The county will "just shrivel up and rot"
The League of Women Voters held a discussion yesterday at the Coos Bay Fire Hall about the CEP (Community Enhancement Plan). It was more a promotion than a discussion, actually, because the only people presenting or taking questions were proponents of the plan. Commissioner John Sweet and Coos Bay City Councilwoman Jennifer Groth offered a primer about enterprise zones and when I arrived about 45 minutes late there was the familiar pie chart on the board showing the various allocations of what should public tax money. The South Coast Community Foundation will receive its 50%, 25% to the so-called waterfront improvement plan and the remainder divided between the actual taxing districts.
Roughly thirty people were in attendance and based upon the questions it is clear not all were in favor of either Jordan Cove or the CEP. One woman asked if the CEP work group had actually done an analysis of the actual economic impact of supporting the worker camps and the increase in traffic and crime. “Have you allocated enough funds to cover the city’s expenses?” Sweet explained the work group had not done an actual study but he was confident there would be enough money.
Others asked if the work group had looked at worst case scenarios. “What happens if Jordan Cove doesn’t happen,” asked one teacher. “Worse, what happens if Jordan Cove is built and then shuts down?”
“Are we going to be left with that eyesore and all the pollution,” asked another.
When Sweet replied that “there is no plan B” half the room gasped audibly. Sweet quickly retreated by assuring the crowd there is no need to plan because Jordan Cove was working on contracts with big Asian energy companies that “don’t go out of business” and are “not in China.” Sweet said he had complete confidence in Jordan Cove because they have already spent $200 million, (a drop in the bucket for oil and gas), and continue to spend $10 million each month so they are not likely to walk away.
Sweet then asked, “What pollution?” Mouths fell open.
If the company does walk away, or does not receive the required state and federal permits before the end of June 2016, the county will face a $2 million budget shortfall, according to Commissioner Bob Main. Sweet said that without a payment from Jordan Cove through the CEP the commission will have to “make drastic cuts in services” in this next budget cycle. While there is no firm agreement with Jordan Cove to make payments in lieu of taxes via the CEP, company spokesman Michael Hinrichs doesn’t expect a FERC approval before 2016 and there are other hurdles to cross.
Thanks to Sweet and Cribbins willingness to give part of the county’s share to the waterfront enhancement component of the CEP, even if Jordan Cove breaks ground in time to actually begin making payments, it will not be enough money to avoid layoffs at the county.
Mike Graybill was in attendance and asked if it might not be a good idea to avoid “external dependencies” to which Sweet replied, “we have to be dependent.” Without Jordan Cove “Coos County will shrivel up and rot!”
Coos County Assessor Steve Jansen, also in attendance, informed the crowd that the worker camp under the McCullough bridge will “cost almost $750 million” and taxes will be paid to the North Bend Urban Renewal Agency.
Meanwhile, the commissioners held their first strategic planning town hall meeting Friday in Bandon. Earlier this week I asked Cribbins via email for a copy of the strategic plan and she explained that, “We are not presenting and editing a final plan at this meeting, rather, we are seeking input from the public to add to the input the we have received from county employees, department heads, and elected officials.” Considering there is no plan B, this now makes sense.