Florence welcomes congressman; A decade of service in Florence recognized; School retirees impact budget; Rhody show; Celebrating Central Lincoln PUD

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Congressman gets mostly warm reception in Florence

About 200 people turned out at the Florence Events Center yesterday to give Fourth District Congressman Peter DeFazio a generally warm reception.  The Springfield Democrat started his spring tour of Town Hall Meetings in a relatively friendly environment.  Not all of the people in attendance were supporters.  But, unlike other congressional town hall meetings around the country, there was no open hostility and no outbursts or protest.  DeFazio made some brief opening statements, then spent the better part of an hour answering questions from constituents.  One of those had to do with the recent missile strike in Syria and the giant bomb dropped in Afghanistan.  The Representative said it’s way past time for the President to get Congress involved.

Peter DeFazio – “I criticized Obama for that and I’m criticizing President Trump for that.  It’s time to clearly state the objectives, come to congress and ask for authority under the Constitution and the war powers act on these conflicts.”

DeFazio also expressed concern for the Korean peninsula where he says millions of people would die in the first hours following any attack instigated by either the U.S. or North Korea. He continued his town hall tour in Coos Bay late yesterday afternoon and will be in Southern Oregon today.

Public Works Director lauded for decade of service

Florence Public Works Director Mike Miller was recognized for his ten years of service in Florence last night.  Miller was lauded by his boss, Florence City Manager Erin Reynolds, at the beginning of the City Council meeting.

Erin Reynolds – “He has to be just a jack of all trades.  I jokingly call him the father of the city. You know how you call dad when you have a flat tire, he also handles small things like that and leads an amazing team of around 20 people on his crew.”

Reynolds said Miller has supervised numerous projects that have improved city life over the past decade.  He has overseen multi-million-dollar water, waste water and stormwater projects as well as pavement rehabilitation.  His current project is construction of a new home for his department.  After 20-years, Public Works will be moving out of the “temporary” facilities at the old City Jail and into a new modern facility on Kingwood Street this summer.

Rhody Society sets early spring show this week

It’s quite likely the largest and most active chapter of the American Rhododendron Society and it’s located right here in Florence.  The Siuslaw Chapter will be hosting the first of its two spring shows this weekend at the Florence Events Center.  One way of helping to pay the expenses for the show is through various plant sales at the club’s monthly meetings.  Chapter president Mike Bones said they’re open to the public and they’re having one tonight.

Mike Bones  – “We’re having an auction.  A live auction Tuesday.  We meet at 5:30 at the Presbyterian Church, just south of Bi-Mart.  We all bring plants and… buy ‘em back.”

Yes, he said, “we buy them back”.  But you can get in on the bidding if you’re not a member.  Bones said it’s not just Rhododendrons, although there’s a wide selection available.  There are also what he calls “companion plants”, everything from small maple trees to lower growing shrubs and flowering plants.

Retirement costs continue impact on school budget

Personnel costs… and primarily the cost of retirement obligations… will be the biggest hurdle faced by the Siuslaw School District as it puts together a budget for the next school year.   97-J Business Manager Kari Blake said they have to deal with another spike in costs associated with the Public Employee Retirement System.

Kari Blake – “With the PERS rates nearly doubling for us in this biennium, that’s kind of where we’re going to be using our reserves to cover that for this first year.”

Blake said the district has been able to set aside an extra eight percent of the annual budget to cover expected increases in PERS.

Kari Blake – “I think the implications are much higher than what we had anticipated because I’m looking at just rolling up my salaries for people who are moving along the salary schedules; steps; and then the PERS increase.  It’s going to hit us by about $660-thousand dollars.  And that’s just this one year.  And our reserves are just about; just about that amount over the eight percent.”


Blake said they are still waiting on the Oregon Legislature to settle on budget figures for the coming year.

PUD celebrates project completion

A $6-million-two-plus-year upgrade to the electrical distribution system in and around Florence is wrapping up.  Central Lincoln PUD is celebrating by hosting an open house at one of the newly renovated substations Wednesday afternoon.

PUD Public Affairs Manager Chris Chandler says substations are a very important part of their system.  But, because of the very high voltage, they’re restricted areas.  That’s why this is a unique opportunity to get an inside look at one.  You’ll have experts and safety personnel to guide you and answer any of your questions.

Wednesday’s open house is a the Heceta Beach Substation on Highway 101, just north of Florence.  It starts at 3 o’clock Wednesday.

Chandler says it’s just north of Heceta Junction on the right side.  Slow down and watch for the balloons at the entrance.  She also says parking may be limited, so consider carpooling with a friend.