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County Q & A

The dates when questions were asked at business meetings are included as applicable.

Table of Contents

Why are Clackamas County Commissioners making appointments to the Clackamas River Water District (CRW) Board of Commissioners?

As presently constituted there are four sitting members of the CRW board. The CRW Board has been stalemated over the choice for the fifth Commissioner. Under state law, ORS 198.320, County Commissioners can make appointments to fill an existing vacancy on a special district board.

Outside of the appointment process, Clackamas County Commissioners do not have any authority over special districts, which are unique governing boards authorized by state law.
Commissioners were prepared to move forward and make an appointment to that vacancy when it became clear that two more vacancies would be open by the end of October. That left the existing CRW board without a quorum needed to conduct the district's business.

Clackamas County Commissioners then decided to hold a recruitment for three positions and make those appointments Nov. 8.

ORS 198.320 states: "If a majority of the membership of a governing body is vacant or if a majority cannot agree, the vacancies shall be filled promptly by the county court (Commission) of the county in which the administrative office of the district is located."

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Town Hall: Q & A from September 26, 2012 town hall meeting in Welches

Q. Are there law enforcement agencies using unmarked cars in patrols in Clackamas County?

A. Yes. The sheriff's office and the Oregon State Police use unmarked cars. These vehicles typically have no identifying exterior decals. These vehicles have interior flashing lights for emergency response. Standard patrol cars have exterior flashing lights.

Q. Are there plans to open a sheriff's office substation in the Mount Hood area?

A. There are presently no plans to open a substation there. However the sheriff is open to using existing facilities as a report-writing station for sheriff's office and for Oregon State Police as well.

Q. Has there been a noticeable increase in gang graffiti in the Hoodland area?

A. The sheriff's office has reported no noticeable increase in gang graffiti.

Q. Is there anything the County can do to establish a dispensary in the Hoodland area? Currently there are no existing pharmacies.

A. According to Health Housing and Human Services Director Cindy Becker there are no existing revenue sources for establishment of a pharmacy in the Hoodland area. Local demand for the service may determine whether a local pharmacy would expand there.

Q. Will the County provide funding for snow removal at Government Camp this winter?

A. There is presently no funding available. If the November ballot measure passes forming a transportation district for that section of the county, such funds would be available in 2013 and beyond. Commissioners would be more open to the idea of providing one-time funding relief if the measure passes, knowing that future needs would be met.

Q. Last winter, snow accumulation on the SkiBowl overpass exceeded several feet creating a potential safety hazard. What will be done about that this winter?

A. The bridge in question is state-owned. Maintenance is the responsibility of the Oregon Department of Transportation. However the County will contact the state to notify them of the issue and to explore possible cooperative efforts to address the problem.

Q. What is the status of the Clackamas County land swap along Highway 26?

A. Congress passed legislation in 2009 that included the Cooper Spur-Government Camp land exchange. The County has asked our federal legislators to preserve the buffer zone on federal lands within the land exchange area. The buffer zone is an essential part of the County's overall land-use plan - including the land exchange - calling for a proposed aerial tram connection between Skibowl, Government Camp and Timberline.

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Does Clackamas County regulate the placement of political signs?

Yes and no. Political signs are not allowed on County property or in County facilities.  The only exception may be an occasional allowance for vehicles with signs parked on County property.

Political signs are permitted in County right-of-ways but cannot be fastened to County signs or poles and cannot pose an obstruction hazard of any type.

Political signs are allowed on private property and will not regulated even if they exceed size, setback or other code requirements. This is due to the time and county personnel involved in handling such complaints. The County will regulate any private property sign that necessitates erection of a structure that may be subject to building permit. This is due to safety concerns.

Signs confiscated by County staff can be claimed at the Road Maintenance facility, 902 Abernethy Road in Oregon City.

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Under what authority did Clackamas County seek financing to pay its obligation to TriMet for the Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project?

The obligation was paid Friday, September 14 after Clackamas County successfully closed a loan through a subsidiary of Bank of America. County staff acted on authority granted by the Board of County Commissioners in Board Order 2012-80, approved August 22. Section 11 of the specifically allowed for bank financing, "if the County Administrator or Finance Director determines it would be advantageous, the County may place one or more loan agreements with a commercial bank.

On Friday, September 14, the County successfully secured funding to meet its $19,934,038 million obligation. The interest rate was a historically low 2.74 percent. The loan will be amortized over 20 years with a balloon payment in 15 years. The interest rate for the loan was slightly higher than the bond offering, but closing costs were less bringing the overall costs to less than what was anticipated from a public bond offering.

The loan will be repaid from the general fund.

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What happens now that Ballot Measure 3-401 has been passed.

The law does not take effect until Tuesday's election results have been certified by the County Clerk which will take place Oct. 1. Clackamas County is studying the impact of the vote on local decision-making regarding light rail. County Commissioners, County administration and staff are committed to representing the best interests of County residents and the public in all aspects of operations. That commitment will be modified as related to public rail transit systems as deemed necessary by County Counsel.

There are legitimate questions about the scope and applicability of the new law and significant concern about potential unintended consequences. We anticipate these will be clarified - and if necessary corrected - in the coming weeks and months.

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Can Clackamas County get out of its 2010 funding agreement with TriMet because the Park Avenue parking garage will be 355 spaces instead of 600 spaces?

The short answer is no because the agreement with TriMet covered the possibility that the project might change if the federal match changed.

A number of people continue to argue that Clackamas County is not bound by its 2010 funding agreement with TriMet, because the 600-space parking garage at Park Avenue has been temporarily downscaled to a 355-space structure engineered to accommodate additional floors of parking in the future.

In February 2010, when TriMet and the County entered into the PMLR Funding Agreement the Federal Transit Administration had proposed a 60-40 split in the project cost. This means the federal government was providing 60 cents of every project dollar with the remainder coming from various local and regional sources.

The Funding Agreement has an “Exhibit E” that describes a “600-1000 space parking garage” at Park Ave. The Final Environmental Impact Statement also envisioned a 1000-space parking structure.

However, in several places, the Funding Agreement addressed what would happen if the federal cost share changed:

Paragraph says:

“The Project Finance Plan assumes a sixty (60) percent New Starts share. The New Starts share approved by the FTA may be lower than the baseline assumption. The parties agree to exercise good faith efforts to adjust the Project Scope and/or Project Finance Plan to account for any New Starts share required or provided by FTA that is lower than the baseline assumption.” (emphasis added)

Paragraph says in part:

“If the amount of New Starts Funds committed to or anticipated to be committed to the Project is less than the amount anticipated at the time this Agreement is first executed, TriMet shall amend the Project Scope and Project Budget to reflect the revised estimate of New Start funding that may be available for the Project.”

After the IGA was signed, the Federal Transit Administration reduced the federal match from 60% down to 50%. Under the agreements between TriMet and each of the local partners, this required the parties to come up with a combination of additional money and reduced costs to make up for the reduction in federal funding. This led to a process called “recalibration.” In the recalibration, Clackamas County representatives told TriMet and the other project partners that the County would not provide additional money.

Unlike the County, TriMet, ODOT, Metro and the City of Portland each contributed more money, totaling an additional $96 million. In addition there were approximately $62 million in changes to the project, including the reduction in size of the Park Ave. garage. Most of those reductions in scope are in "deferred" elements. Deferred elements will be added back into the project to the extent funds are available as the project progresses toward final construction.

In sum, the reduction in size of the parking garage at Park Avenue resulted from the application of specific contract terms, and does not constitute a breach of contract.

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Isn’t There a Termination Clause That Allows The County To Get Out of the Contract?

The contract has a termination clause. But it is not a “get out of the contract free” clause.

The termination provision of the funding agreement provides that the contract can be terminated under these circumstances:

In the event one party materially breaches the contract, the other party has the right to seek “all remedies available at law or in equity.” Remedies available could include an action to compel the county to honor the contract, or an action for monetary damages incurred as a result of the breach. There is no “termination fee.”

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Why Didn’t The County Just Stop The Line At Lake Road When The Federal Match Changed?

The decision on where the line terminated was not a county decision. However, we understand that a substantial portion of the non-county funding coming from the State of Oregon is contingent on the line coming to Park Avenue. Stopping the line at Lake Road would change the ridership numbers, and a substantial portion of the non-county funding would be lost.

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Agreements & Contracts

What is the difference between an agreement and a contract?

Legal definitions of these two words are provided below. Additionally, governments often enter into several different types of agreements with contractors, other governments, individuals, etc. Common agreements governments enter into include:


Agreement: 1) n. any meeting of the minds, even without legal obligation. 2) in law, another name for a contract including all the elements of a legal contract: offer, acceptance, and consideration (payment or performance), based on specific terms.

Contract: 1) n. an agreement with specific terms between two or more persons or entities in which there is a promise to do something in return for a valuable benefit known as consideration. Since the law of contracts is at the heart of most business dealings, it is one of the three or four most significant areas of legal concern and can involve variations on circumstances and complexities. The existence of a contract requires finding the following factual elements: a) an offer; b) an acceptance of that offer which results in a meeting of the minds; c) a promise to perform; d) a valuable consideration (which can be a promise or payment in some form); e) a time or event when performance must be made (meet commitments); f) terms and conditions for performance, including fulfilling promises; g) performance, if the contract is "unilateral". A unilateral contract is one in which there is a promise to pay or give other consideration in return for actual performance. (I will pay you $500 to fix my car by Thursday; the performance is fixing the car by that date.) A bilateral contract is one in which a promise is exchanged for a promise. (I promise to fix your car by Thursday and you promise to pay $500 on Thursday.) Contracts can be either written or oral, but oral contracts are more difficult to prove and in most jurisdictions the time to sue on the contract is shorter (such as two years for oral compared to four years for written). In some cases a contract can consist of several documents, such as a series of letters, orders, offers and counteroffers. There are a variety of types of contracts: "conditional" on an event occurring; "joint and several," in which several parties make a joint promise to perform, but each is responsible; "implied," in which the courts will determine there is a contract based on the circumstances. Parties can contract to supply all of another's requirements, buy all the products made, or enter into an option to renew a contract. The variations are almost limitless. Contracts for illegal purposes are not enforceable at law. 2) v. to enter into an agreement.

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County Parks

Community members floating the Clackamas River between Barton Park and Carver Park sometimes complain about the amount of litter and trash left behind along the river both at the parks and on private property. What can the County do to help keep the riverbank and parks clean?
Clackamas County is aware of the litter problems along the Clackamas River, especially all the trash that is generated during the peak-use summer months. A few years ago the County was able to temporarily fund an EcoZone program to promote safe and responsible use of the river with a focus on the litter problem. Volunteers handed out mesh trash bags at Barton Park in an effort to encourage people to gather their trash along the way to pack out later. The program was successful, but unfortunately suffered significant budget cuts. Despite the cuts the Parks Department still hands out trash bags at the Barton Park boat ramp and maintains the EcoZone signs. Parks collects and disposes of a large amount of trash brought to Carver Park by people at the end of their float trip. In addition, the County continues to promote the annual Clackamas River (Down the River) Clean-up event sponsored by the Clackamas River Basin Council and SOLV. This event has tremendous community support and the results have been exceptional for river cleanup at the end of a busy summer season.

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Housing Authority

(Asked at 8/2/2012 Board business meeting)

What is the need for section 8, public and affordable housing in the County and how do you select the locations of these properties?
The terms Section 8, Public Housing and Affordable Housing are not interchangeable. They are different housing programs with different funding sources and different rules and regulations.  Section 8 is the Housing Choice Voucher Program that provides rent assistance to low income people. The participants rent a unit in the private market, pay one-third of their income toward rent, and the Housing Authority pays the difference between that sum and the fair market rent. A key component to this program allows for tenant choice and mobility. This means that tenants can decide where to live, dependent upon the private landlord accepting payment from the Voucher program.

Public Housing is only owned and operated by a Public Housing Authority and is also  provided to very low income people, including many seniors, disabled persons, or single mothers escaping domestic violence. The location and development of Public Housing units is typically determined by the best opportunity available in the market at the time a new development occurs. Cost of land is a key factor – where land is relatively affordable in the market place at that time - consideration is also given to other factors such as access to transportation, community services, employment and education opportunities, health care, along with other community amenities like senior centers, grocery stores, pharmacies, and schools. Because transportation costs can consume a  large percentage of a family’s income, locating Public Housing in areas that provide convenient public transit access  is an important criteria when selecting property locations.

Affordable Housing is a more general term. There are private, non-profit and public owners and developers of affordable housing. Sometimes local funds support these projects. Sometimes the projects are Federally funded. Most times, these locations are subject to the same factors that determine location of public housing.

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Barking Dogs

In May 2010, the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners approved changes to Title 5 of the County Code, which removed the barking dog or ‘continuous annoyance’ violation. Clackamas County Dog Services no longer has the resources to provide direct assistance to people with concerns about barking dogs and, with only two animal control officers to serve the entire County, Dog Services can only focus on issues directly related to health and animal safety. In addition, it has been found that more punitive measures (such as issuing a fine to the dog owner) often do not change the situation. Further, confiscating a dog (considered private property according to state law) is a lengthy, expensive process. The County recommends that neighbors work to find a mutually agreeable solution through the County’s Dispute Resolution Center (more information at Since the approach of redirecting barking dog complaints to Resolution Services many barking dog situations have come to long-term resolution. If county residents still wish to pursue enforcement, the Sheriff’s office is the agency responsible for obtaining noise readings and pursuing nuisance complaints, including barking dogs. However, because the deputies must respond to life and safety calls first, they often have little time to respond to noise complaints.

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Budget Questions

 (Asked at 7/27/2012 Board business meeting)

Why did the District Attorney’s Office benefits increase by $67,000 in the budget?
These funds were actually shifted from the Materials and Services line to the Personnel Services line within the District Attorney’s approved budget to align with the DA’s plan to take on more records management activities in-house; the shift did not change the total overall budget for the District Attorney’s office.

How much of the General Fund goes to pensions?
Of the total County budget (a little over $596 million), 4.2% is budgeted for PERS.

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County Government: How does it work?

There are two forms of county governance in Oregon: general law and home rule. While Cities and some Oregon counties operate under a home rule charter, Clackamas County is a general law county and does not have a charter. The role of the County Commissioners is established in Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 203 outlining the related duties and responsibilities. In general, County Commissioners serve primarily in a legislative and rule-making capacity, and in a quasi-judicial capacity when hearing land use appeals or boundary change applications.

In addition, the Clackamas County Commissioners also serve as Directors on eleven other County Boards for several special purpose agencies performing county functions:

The full breadth of programs and activities under the auspices of the Board of County Commissioners brings the total budgetary responsibility to over $700 million. 

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County Government: What is the role of the Board Chair, County Commissioner, and County Administrator?

Board Chair - Formal Authority:

County Commissioners - Formal Authority:

County Administrator - Formal Authority:

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County Government: What types of meetings does the Board hold?

Business Meetings
The Board, acting as the County Commission or one or more of the other eleven independent Boards, meets weekly on Thursdays (10:00 AM except the 3rd Thursday when an evening meeting is held) to conduct formal County business. These are public meetings where items are presented, testimony from the public is welcome, and official decisions are made on items that require a public record of votes taken. Business meetings are led by the Chair of the Board with an agenda created in concert with the County Administrator.

Study Sessions
These meetings are generally held weekly on Tuesdays in both the morning and afternoon primarily for staff to present items that require background information and study, policy direction, and/or an opportunity for substantive discussion. Although all meetings of a quorum of the Board to conduct business are considered public meetings, Study Sessions are not a forum for public testimony. Instead, they serve as a means for the Board to gather information from staff in order to make informed decisions. Often, direction is given to staff to pursue a formal course action at a forthcoming Business Meeting. The agenda for these meetings are set by County Administration, often at the request of the Board.

Planning Meetings    
These are policy discussions during which the Board can examine topics of interest in-depth for consideration of potential policy direction for the County. Administrative and senior staff attend to provide relevant background, status and trend information. Once the Board agrees on a policy directive, staff implements the new or revised policy or program stemming from it. Action plans and status reports on these policy directives are often presented in Study Sessions.

Annual goal-setting retreat
The BCC generally meets annually in January to set goals for the Board for the coming year. These retreats provide initial direction to administrative staff in developing budgetary plans and actions to achieve the Board’s goals. Planning Meetings may be scheduled if policy issues related to Board goals require more information and discussion.

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Elks Lodge

(Asked at 7/12/2012 Board business meeting)

The Elks approached the Housing Authority requesting that the Housing Authority consider purchasing their property at 13121 Southeast McLoughlin Boulevard. The Housing Authority is considering a potential purchase. Any purchase process would include entering into an option to buy the property followed by a “due diligence” period of up to a year during which environmental issues with the property would be assessed and options for use and design would be reviewed.

The Elks need to sell the property due to their inability to support and maintain the aging building through their current membership. There are no other potential buyers nor have there been for some years. The Elks declared their intention to sell the property to the Housing Authority through a vote of their membership. That vote was confirmed by an affirmative decision of the Elks’ Grand Lodge and action of the Elks’ Steering Committee in November 2011.

The Chair and Directors of the Elks now have signed an Option and Agreement of Purchase and Sale presented by the Housing Authority based on parameters set by the Board of County Commissioners acting as the Board of Commissioners of the Housing Authority. The Option and Agreement is being presented to the Board of County Commissioners for their consideration. Any decisions as to the use of the land and its buildings will be part of a public process in which citizens will be afforded their full opportunity to participate. 

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Firewood at County Parks: What is the difference between a bundle and a box?

 (Asked at 7/5/2012 Board business meeting)

There is actually no difference between a box and a bundle of firewood. The department has always called it a box so the wording was changed during the fee change process for the budget. County Parks uses a recycle bin to determine what is a full box or a half-box; the wood is put in the recycle bin standing on end. There are typically between 12-14 pieces in a full box of firewood. Fees increased to $10 per box this year so the department added the option of purchasing a half-box of firewood for $6.00. A half-box is equal to ½ a recycle bin. The reason for the cost increase is that the daily charge for the County Correction Crews who split the firewood increased last fiscal year and County Parks was unable to absorb the costs this year. In addition, labor costs for returning seasonal rangers have increased as have the costs of fuel for wood delivery.   

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Flood Insurance: Should you consider it?

If you're a Clackamas County resident or property owner, you have the option to buy flood insurance whether or not you live in a floodplain. Because Clackamas County is in the National Flood Insurance Program, all residents and business owners in unincorporated areas are eligible to buy flood insurance.

In recognition of its floodplain management practices, Clackamas County is a member of the National Flood Insurance Program's Community Rating System with a Class 6 rating. Because of this residents of unincorporated Clackamas County receive a 20% discount on flood insurance premiums. Flood insurance is the most economical protection from devastating financial loss from a flood. To learn more about the benefits of flood insurance, visit

Flood insurance is sold through private insurance companies and agents, and backed by the federal government; you can buy it through your insurance agent. Be sure to buy it now, before a flood appears imminent! There is a 30-day waiting period for new coverage to become effective, so it's important not to wait until risk of a flood. (The only exception to the 30-day wait is when flood insurance is required of a loan upon closing.) To purchase or explore purchasing flood insurance, contact your insurance company or lender.

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Gladstone Library

(Asked at 7/12/2012 Board business meeting)

History of the Library District

Several years ago, the County began to work with the cities to develop a Library District Plan. This extensive effort addressed governance, funding distribution, operating standards, and the County’s intent to transition out of direct library operations. This effort had two phases. The First Phase was formation of the Library District to allow current libraries to stay open. The Second Phase is consolidation of library services into city branches and extending service to surrounding unincorporated areas.

This Library District Plan was presented at city council and community group meetings and ten library cities all passed City Council resolutions requesting to be included in the Library District for voter consideration. With respect to Phase Two, information regarding the transfer of the Clackamas Corner Library to the City of Happy Valley and the Hoodland library to the City of Sandy, as well as the merging of the Oak Lodge and Gladstone Libraries to one new joint facility located in Gladstone was explained in direct mailings, handouts, and presentations. The Library District passed by a vote of the people in November 2008 and the Library District Plan was formalized through an Intergovernmental Agreement signed by ten library cities and the newly formed District Board.

Acknowledging the need for cities to make improvements to their libraries to handle Phase Two, the County agreed to place general fund dollars that would have been spent on library operations into a dedicated capital fund. This capital fund would provide each city with $1 million to help address their library capital needs. There are restrictions for use of these capital funds. Capital dollars can only be used for “library construction, remodel, expansion, building and site improvements, library construction bonded debt service and/or collection development.”

The City of Sandy assumed responsibility and operation of the Hoodland library in 2009. Happy Valley expressed concern about their ability to operate the library and the County is constructing a new library facility to serve Happy Valley, Damascus and the surrounding unincorporated area until such time as Happy Valley or Damascus is willing and able to assume responsibility.

Gladstone Library
With regard to the planned joint use facility in Gladstone, the County and the City of Gladstone discussed concerns over the capital funding allocated to Gladstone for the library construction. The County agreed to allocate an additional $1 million in county general funds to Gladstone as well $500,000 from the newly created Library District from funds intended for the Oak Grove library for the construction of a merged Gladstone/Oak Lodge library. The funds are intended for construction of an expanded library sufficient to meet the needs of both the Gladstone and Oak Grove communities and comply with the standards of the Intergovernmental agreement signed by ten library cities in Clackamas County. Combined, this provided Gladstone $2.5 million from the County to help construct a new Gladstone/Oak Lodge library. The City of Gladstone and the County entered into an Intergovernmental Agreement on April 7, 2011 after which Gladstone requested and received the $2.5 million from the County to construct a new library for the Gladstone/Oak Lodge communities. Once a new building is constructed and the libraries are merged, Gladstone’s share of the Library District funding will increase reflecting the closure of Oak Grove and the larger population served by the new library.

In the event that Gladstone does not build a library sufficient to serve both the Gladstone and Oak Grove communities, Gladstone would be required to return the additional $1.5 million they received back to the County. Gladstone would keep their original $1 million to be used on library improvements on a Gladstone library facility serving only the Gladstone area and their funding from the Library District would be no higher than it is today because they would not be serving a larger population.

The Gladstone City Council approved putting the library construction project to a vote on the November ballot. The County is waiting until election results are known. The County feels that Gladstone is working to fulfill its goal of service provision to a larger population base that includes the unincorporated area. Any questions about siting and constructing a new library in Gladstone should be directed to the City of Gladstone; the County is not involved in those decisions.

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