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Redevelopment "stranglehold"

Commissioners told rebuild time is running out

EUGENE: As the third anniversary of the Holiday Farm Fire approaches, it’s not the only calendar preview causing anxiety for survivors. “I currently can’t get my building put up because of a parking issue - still,” was the message Meyer’s General Store & Liquor Shop owner Melanie Stanley gave the Lane County Board of Commissioners last Tuesday. “We have until 2025 - that’s less than a year and a half from now so we can’t wait anymore.”

“Melanie and the other owners are stuck,” according to Steve Severin, a project manager with Dale Turnley Construction. Public service structures like the fire station and the medical clinic rebuilds are moving ahead but he warned that funding for commercial structures “is going away, and it’s just dragging on and on.”

Explaining why people showed up to testify at Harris Hall, Severin said they hoped the commissioners could intervene in a permitting process that is “just dragging on and on.”

There were two areas of concern Rainbow resident Tim Hooton was there to address. One was the state of cellular phone service in the McKenzie River area. “A lot of people rely dramatically on that,” he said, adding that “cell coverage especially post-fire, has been extremely bad.”

That level of service was particularly important, Hooton said because people are expected to rely on cell phones to receive notices from the county’s emergency alert system.

Hooton also said he was an advocate for the Firewise program, which offers homeowners financial assistance to make their homes better able to survive wildfires.

“I spent over $10,00 of my own money and three months of hard work own my own property and there’s still work I would like to do,” he said. He called for a bigger emphasis by Lane County to reach out to people and make them aware that financial assistance is available.

There to give some recognition for recent actions by the Sheriff’s Office was Cliff Richardson. He said the sheriff had done a remarkable job in clarifying details of the evacuation process and responses to concerns about patrols to protect properties. Richardson then questioned people having to go from the Lookout Fire on the McKenzie to an evacuation center at Lowell High School, near the region of the Bedrock Fire.

“Going from one fire zone to another didn’t make sense,” he said and suggested despite a shortage of Red Cross staffers, the county could improve the situation through “more coordination with local volunteers.”

East Lane County Commissioner Heather Buch thanked people “for what you had to say” and said she agreed that “three years had been too long” for rebuilding to be slow after the Holiday Farm Fire.

“Recovery is a complex onion to peel,” Buch said. “It’s very helpful to have the rest of my colleagues assist with that.”


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