Molalla still doesn’t understand that REALITY BITES!

The pesky rattlesnake of reality looms over Molalla – when will its bite sink in?

Letter to Oregon State Government outlining grant disasters in Molalla (your tax money down the tubes!):

May 7, 2012

 Dear Governor Kitzhaber and Lynn Peterson,

Please consider the following reasons why insolvent Molalla should not receive any more grants from Business Oregon or ODOT. Please also note the ODOT/ Grant process failures. Funding grants that produce nothing is not sustainable.

 A partial list of wasted public “investments” (totaling over 1.5 million in a decade) in Molalla’s planning, transportation and economic development:

1. The $122,000 Transportation and Growth Management (TGM) 2007 grant  produced a glitzy, still not adopted or usable 2007 Downtown Master Plan/ 211 Streetscape Plan. The Downtown Plan shows $64 million needed for 20 years of transportation projects, yet next to nothing on the “priority” transportation project list has been implemented in 5 years. Molalla went into $500,000+ in deficit spending last year trying to promote the now defeated urban reserve, which was based on a far too high a population projection; now the proposed comp plan must be rewritten. Molalla can’t afford the cost of a comp plan rewrite at this time so this 2007 grant funded Downtown Master Plan may end up being worthless. I was told by ODOT’s Sonya Kazen that if this Downtown Plan was not fully adopted in 5 years Molalla’s ability to receive grants would be in jeopardy.

  1. The $88,000 2007 Parks Plan that would require $34 million over 20 years to implement; it is based on too high a population projection, can’t be adopted as is and Molalla can’t afford a rewrite. Molalla has failed to provide adequate parks.
  1. A $43,000 TGM 2010 grant to study the “Hart Street” mixed used apt/commercial space project. The Hart Street project  attempted to claim a million dollar SDC waiver that was supposed to provide jobs but had a loophole so 168 apartments with commercial were proposed. Molalla’s City Council recently denied the project because Molalla could not afford mandated transportation enhancements, which include a downtown stop light and turn lanes that would exceed a million dollars the city doesn’t have. The case has gone to LUBA and the legal costs will put Molalla further in the red. Molalla is in danger of losing at LUBA because the former incompetent “planner” left the planning files in a mess. If Molalla loses it will struggle to come up with over a million dollars for the mandated traffic improvements.
  1.  A $474,000 lottery fund loan in 2007 for brownfield contamination testing at the 100 acre abandoned Floragon (Avison) mill site. Testing was stalled but Bear Creek and the south part of the site are known to be contaminated with dioxins.  To date, Floragon/Avison only pays interest on the “loan”. This site has been of concern to DEQ/ EPA for decades but testing is now in progress only because local citizens demanded that DEQ address the problems. DEQ’s Nina DeConcini wrote to me that Floragon has been “difficult and challenging” to work with.
  1. $100,000+ from State and County for brownfield certification at the 25 acre Avison Mill #1 site. “Shovel ready” means that any developer would have to spend at least an extra $400,000 to mitigate the known dioxin pollution. In spite of the “shovel ready” label the site has sat unsold for decades and soon will need to be re-certified. The southern part of Avison Mill 1 brownfield is still  not fully tested let alone mitigated, but DEQ knows the “shovel ready” part  still bleeds dioxin into Bear Creek
  1.  A $17,400 grant in 2006 for a “Four Corners” industrial park feasibility study; and $600,000 from State and County for “Four Corners” infrastructure produced next to nothing in business development. The feasibility study produced plans that would cost over three million to implement – money Molalla never had and won’t have anytime in the future. The $600,000 State/County grant (with about an equal amount from Molalla) produced about a ¼ mile of dead end road with half street improvements and infrastructure for two businesses that pay a handful of workers less than $30,000 a year. Molalla failed to honor contracts to provide more infrastructure in the Four Corners and has pending lawsuits. The “industrial park” sits undeveloped as a muddy mess filled with weeds.
  1. In 2002 ODOT signed a contract with Molalla to engineer and build safety improvements at Toliver Rd/211. The contract stated that if Molalla backed out and failed to do the project Molalla would be responsible for all costs incurred. The engineering plans showed the stop light, turn lanes and sidewalks would cost 1.5 million dollars. Molalla wrote to ODOT in 2007 that it could not afford the 20% match and cancelled the project. In spite of my several requests, ODOT won’t disclose the costs, saying “it wasn’t much”. ODOT did not require, per the contract, that Molalla pay for the engineering studies that were done.
  1. Molalla has failed to pay for $70,000 of permitting inspection work it contracted from Clackamas County. Molalla is now too insolvent to pay in spite of a request recently from CC for at least half payment.

BUSINESS OREGON / ODOT PROCESS DEFICIENCIES:

Business Oregon/ ODOT fail to consider Molalla’s very limited financial/professional resources. Business Oregon and ODOT have been informed by numerous citizens that Molalla should not be granted more money for projects it clearly can’t afford to implement. This is even clearer now that the forensic audit has proven insolvency and that Molalla must restore 2.5 million dollars in SDCs. Molalla has also frozen its urban renewal so that those funds next year will go to the general fund.

Business Oregon/ ODOT should vet potential grants to the local public for comments. Business Oregon/ ODOT now have a growing file of negative comments from local citizens about this preposterous “study”. In the future, all potential grants should be vetted to communities for comments.

Business Oregon/ODOT should only promote grants that have a high probability of implementation. Even after over a year of negative comments from many local citizens and after being furnished with facts about Molalla’s insolvency, Business Oregon has continued to be “supportive” of giving grants to Molalla. Given Molalla’s history of non- performance, lack of SDCs, inability to provide road improvements to existing urban roads and its dire finances, there is no chance Molalla will be able to pay for any capital improvements anytime in the near or even distant future. Agencies must respect Oregon’s limited resources and guide cities to realistic plans that fit the financial and professional limitations of each city.

Without quality of life features, sound city finances and professionals in professional positions, there is little hope of attracting quality investors to off the beaten path cities like Molalla. Who would invest in a city that has poor quality community development in a location that requires a long commute in times of peak oil? Molalla only “grew” because it failed to charge market rate SDCs and stuffed in low quality houses during the “boom”. Now, with all demographic trends showing that working families and even seniors are flocking to the Metro cores, Molalla is a leader if foreclosure rates and low real estate values. There is no recovery likely for low quality, far flung, failed timber resource based towns like Molalla.

Business Oregon and ODOT should be guiding cities like Molalla to a realistic understanding about what the future holds instead of fueling more studies of projects that Molalla can’t afford to implement for “businesses” that will likely never come.

Sincerely,

Susan Hansen, Molalla

And now, onward to the blog post about why reality is biting Molalla and TEAM:

Foreclosure disaster in Molalla:

In May 2012, one out of every 889 homes in Oregon as a whole got a notice
The rate for Clackamas County was one out of every 659
For Canby it was one out of 1,217
For Oregon City it was one out of 586
And, drum roll please,  for Molalla it was a horrific one out of every 189 homeowners getting a notice in May alone. That’s been the trend for over a year in Molalla – a state leader in foreclosure rates!

It’s painful to skim the official minutes of Molalla’s failed institutions. I’ve already hashed over the sad state of the so-called Molalla School Board and their naive and sloppy use of their power in previous posts. Let’s hope the new Superintendent quickly cures the District – but with the current hidebound, entrenched, bent on censorship Board I don’t envy Tony Mann’s task.

This week”s funny pages are the minutes of the Molalla City Council meetings with  discussions that outline the Council’s ongoing struggles to solve the insolvency the City continues to face. There is an ongoing failure in Molalla to accept that the financial ruin writing is on the wall and that business as usual – meaning pork barrel as usual spending – can’t continue.

The days of Molalla’s pork barrel public spending are OVER!

Coming at the end of this post will be a list I compiled and sent to State of Oregon officials to outline the waste of public funds that occurred in Molalla that helped fuel the march to insolvency. The sad part is that, per the City Council’s “discussions” and the public’s failure to accept reality, it is clear that Molalla is clinging to the good ole pork barrel ways that led to financial disaster by refusing to accept needed changes.

The old budget is barely in the black. The Council and the people rejected County Contract Police – which is CLEARLY the most affordable option for public safety. It puts the insurance burden on the County and still allows for local Reserves. By rejecting County Contract Police, Molalla will face huge PERS increases and likely more cuts. So that’s sinking ship #1 – a total failure to listen to reality from honest and competent City Manager Barnes. Too bad the City Council wasn’t courageous enough to dig in and work to help the community understand that Contract Police could provide far more depth of service while saving money as time goes by.

Then, there are the nutty as hell ideas coming from the Council asking “can’t we get a grant or a loan” to get out of the financial hole? Are they KIDDING? It was embarrassing to read that Manager Barnes had to explain that there aren’t grants to cure insolvency caused by the past mismanagement (or corruption?). What loan agency in its right mind will say “Gee, let’s loan INSOLVENT MOLALLA money to make it more INSOLVENT in the future as it struggles with even more DEBT?”

Oh! Oh! Sinking Ship Molalla City Council better stop worrying about outside bailouts – they have already shot holes in Molalla’s future with years of bad spending choices! No more public funds to losers!

And as the REALITY BITES fails to sink in, we have had the insane actions allowing SDCs to be waived so charity can build more unneeded houses. And along with the refusal to understand that County Contract Police was a money saver, we have the public whining about saving the Adult Center, while they are saddled with the White Elephant Pool. Wow! I hear there is begging going on for dollars from outside sources for the Adult Center – I bet people run and hide when they see Molalla “officials” coming at them with their tin cups!

Or maybe TEAM or Foothills Church could sell the Council some mugs with “Molalla needs $$$$” so they can beg on street corners:

With Foothills Church stealing money from real businesses and from the city by operating a church coffee shop that pays no taxes, maybe Foothills can donate the beggar cups for the Councilors – I hear Mayor Clarke is begging for public money!

And talking about trouble waiting to happen: Molalla still faces paying back up to 2.5 MILLION dollars in mis-used (or unaccounted for) Systems Development Charges and is heading to Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) next week for an expensive hearing about the denied Hart Street MILLION DOLLAR SDC waiver project. Where’s the money coming from to solve those not so minor problems? Legal help doesn’t come cheap!

Does the City Council have the intellectual capital to deal with the massive costs associated with those issues? And LOL they are applying for a grant to improve the mess that is Highway 211 – but where oh where will they possibly find matching funds if they are lucky enough to be approved? At least they finally got the TEAM monkey of greed off their backs by tabling the insane Forest Road truck bypass grant! But what disasters lie ahead that will have to come out of next year’s to the bone budget?

Madame Olga aka the Molalla City Council: If only they could see the future, they would be a LOT MORE CAREFUL with the scraps of money they still have!

One of the big problems is the provincialism of Molalla – the people and the elected leaders apparently never bother to get out and study how the world works. We’ve had nutty letters in the local paper that try to defend how great low quality, insolvent Molalla is – one by a sleazy real estate salesman who doesn’t even live in the city limits. Hint: Eyes speak louder than words, it’s impossible to make Decayville into a vibrant place to live when most of the town is either shuttered or blighted or both. Molalla has City Councilors who barely attend the many County meetings that outline economic, transportation and general planning issues. It must be frustrating to try to be a forward-looking REALISTIC City Manager when all the people and elected Councils can see is how they did it in the past in good ole boy pork barrel spending days.

The prisoners of Molalla still haven’t apparently taken the good doctor’s advice. Doctor to  Molalla: Reality might bite but it is better to know what the truth is than to get bit unwittingly over and over again! A world of FACTS awaits those who open their eyes and ears! There’s NO EXCUSE FOR IGNORANCE!

There’s that old saying “If you don’t understand history it will come back to haunt you”. I’d say from reading the City Council minutes there is still little acceptance or understanding of the past and even less understanding that Molalla isn’t going to bounce back from insolvency! Or maybe the “leaders” want to sweep REALITY under the carpet? Either way, it’s clear you can lead Molalla’s “officials” to “water” – FACTS!!!! – but you sure can’t make them drink!

This is what it must feel like to be “instructing” Molalla’s elected “leaders” – whether it is the School Board or the City Council, they pretty much fail to accept the FACTS!

Stay tuned for the future. We know the  past was fraught with pork barrel favors to speculators and that just about no one in Molalla could read a planning report or protest against nepotism before it was far too late. How about a mural that says:

Or how about a banner for City Council meetings to remind them that REALITY BITES but it’s REALITY. The truth might not be popular but it’s the TRUTH! If the City can’t afford something, the Councilors had better stop with the feel good votes that curry favor but sink the budget.

I think the best mural to remind INSOLVENT LOW QUALITY MOLLALA how it got to the sad state of decay would be this one:

Molalla: The place where blind “leaders” let greed and incompetence steer a city into insolvency. When will they take the BLINDERS OFF?

I think we could update the Middle Ages in this mural and add some TEAM and MCC ads near the ditch of no return. Maybe a few out-of-town good old boys could be looming in the distance or they could be the blind “leaders” falling into the hole of financial disaster.

I’d like to hand these stickers around Molalla – “leaders” and citizens alike haven’t accepted that they caused the current insolvency and the rough road ahead. If you aren’t part of the solution you are the PROBLEM.

Coming up is the MOLALLA REALITY BITES Valentine I sent to State of Oregon officials to document the abject waste that brought Molalla to insolvency and stole the future from people lured into disaster in the making. Cheap is as cheap does and today a CHEAP pile of nothing is all we’ve got to show for public investment in Molalla! When greed and nepotism rule the roost as they did in Molalla you end up BROKE!

If you can’t learn from the past you are doomed to repeat your failures:

May 7, 2012

 Dear Governor Kitzhaber and Lynn Peterson,

Please consider the following reasons why insolvent Molalla should not receive any more grants from Business Oregon or ODOT. Please also note the ODOT/ Grant process failures. Funding grants that produce nothing is not sustainable.

 A partial list of wasted public “investments” (totaling over 1.5 million in a decade) in Molalla’s planning, transportation and economic development:

1. The $122,000 Transportation and Growth Management (TGM) 2007 grant  produced a glitzy, still not adopted or usable 2007 Downtown Master Plan/ 211 Streetscape Plan. The Downtown Plan shows $64 million needed for 20 years of transportation projects, yet next to nothing on the “priority” transportation project list has been implemented in 5 years. Molalla went into $500,000+ in deficit spending last year trying to promote the now defeated urban reserve, which was based on a far too high a population projection; now the proposed comp plan must be rewritten. Molalla can’t afford the cost of a comp plan rewrite at this time so this 2007 grant funded Downtown Master Plan may end up being worthless. I was told by ODOT’s Sonya Kazen that if this Downtown Plan was not fully adopted in 5 years Molalla’s ability to receive grants would be in jeopardy.

  1. The $88,000 2007 Parks Plan that would require $34 million over 20 years to implement; it is based on too high a population projection, can’t be adopted as is and Molalla can’t afford a rewrite. Molalla has failed to provide adequate parks.
  1. A $43,000 TGM 2010 grant to study the “Hart Street” mixed used apt/commercial space project. The Hart Street project  attempted to claim a million dollar SDC waiver that was supposed to provide jobs but had a loophole so 168 apartments with commercial were proposed. Molalla’s City Council recently denied the project because Molalla could not afford mandated transportation enhancements, which include a downtown stop light and turn lanes that would exceed a million dollars the city doesn’t have. The case has gone to LUBA and the legal costs will put Molalla further in the red. Molalla is in danger of losing at LUBA because the former incompetent “planner” left the planning files in a mess. If Molalla loses it will struggle to come up with over a million dollars for the mandated traffic improvements.
  1.  A $474,000 lottery fund loan in 2007 for brownfield contamination testing at the 100 acre abandoned Floragon (Avison) mill site. Testing was stalled but Bear Creek and the south part of the site are known to be contaminated with dioxins.  To date, Floragon/Avison only pays interest on the “loan”. This site has been of concern to DEQ/ EPA for decades but testing is now in progress only because local citizens demanded that DEQ address the problems. DEQ’s Nina DeConcini wrote to me that Floragon has been “difficult and challenging” to work with.
  1. $100,000+ from State and County for brownfield certification at the 25 acre Avison Mill #1 site. “Shovel ready” means that any developer would have to spend at least an extra $400,000 to mitigate the known dioxin pollution. In spite of the “shovel ready” label the site has sat unsold for decades and soon will need to be re-certified. The southern part of Avison Mill 1 brownfield is still  not fully tested let alone mitigated, but DEQ knows the “shovel ready” part  still bleeds dioxin into Bear Creek
  1.  A $17,400 grant in 2006 for a “Four Corners” industrial park feasibility study; and $600,000 from State and County for “Four Corners” infrastructure produced next to nothing in business development. The feasibility study produced plans that would cost over three million to implement – money Molalla never had and won’t have anytime in the future. The $600,000 State/County grant (with about an equal amount from Molalla) produced about a ¼ mile of dead end road with half street improvements and infrastructure for two businesses that pay a handful of workers less than $30,000 a year. Molalla failed to honor contracts to provide more infrastructure in the Four Corners and has pending lawsuits. The “industrial park” sits undeveloped as a muddy mess filled with weeds.
  1. In 2002 ODOT signed a contract with Molalla to engineer and build safety improvements at Toliver Rd/211. The contract stated that if Molalla backed out and failed to do the project Molalla would be responsible for all costs incurred. The engineering plans showed the stop light, turn lanes and sidewalks would cost 1.5 million dollars. Molalla wrote to ODOT in 2007 that it could not afford the 20% match and cancelled the project. In spite of my several requests, ODOT won’t disclose the costs, saying “it wasn’t much”. ODOT did not require, per the contract, that Molalla pay for the engineering studies that were done.
  1. Molalla has failed to pay for $70,000 of permitting inspection work it contracted from Clackamas County. Molalla is now too insolvent to pay in spite of a request recently from CC for at least half payment.

BUSINESS OREGON / ODOT PROCESS DEFICIENCIES:

Business Oregon/ ODOT fail to consider Molalla’s very limited financial/professional resources. Business Oregon and ODOT have been informed by numerous citizens that Molalla should not be granted more money for projects it clearly can’t afford to implement. This is even clearer now that the forensic audit has proven insolvency and that Molalla must restore 2.5 million dollars in SDCs. Molalla has also frozen its urban renewal so that those funds next year will go to the general fund.

Business Oregon/ ODOT should vet potential grants to the local public for comments. Business Oregon/ ODOT now have a growing file of negative comments from local citizens about this preposterous “study”. In the future, all potential grants should be vetted to communities for comments.

Business Oregon/ODOT should only promote grants that have a high probability of implementation. Even after over a year of negative comments from many local citizens and after being furnished with facts about Molalla’s insolvency, Business Oregon has continued to be “supportive” of giving grants to Molalla. Given Molalla’s history of non- performance, lack of SDCs, inability to provide road improvements to existing urban roads and its dire finances, there is no chance Molalla will be able to pay for any capital improvements anytime in the near or even distant future. Agencies must respect Oregon’s limited resources and guide cities to realistic plans that fit the financial and professional limitations of each city.

Without quality of life features, sound city finances and professionals in professional positions, there is little hope of attracting quality investors to off the beaten path cities like Molalla. Who would invest in a city that has poor quality community development in a location that requires a long commute in times of peak oil? Molalla only “grew” because it failed to charge market rate SDCs and stuffed in low quality houses during the “boom”. Now, with all demographic trends showing that working families and even seniors are flocking to the Metro cores, Molalla is a leader if foreclosure rates and low real estate values. There is no recovery likely for low quality, far flung, failed timber resource based towns like Molalla.

Business Oregon and ODOT should be guiding cities like Molalla to a realistic understanding about what the future holds instead of fueling more studies of projects that Molalla can’t afford to implement for “businesses” that will likely never come.

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3 Responses to Molalla still doesn’t understand that REALITY BITES!

  1. terry says:

    they should start with Mr PoTTer paying back all his wages, kick backs, lies. Would make quite a dent in the deficit. And get rid of good ole boys council and mayor

    • oregonfirst says:

      Sadly Terry the so-called “leaders” of Molalla blew it so badly they could not afford to try to prosecute the former bad staff. I heard they had a chance at a lawyer who would have worked for free and gotten a share of any settlement he won but once he saw how inept and disorganized (putting it mildly) that the Council was he backed out. So much for justice for the taxpayers. And now things are tanking quickly and the people still seem to cling to the idea that “something” will bail the city out. That’s not going to happen and tough times are still ahead.

  2. Pingback: Molalla’s TEAM for Economic Development Bites the Dust! It’s ILLEGAL! | Molalla Blog

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