County will take the Blue Sky challenge (Daily Astorian)

By Jack Heffernan

Clatsop County will seek to become the second county in the nation to receive a designation from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its promotion of renewable energy.

The Clatsop County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to enroll in Pacific Power’s program. As part of the company’s Blue Sky Community Challenge, the county will pay an extra 10 percent on its monthly electric bill. That money will then go toward renewable energy projects.

The county will spend an additional $2,700 this year for the project.

Residents and businesses are also eligible for the program. If all of Clatsop County reaches 3 percent participation in the program by the end of the year, Pacific Power will fund a 1-Kilowatt solar generating station at a government building. The county’s current participation sits at 2.85 percent.

Completion of these two goals would make the county eligible for a Green Power Partner designation from the EPA.

“I think that’s a pretty powerful statement,” County Manager Cameron Moore said.

In other business Wednesday, commissioners:

• Appointed Dan Gaffney to lead a feasibility study that will determine how to best fund a universal preschool program in the Clatsop and Tillamook counties.

The county received a $350,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to study the feasibility of a pay-for-success model of funding, along with other models. Gaffney will receive a $90,000 contract and hire an assistant for $30,000. Both salaries will be funded by the grant. Representatives from the local Way to Wellville will also work on the study. The pay-for-success model, if eventually approved, would involve an investor funding a preschool in the area. Money then saved by the county with more children attending preschool — fewer social or law enforcement issues, for instance — would be paid back with interest. Commissioners tabled the contract at a meeting two weeks ago, expressing concerns about preschool privatization and lack of familiarity with the study.

Wednesday’s meeting continued to highlight commissioners’ concerns, but they decided to approve the feasibility study that the Department of Education has already funded.

“If that data provides something that is more palatable to our policies regarding preschool, then that data is valuable,” Commission Chairman Scott Lee said.

• Unanimously approved an agreement with Clatsop Behavioral Healthcare to manage a crisis respite center in Warrenton.

The crisis respite center is designed to prevent out-of-control behavior from those with metal illnesses before they encounter law enforcement or go to hospitals.

Clatsop County, along with Providence Seaside Hospital, Columbia Memorial Hospital and Greater Oregon Behavioral Health Inc., funds the CBH-managed center. The county will pay $100,000 in 2017 for its part of the agreement.

The center opened last July. Commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding in February saying the county would reimburse some or all of the startup costs for the facility.

• Approved a design-build contract for a household hazardous-waste facility on Williamsport Road in Astoria.

Helligso Construction will partner with design company Lower Company Engineering to build a roughly $600,000, 2,500-square-foot facility next to the Astoria Transfer Station. Residents and qualifying small businesses will have multiple opportunities each year to drop off hazardous waste, such as pesticides and paint.

The county hopes construction will be completed by the end of the year, Moore said.