Annual State of the County – 2016

We are well into the new year and my fellow commissioners and I just gave our annual State of the County address. We look forward to this annual opportunity to describe our progress and challenges on important issues, as well as receive feedback from the community.

The commissioners also set individual goals for issues we’d like to focus on in the coming year. This year, as the Board Chair, there are several issues important to us that I will be concentrating on in 2016.

Economic Development. With more than 40 years of experience in private business, I have a particular interest in economic development and how Marion County can create a positive environment for businesses to thrive in our community. I serve as the Board liaison to the Economic Development Advisory Board.

This year we will continue to focus on improving infrastructure in the Santiam Canyon. While the economic picture in Marion County has improved in recent years, places such as Idanha, Detroit, Gates and Mill City continue to struggle due to a significant loss of timber jobs and a dwindling tax base. Deteriorating infrastructure and expensive maintenance and repairs are cost prohibitive in these cities as the water and sewer needs are complicated by the dynamic geology of the region. Marion County is working to address the basic infrastructure needs through collaboration with local, regional, state and federal partners.

We are also assembling an economic development team in cooperation with the state Regional Solutions program to assist a growing business in northern Marion County poised for a large expansion. The hope is double or triple production creating new jobs and opportunities for our residents.

Solid Waste. We are working closely with our Environmental Services division to create a long term vision for the county’s solid waste system. Marion County is a national leader in solid waste management and we hope to continue to improve our program, as well as create efficiencies in the system. We are fortunate to have the expertise of Commissioner Sam Brentano who spent 30 years in the solid waste disposal industry before becoming a commissioner.

There are a number of dynamics that make it necessary to evaluate how we manage this resource. The waste-to-energy facility (WTEF) creates enough energy to power a city about the size of Woodburn. However, in the current market this electricity is no longer as valuable on the grid as it once was. We are working with our partners to introduce legislation that supports this type of renewable energy, as well as ensuring we are ready for new opportunities as they arise. We are also considering whether it is finally time to raise the tipping fee at our transfer stations. The current rate has been in effect since 1992 and expenses have increased over those 20 plus years. While there is a lot to consider, the Board is committed to maintaining our position as a leader in solid waste management.

Public Safety. In business, I’ve always stressed safety first and last and I take the same approach in my job as commissioner. Last fall we contracted with the Alliance for Hope to review how we serve survivors of domestic violence as a community. While the evaluators were very complimentary of our overall system, they also pointed out some areas for improvement. I appreciate the efforts of Commissioner Janet Carlson and the Public Safety Coordinating Council who are working closely with our non-profit and public safety partners to ensure we do all we can to support victims of domestic violence.

In November, our community will vote on whether recreational marijuana businesses are allowed in the unincorporated areas of Marion County. As with medical marijuana, we’ll have to determine time, place, and manner regulations if this measure passes. Again, one of our primary considerations will remain safeguarding our children and making sure access is limited to those legally allowed to possess marijuana.

These are just a few of the issues important to us at Marion County. If you’d like to view the February 10 presentation please visit youtube at:   My door is always open if you’d like to visit about these or other issues.

Commissioner Kevin Cameron can be reached at or (503) 588-5212.