Sen. Yih pitches Sweet Home as new training site for DPSST

Sen. Mae Yih with help from Sweet Home City Manager Craig Martin is asking state authorities to keep Sweet Home and other communities in mind as they consider a place to site a new Department of Public Safety Standards and Training facility.

Sen. Yih testified earlier this month before the Joint Legislative Emergency Board.

“I am here today because of my concern that at the last Emergency Board Meeting, we rejected the DPSST report and directed the Department to include Eastern Oregon and other cities in order to help spread economic opportunities around the state,” Sen. Yih said. “I am concerned that the three primary sites identified at this time are still two sites in Monmouth and a state-owned site in Salem. I don not believe the Department is responsive to the Emergency Board’s directive.”

DPSST solicited letters of interest from jurisdictions around the state about siting a new, larger training facility. The current training facility is located in Monmouth. Last month, the Department had stated a preference for the Monmouth and Salem sites.

“More specifically, the City of Sweet Home, a timber-dependent community, which has suffered great revenue loss due to reduction in timber harvests, has applied to be considered for siting with its 161-acre industrial site. I understand it has not been selected due to environmental concerns, alleged difficulty of access to the site from I-5 and its proximity to existing residential areas.”

DPSST Facilities Project Manager Bob Karau explained where DPSST was in the process.

“DPSST has not determined finalist sites,” Karau said. “However, the Core Facilities Workgroup has identified three primary sites that should have further evaluation at this time, specific to the detailed criteria established by the committee.”

Those three sites were identified for further evaluation based on state law that requires state agencies to look at state-owned surplus land first, Karau said.

Karau cited concerns about environmental issues and asbestos known to be in buildings at the Willamette Industries site in Sweet Home, access from Interstate 5 and proximity to new and existing residential areas.

Martin addressed those issues, and Sen. Yih used his information in her testimony to the Emergency Board.

“We do not dispute that there may be environmental concerns with the site,” Martin said. “However, most of these sites traditionally can be easily mitigate through Prospective Purchaser Agreements administered by DEQ and with use of federal financial assistance for redevelopment of brownfield sites.”

Martin identified three routes from I-5 to Sweet Home. Along Highway 34, the distance is 21.93 miles and four lanes except for about three miles near Lebanon. Along Highway 20, the distance is 24.7 miles, and 19 miles along Highway 228.

“As you can see, the Sweet Home site has excellent access both in road configuration and mileage, especially when compared to the proposed Monmouth site,” Martin said. Additionally, Sweet Home offers a central location for access from Eastern Oregon along Highway 20.

Regarding residential areas around the site, located at the north end of 24th Avenue, “the site has a significant northerly buffer of undeveloped land with zoning and current use that would limit future residential development use,” Martin said. The existing residential development is low density and remains significantly underdeveloped, the lowest development activity in the City of Sweet Home at this time.

“This site and area of Sweet Home has long history of industrial use with related noise,” Martin said. “Residents have been tolerant of noise from this area. Existing industrial zoning in the Sweet Home Comprehensive Plan supports this type of development – On this property.”

“In the best interests of the citizens of the state and particularly rural communities, which could economically benefit from this facility locating in their area, I urge the committee to direct the DPSST’s Core Facility Workgroup to give full consideration of the City of Sweet Home rebuttal before a determination of finalists is made,” Sen. Yih said. “They would appreciate very much an opportunity to explain the merits of their site.”