The recent State of the County meeting gave local residents a chance to give Marion County Commissioners Janet Carlson and Sam Brentano a little more insight into the needs of our community.
Held at Mill City City Hall on April 16th, the annual meeting is typically a forum for the commissioners to speak about overall county projects like reduction in prison populations, parks and mental health solutions.
But this time, the room was packed with involved citizens who wanted to make sure that the Santiam Canyon’s interests were being considered in the county’s plans.
One of those interests is the effort to build a skate park in Mill City. Members of the group Santiam Skate and Tourism Effort were in attendance, and Mill City Mayor and skate park representative Thorin Thacker noted that they hope to have a shovel-ready project by July of 2016. They wanted to know if any grants were available to help.
The Save Our Bridge Committee, a local group that is working on restoring the pedestrian bridge that crosses the river in Mill City, reported that they spent $30,000 on a study which determined that it would take $400,000 to restore the bridge. They wanted to know if their project was on the commissioner’s radar.
Ken Cartwright posed the question about the state the CARTS, a local bus line that links the canyon to Salem. There are rumors that it’s been under threat of budget cuts. “We sit at the KYAC radio station and we can see that it’s full at certain times of the day,” said Cartwright. Commissioner Sam Brentano explained that while CARTS is only partly funded by the county, he isn’t aware of any plans to expand or reduce services to our area.
Rich Moore, a board member on the Santiam Canyon School District, reported that the school district is now in the black with regards to their budget. “Todd Miller has done a great job as superintendent, and we feel like we’re in a good place financially.” He said that they’ve been working hard for the past few years, and have been able to re-hire everyone who was laid off. They’re now hiring new staff, and with their upcoming partnership with Oregon Connections Academy (an online charter school) that “hopefully it will bring more employment opportunities.”
The commissioners are also looking at the $15 million that was promised to our canyon communities when Opal Creek was developed. Commissioner Brentano explained that this money would have to be sought by grants, and that they are working to develop a leadership group with representatives from all of the Santiam Canyon communities, and possibly create a service district to make projects like sewer systems more effective and affordable. “We have a list of potential projects from all the cities. It’s a big list, and would cost far more than $15 million, but we’re trying to see what is a priority.”
“The important thing to note is that we’re not just worried about the entire county, we’re also looking at the needs of communities like Mill City,” said Commissioner Sam Brentano. A video of this meeting can be found at www.canyonvideos.com.
Story and photos by Michelle Gates