Key to solving problems often facilitating answers

Commentary by Sherrie Sprenger

I am often invited to solve problems in communities. This past week was no exception.

I was asked to attend a meeting. One of the communities (but I am guessing not the only one) in my district is struggling with people living in trailers and buildings without being hooked up to utilities.

We all know what it means when we don’t have running water in the bathroom. This also means trash and refuse is being piled up on the property. Rats are often are seen scurrying about the property.

In addition to the mess, the residents are sure there is drug activity. They are probably right.

There were close to 20 people in the room and as I listened, I could feel their frustration. They have taken some measures that have not produced any results. They have been dealing with this issue for several years.

It’s situations like this that I wish I could do so much more.

What I can do is to network the community with resources that I know are out there. 

I told them I would attempt to bring together people that I thought could help them solve the problem. I would like to bring in the Sheriff’s Office to help them organize a Neighborhood Watch. Through their participation in a Neighborhood Watch program, the drug activity may be averted or at least diminished.  

The county Planning Department is another resource that will be asked to attend the next meeting. This department is responsible for land and zoning concerns. There are possible matters that can be dealt with, using their assistance. 

The most serious issue they spoke of was possible contamination of their wells. The residents’ wells in this area are very shallow, some as low as 15 feet deep. So, their concern of possible contamination when waste is not handled properly is valid.

The county Health Department will be invited to the conversation to address these waste issues. 

None of us can make folks do what we want or what we may think is right. The solution I can offer, and what I can do is assist people in identifying what they really want or need. I can then facilitate bringing the resources to bear that will help them solve their problem.

Frankly, I left the meeting fairly frustrated because I couldn’t help this community as much as I would like. And yet, using the network available to me, I was a little hopeful that connecting them with the right people and resources, their situation can improve.

– Sherrie Sprenger represents most of Linn County, including Sweet Home, as part of her 17th District of the Oregon House of Representatives, where she has served since 2008.