Commissioners approve emergency service plan

LCSO, other departments to work on Santiam Canyon drill

The Linn County Sheriff’s Office will team with other county departments for a wildfire emergency drill in the Santiam Canyon in June, as part of a preparedness plan to be funded by a $10,000 grant from the Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office.

Commissioners Roger Nyquist, Sherrie Sprenger and Will Tucker approved applying for the grant Tuesday morning, Feb. 28.

While all three supported the effort, however, they cautioned that trauma still ran high among North Santiam Canyon families in Linn and Benton counties following a massive Sept. 8, 2020, wildfire, when the Beachie Creek (Opal Creek Wilderness area), Lionshead (Madras) and P-515 (Madras) fires merged due to extremely high winds.

The combined conflagration, called the Santiam Fire, covered more than 402,000 acres of public and private lands, destroyed 1,500 structures and took five lives. The communities of Detroit, Gates, Idanha, Mill City and Lyons were severely affected.

Linn County provided an emergency evacuation shelter at the Expo Center in Albany. It provided health care, food and a place to sleep to more than 500 people, as well as hundreds of animals – horses, dogs, cats, emus and even chickens – for nearly two weeks.

Since then, Linn County Planning & Building has waived more than $120,000 in building permit fees for families rebuilding in the canyon.

LCSO Captain Andy Franklin brought the proposal before the board and said the funds would be used for employee costs associated with developing pre-planned Everbridge emergency notifications. A day-long live training exercise is also planned in the canyon sometime in June.

Board Chairman Nyquist said residents remain “skittish” about wildfires and emphasized how important it was to have ample notification prior to any demonstration activity.

“Emergency Management Coordinator Ric Lentz has already been working with schools setting up places for people to go and we are working with health services as well,” Franklin said, adding that there would be an abundance of “heads up” notification.

Sprenger was “extremely pleased” about the event.

“At town hall events, the common theme is people wish there was better communication during the wildfires,” she said.

Tucker also supported the project, but noted, “It will be stressful for some.”

In other business, the commissioners:

♦ Were informed by Juvenile Detention Director Torri Lynn 26 young people from Linn County, six from Lincoln and three from Benton were held at the detention center in January. He said there were 46 referrals in January and 179 young people on probation. Another 82 young people, none of whom have been involved with law enforcement, were receiving assistance from the department’s intervention specialist.

♦ Approved moving $100,000 from the law enforcement contingency budget to Capital Outlay to purchase new kitchen equipment at the jail.

♦ Approved the sale of a 1-foot-wide piece of property at 31st Ave. and Geary St. in Albany for $100 to the City of Albany. It will be used as a utility right-of-way. Also approved the sale of a piece of property about one-seventh of an acre along Periwinkle Creek for $160 to the city.

♦ Discussed working with the IT Department to improve the board room’s sound amplification system for people who listen to commissioners meetings via telephone. Commissioner Sprenger said she participated in the Feb. 21 meeting by phone due to illness and found the reception inadequate at times.

♦ Announced a management staff meeting at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 1, in the basement meeting room of the Linn County Circuit Court.

♦ Reappointed Scott Newman and Michael Davis and appointed Lizeth Breidenbach to the Alcohol and Drug Planning Committee.

♦ Reappointed Somphone Beasley, Stephanie Hagerty and Deidre Greene to the Health Advisory Council.

♦ Appointed Nate Tisdell, Michelle Hunter and Scott Knox to the Insurance Committee.

♦ Reappointed Richard Catlin II and appointed Stacey Bartholomew to the Linn-Benton Housing Authority.

♦ Reappointed Shirley Byrd and Jeff Blackford and appointed Greg Lay to the Mental Health Advisory Board.

– Alex Paul, Linn County Communications Officer