Centennial neighbors host a city and county leaders at community meeting

See what neighbors learned about public safety, the future of Powell Butte, and the long-awaited East County Justice Center, at this special meeting‚

Centennial Community Association welcomes Multnomah County Commissioner Lonnie Roberts, Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard, Portland Fire & Bureau’s Chief Dave Sprando, and Gresham Deputy Fire Chief Jim Klum, to their first-of-summer meeting.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
It has become a tradition for the Centennial Community Association to invite city and county officials to the June meeting they hold at the Mobile Estates community room on SE Division Street.

This year, some 50 citizens came to hear the distinguished panel, which featured Multnomah County Commissioner Lonnie Roberts, Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard, Chief Dave Sprando from Portland Fire & Bureau, and Gresham’s Deputy Fire Chief Jim Klum.

Roberts discusses County issues
“To fill you in on the Justice Center,” began Lonnie Roberts, “Under state law East County must have a courthouse. And, it has to be located within the City of Gresham. We do have a one-room courthouse; the ceiling leaks, and it violates the Disabilities Act.”

Roberts promoted the idea of building a long-delayed “Justice Center” that would include four courtrooms, offices for the District Attorney, other services, and a holding cell.

Lonnie Roberts talks about opening the Wapato Jail‚ and talks about the slow progress getting the new Justice Center project going.

“We started by considering 50 sites; my choice has been the Rockwood site at SE 190th Avenue and Stark Street. It meets the qualifications, including being within 800 feet of mass transit. And, I’d like to see it built by the time I get out of office next year.”

The funds to build the EC Justice Center would come from selling off some of the county’s “surplus” property, as well as the “sick” Hansen Building, housing the Sheriff’s office at SE 122nd Avenue at Glisan Street.

Sings the Wapato blues
Asked about the new-but-unused Wapato Jail, Roberts recalled, “Citizens voted to build it in 1996. In 2002, we opened it,  then closed it‚ within a half hour. We have a $59 Million jail we spend $30,000 a month to keep in mothballs. When we took the key, the clock started running on the guarantee. That clock has expired. We’ll now have to eat any deficiencies we find when we do actually open it.

The commissioner said Clark County will rent 150 beds if it is opened. “Commissioner Wheeler says, although Multnomah County is experiencing a $25 Million shortfall, we will open it.”

Using part of Wapato to treat drug-addicted criminals makes financial sense, Roberts added. “We’re spending $300 per year, per household, for theft, damage, and problems caused by drug addicts in the community. The criminals know there is no room in jail. I’d like to send a message to drug dealers that we now have ‘a room for them’ at the jail.”

Randy Leonard talks about the changes on Powell Butte and public safety issues.

Leonard on Powell Butte
Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard ‚Äì head of the Portland Water Bureau (PWB)‚ talked about plans for Powell Butte.

“All Portland water goes through Powell Butte,” Leonard began. “Portland Parks has been taking care of Powell Butte; but PWB is taking over the management of the top area. We’re replacing the decrepit mobile home there with a log cabin; it’s more fitting for the area. We’re hiring a full-time person to be the caretaker. And, we’re focusing on the trail, and making it one of the best parks it can be. It has astounding views of the area around us.”

Reducing drug crime
Turning to drug-related crime, Leonard continued, “Two years ago, I helped get the city to fund 57 beds, to have city jail beds and to provide $500,000 for drug treatment for prisoners. When we look at the arrest statistics of our ‘top 300 offenders’, the number of arrests has dropped 71%. Having these jail beds is money well spent.”

Portland Fire & Rescue Chief Dave Sprando and Gresham Deputy Fire Chief Jim Klum agree that the new staffing plan for Fire Station 45 will provide more effective response. Ron Clemenson, vice-chair for the association, acts as moderator for the meeting.

Outer East Portland fire & rescue issues
Portland Fire & Rescue Chief Dave Sprando once again commended Centennial neighbors for lobbying for funding to keep Station 45‚ located near the Gresham city line‚ in service.

This fire station is unique, in that it is shared by both Gresham and Portland fire crews.

“July 1, we will switch crews, and Portland will be moving in,” Sprando said. “We were successful in getting funding to get a different staffing model for Station 45. Instead of switching crews every few months, we have three crews each working 24 hours. Portland will take two shifts, and Gresham will take one shift. I don’t know where else this is done.”

Gresham Deputy Fire Chief Jim Klum agreed, saying, “Sprando didn’t want me to tell you this, but if you look from Sacramento to Seattle, the three busiest [fire & rescue] stations are here in Portland‚ and Station 45 is one of these. Firefighters like to get to know their area, schools and facilities. This plan of co-locating will help. We’ll have better consistency with this new staffing plan. We appreciate the support to the Gresham Council.”

Councilors call for more mental health care
Asked to comment on the state of mental health care in the community, Leonard commented, “There is a real connection between being mentally ill and drug abuse. This is a challenge; cities and counties don’t have the money to fund mental health care. The police have to deal with individuals who are acting out. It is hard to deal with, when we have a lack of resources.”

Roberts said a countywide public safety study is being considered. “We need to train public safety officers to recognize when individuals have problems. Early treatment is the least expensive way to go. Prevention is a lot cheaper than dealing with problems.”

Meet your neighbors
On July 9, if you live in the area served by the Centennial Community Association, come by their meeting. Topics to be discussed are the Centennial Graffiti Cleanup on July 14th, planned development for four duplexes on 14639 SE Rhine, and their enlarged National Night out Picnic with SUN Schools on August 7th. Please note that this meeting, at 7:00 PM, is at their new “summertime” location: Parklane Christian Reformed Church, 16001 SE Main St.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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