The previous floor was warped, ugly-looking, and not very bright, says Hewitt. “Now this new floor surface has revived the kids both in PE classes and athletics.  It’s always been a good, springy floor.  They’ve just taken the floor down to the bare wood and refinished it. This is very cool.”

Asked what the Blazers have to do with it, Hewitt responds, “The Blazers had everything to do with it.  They paid every penny to have the floor be refinished.”

Marshall Campus staff member and students sit on the newly-refinished gym floor is a symbol of the how businesses can help public schools provide a better education, Blazers officials say.

Calls project a ‘no-brainer’
“For us this project is kind of a no-brainer,” says Traci Rose, VP of Community Relations for the Portland Trail Blazers. “We’re involved in basketball, the school plays basketball – so we went ahead and refinished this floor for them.

“Just why is the Blazers organization doing this?” we ask.

“It’s true, the Portland Trail Blazers don’t play on this floor. But the kids who do play on this floor – they’re the next generation of our sports fans, and maybe athletes.”

More importantly, Rose adds, their organization is trying to encourage other, larger corporations and individuals to contribute to upgrading sports facilities at other high schools in Portland. “There is a lot of work that needs to be done to help bring these sports facilities up to par. If there is private funding, school district can concentrate its spending on programs to help improve academics.”

Blazers’ Tom Fletcher extols students to follow their lead and “make it better” in their communities.

Dedication a lively event
With the team’s mascot, Blaze, running into the bleachers and pumping up the crowd, the Trailblazers’ dedication ceremony looked more like a pep rally.

Starting the formal part of the program, Tom Fletcher, Community Relations for the Blazers, tells the students, “It is the goal of the Trail Blazers to excel on the [playing] floor. But also we want to do our best for our community, off the floor. This has always been a commitment in our organization through the years.  But it’s even more of a commitment now.

“And, I encourage you to make a difference. And the best way to ‘make a difference’ is to ‘do good when nobody is looking’. Do something in your neighborhood to make something better there.  If you do that, I guarantee the benefit will come back to you threefold.”

On had were former Portland Trail Blazers star players.

Presidential proclamation
The new Portland Trail Blazer’s president, Larry Miller, takes up the theme as he explains, “Being part of the community, it is important for the Blazers organization to give back any way we can. A few months back, we started this project, putting new basketball courts in Portland high schools. Were doing here today, dedicating this new floor, as part of our ‘Make it Better’ in Portland Public Schools.”

Stars, students and games
Tom Gilmore, Marshall Student, responds, “We’re really proud of our school. We’re presenting to a basketball that has been signed by all of our schools players.”

Past Blazer stars in attendance are introduced, the Blazers’ Cheer Leaders perform, and some of the students are chosen to participate in a “spin around and shoot a basket” game for prizes.

In all, this is a great day for a school, struggling to meet the needs of a lower income, diverse neighborhood.

On the way out, however, a staff member comments, “Now, if they could only find some money to fix the gym roof. It leaks in five places. I’d hate to see the floor ruined before summer.”

© 2008 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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