Letters to the Editor for Dec. 14, 2010

Speak out against BPA plan

Bonneville Power Administration is coming, are Camas citizens ready?

BPA has created multiple 5oo kilovolt transmission line routes through populated areas and all cross the Columbia river at Camas to get to the Troutdale substation.

Many impacted citizens have opposed the oppressive lines and are concerned about health risks, environmental impacts and property values.

Camas is in the focal point for many reasons. The Pearl Station route has been discarded.

You may think that BPA will choose to go east and simply connect at Bonneville dam, but you would be wrong. BPA did not include Skamania County in the NOI (notice of intent).

A Camas river crossing is the route that will be taken no matter which routes are chosen.

The BPA has planned to use an island to cross the Columbia river to Troutdale.

These are much larger towers than currently in use so the island would be required to reduce tower height.

What kind of reliability or security issue would this create?

Why were Camas citizens given no alternate options as required by NEPA?

Why is the Camas City Council not concerned?

BPA is a federal agency and therefore sovereign, there will be no regard for city, county, state laws and ordinances relating to this proposal.

BPA has explained at Camas public meetings that they will simply use the existing easement to cross the river at Camas.

A Washougal crossing at Reed Island is directly under Crown Point and will also be discarded.

It is the federal decision makers, committee members etc., who will make all of the recommendations to BPA in the end. BPA CEO Stephen Wright will make the final decision based on recommendations from these officials and others.

If adequate concerns are not received from the public, a given area may be deemed as a less difficult route for BPA to pursue.

The public opposition has already gained the attention of many federal agencies by informing county, state and local officials about our objections.

They are now waiting on you to get involved and make your opinion known before rendering a decision and recommendation.

It’s time to make your concerns public.

Speak now or accept the inevitable.

Terry Constance, Vancouver

Holiday, benefits, and tax inflation in Clark County

County employees contribute $0 to insurance premiums for medical, dental, vision, life or long term disability. On Oct. 12, commissioners and unions pushed through labor agreements, ahead of the public budget hearings in December. Labor was about 28 percent of the 2009 budget and should not be finalized until after budget hearings. According to county records, the highlights of the county labor agreements are:

2011- increased county contribution to medical/dental coverage, wage freeze, additional floating holiday.

2012- increased county contribution to medical/dental with possible employee contributions to premiums, 2 percent wage hike, continued extra holiday.

In Camas, many employees don’t contribute toward their own insurance premiums, and do contribute 10 percent for dependents. Management staff will contribute to health care insurance for themselves and dependents. In FVRL libraries, employees contribute 7.5 percent for themselves, and 10 percent for dependents.

Clark county holidays now include 10 actual holidays, four floating holidays, and a “commissioners’ holiday” for employees for a grand total of 15 holidays. At a minimal $10 per hour, one extra holiday costs about $131,200 per year. County employees already have overly generous vacation that accrues to a high limit and is paid out when employment stops at the final rate of pay. Sick leave also accrues and is paid out according to various formulas. Commissioners should rescind excess holidays and require employee contributions to insurance premiums instead of raising taxes as they did last week and last year too.

FVRL libraries have 10 holidays, no floaters. Camas has a more generous holiday schedule of 10 actual holidays and three floaters. The Camas vacation schedule is also generous starting at 12 days per year for a new employee up to 27 days annually for employees that have worked 20 years plus. Unused vacation is allowed to accrue up to a maximum of 50 days as of Dec. 31 each year depending on contracts. The FVRL accrual limit is 30 days max in comparison. At the end of employment, any unused vacation is paid out at the final rate of pay in both cases. County, city and library employees also participate in the various state retirement plans, PERS.

In the private sector holidays are limited, vacation accrual and rollover are not so common, and retirement benefits are rare.

Kudos to Camas for holding the budget hearings before finalizing labor agreements. As of Monday morning Dec. 13, final labor negotiations in Camas have not been completed, and FVRL is in mediation to complete negotiations. I hope the city and the FVRL library will consider the norms for benefits in the community and keep benefits in line.

Margaret Tweet, Camas

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