May 21, 2024

Whole Community News

From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Good news: Reducing homelessness and greenhouse gases; saving homes, money, and democracy

7 min read
Congratulations to the Churchill Area Neighbors, Metropolitan Wastewater Management Commission, and Lane County staff from Assessment and Taxation, Code Compliance, Elections, and Technology Services for our good news of the week.

KEPW volunteer and Light Worker Nan Cohen recommended a new feature called ‘Good News’ to share just that, from around the Upper Willamette watershed. Today’s good news comes from Eugene city councilors, Lane County commissioners, and the Lane County clerk. On May 14:

Pat Farr (Lane County commissioner, May 14): People talk about homelessness, and people worry why there’s so much homelessness. You know, the largest, it’s been reported, the largest single demographic in our growing homeless community is single adults over 65, mostly single women over 65. The largest single demographic.

[00:00:35] And there are reasons for that. And some of them are very obvious. Sometimes it’s a family that had two incomes and fixed expenses, and suddenly has one or 1.5 incomes or whatever it may be, and two sets of eyes looking at everything, suddenly has one set of eyes looking at everything. And one set of eyes doesn’t catch the same things as two sets of eyes. So we worry about that, and we recognize it.

[00:00:56] Last week, I got a message, it was a woman over 65 living in a single-wide mobile home and we talk about single-wide mobile homes quite often, about the particularly the older ones they have maintenance issues or issues of about their viability, their livability, etc.

[00:01:13] But this this lady had a couple of issues that were really annoying at her, and I talked to her for about half an hour, and she was crying. She had and I’m not going to go into very much detail about it other than she worried that there was a lien on her property, she worried about her payments, and she worried about the ownership of the property that she lived in.

[00:01:30] She was on the cusp of becoming one of our growing number of homeless people over 65 years old. I called Mary Vuksich-Schafer, and I said, I just to ask about the lien. And Mary said, ‘We’ll take care of it.’ And so Mary, minutes later said, ‘Well, we’ve taken care of it.’

[00:01:49] Now how did Mary take care of stuff in minutes? Well, she got a hold of Jessica Swygart and Karly Welty down in A&T (Assessment and Taxation), and Karly works very specifically with mobile homeowners, with titles, and with the issue of changing titles and changing expenses, and within just a few minutes, she had this lady calmed down, peaceful, and feeling that she was not going to be evicted or lose her home—in just a few minutes.

[00:02:16] And that’s from our Assessment and Taxation. It’s a matter of all feet, all boots being on the ground. When I went down to talk to them, they showed me around the office and they showed me the website that A&T put up just last week. And it was, a lot of work went into it and I wanted to point out the fact that Karly and Jessica worked very heavily on it, and Taylor and another Jessica, a second Jessica down there, worked very hard to get the website up.

[00:02:40] If you’ve not looked at A&T’s website, very user-friendly. All of the frequently asked questions are right there. Now even with the frequently asked questions, a lot of times people aren’t particularly savvy in negotiating websites. That’s when our A&T came in. I just wanted to commend them, commend them out loud.

[00:02:56] In a place where you don’t always expect people to be holding hands and guiding people step by step through the very difficult issues and changing needs in their lives. And I didn’t mention that the lady had recently become widowed. She’d recently lost her husband, so all of a sudden there’s one set of eyes.

[00:03:12] They took care of her. And so to Mary, and Jessica, and Karly, and Jessica, and Taylor, bravo. Good story, that really is one that I believe we can repeat over and over again. And Mary, our elected assessor, just gave me three minutes, it took three minutes for her to solve the problem.

[00:03:30] Laurie Trieger (Lane County commissioner, May 14): Thank you, Commissioner Farr. You know, you reminded me, I had a similar but different situation where I was contacted by a real estate agent who was working with someone who was unhoused, whose father had passed, who had basically deeded him a property that needed a lot of work and attention, but the confusion was because they had the same name and one was deceased and the other was not, and there was a lien on the property.

[00:03:53] But the long story short, after several texts and emails and phone calls, yes, both our Code Compliance folks and our Assessment Department were able to help and get that taken care of within 48 hours. So this formerly unhoused person was now able to get support for cleaning up the property and move in there. It’s a good reminder for us to share the many, many, many, many success stories.

[00:04:19] Dena Dawson (Lane County elections, May 14): I’m really proud of the ‘Meaningful Observation,’ aka ‘Radical Transparency’ initiative that we’ve been working on… We’re working on signature review today. And so, we are open for in-person observation, so folks can come in and monitor that if they’d like. I really just want to give a shout-out to Technology Services, but specifically Joey, AJ, Ryan. We joke that we should set up an office for them because they’ve been over at the Elections building so frequently and have really helped us with getting Deeds and Records moved in, moved everything around, got us set up, so I’m really appreciative of them.

[00:04:57] Councilor Alan Zelenka (May 13): I sent in earlier a request for some more information about the MWMC renewable natural gas (RNG) project that they do where they use the waste gas coming off of the wastewater treatment plant to generate transportation fuel, actually. And I asked to have a little bit more data on the cost and the revenues and the net revenue and how cost-effective it was and how much greenhouse gases it actually ends up reducing, because it’s a substitute fuel that’s a lot cleaner than gasoline and diesel.

[00:05:29] Matt Stouder (Metropolitan Wastewater Management Commission, executive officer): My name is Matt Stouder, the executive officer for MWMC… Strategically, when we initiated this project several years ago, we strategically did so with rates in mind. We didn’t incur any debt service or debt service obligations to fund this project.

[00:05:43] We used our wastewater reserve funding. We were deliberate in making sure that we did not impact rate projections for the ratepayers in our community. That said, the project had a substantial cost. We are recouping revenue right now. We expect to have a project payback between 8 and 14 years… We do have now and will have into the foreseeable future a stable source of revenue that will allow us to help offset future rate adjustments for our community.

[00:06:14] Michelle Miranda (Eugene Wastewater Division director): We did a greenhouse gas emissions report. We do one every other year for the Wastewater Division and The Good Company helped us do that. And what they did is they calculated out the community benefit of adding the RNG to our operation and they calculated 3,255 metric tons of CO2 equivalent as reduced from that. So that’s in our latest greenhouse gas report that we did, which was for 2022 and 2023…

[00:06:49] Mark Van Eeckhout is the senior civil engineer for Springfield and also was the project manager for the Renewable Natural Gas project.

[00:06:59] Mark Van Eeckhout (MWMC, RNG project manager): You know, originally when we looked at the project, we had a number of options. And so we did Net Present Values for the different options, kind of moving forward. And ultimately, we did a renewable natural gas project that has been up and operating now for, it’ll be going on three years in November, producing renewable natural gas for the transportation industry, which is great.

[00:07:20] It was the first one in our state in a public utility and still is improving. I think our uptime has improved drastically this year… but like you said, it is a positive story and we are returning revenue back to the MWMC that will, you know, ultimately pay off the capital costs and hopefully go to support things from ongoing capital costs, etc., moving forward.

[00:07:46] Councilor Alan Zelenka (May 13): This is one of the success stories that we’ve had in the local community that not only helps stabilize rates in the future, creates revenue, but also reduces greenhouse gases. And so it’s one of those win-win-win type of projects that we should be celebrating. I just wanted to have an opportunity to talk about it and bring it to light.

[00:08:11] Councilor Randy Groves (May 13): The Churchill Area Neighborhood Association held an emergency planning workshop, which was fantastic. The city’s emergency manager was there, our fire department’s wildland fuels reduction specialist was there, and we talked a lot about escape routes and evacuation, something that’s near and dear to my heart, being a former firefighter in this community and former chief.

[00:08:34] I thought it was really well done, and it’s a model that I hope gets replicated in other neighborhood associations, especially those in the South Hills that has periods of time during the year where there is extreme fire risk.

[00:08:51] John Q: Congratulations to Lane County staff from Assessment and Taxation, Code Compliance, Elections, Technology Services; and the Metropolitan Wastewater Management Commission and Churchill Area Neighbors for our good news of the week.

Whole Community News

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Whole Community News