For the first time since its inception the Metro Community Enhancement Grants program is expanding.
Beginning July 1, the program will be rolling out to four additional regional waste facilities, and the fee that funds the program will be doubling in its first ever increase.
These changes mean an expected $856,000 will be collected to support the communities that host these facilities in the 2015-16 program cycle. That’s an additional $539,000 in grant funds from the current 2014-2015 program.
When the original program was added to the Metro Code in 1990 its chapter did not incorporate what it would look like to implement at new facilities, nor the steps necessary to increase the fee collected, said Bill Metzler, solid waste planner with Metro.
A team of Metro planners began to review the program in late 2013. After speaking with the jurisdictions that would be new to the program and considering state laws, the team proposed a new ordinance to the Metro Council. The ordinance was adopted in October of 2014, and will be implemented with the next program cycle on July 1.
“It’s a continuation and improvement of the program and allows these other jurisdictions to come in and participate,” Metzler said.
The facilities joining the program are Willamette Resources, Inc. in Wilsonville, the Troutdale Transfer Station, Suttle Road Recovery in Portland, and Pride Recycling in Sherwood.
“It’s expected to bring in $70,000, based on previous tonnage, to do a variety of projects in town, which is always welcome,” said Joseph Gall, city manager of Sherwood.
Leaders in Sherwood have identified two key projects on the list of potential projects for the first round of grants supported by this program – expanding the recycling program in city parks and facilities, and developing the city’s first community garden.
“After July 1st we will advertise, if there are any other non-profits that have projects, we’ll go through that process,” said Gall. “We need to learn how to do the process. Councilor Dirksen will be part of the discussion. It will get to a point where we’ll probably have too many good projects to choose from.”
The expansion is seen by many leaders, community members, and even facility owners, as a leveling of the playing field. All facilities in the region will have the same costs to the user, and all communities host to a facility will see the benefits of this grant program.
“I am pleased that Metro's Community Enhancement grant program is expanding to include all cities in the Portland metro region that host garbage disposal facilities, and now the city of Troutdale will also participate,” said Metro Councilor Shirley Craddick, in an email. “These are funds that will be available to the Troutdale community for economic opportunities, neighborhood livability improvements, public safety and more; a thank you for being a host community. There are many exciting initiatives already occurring in the city that these funds may be able to help.”
In addition to the $222,000 that will come in through the new programs, the current programs at the Metro Central, Metro South, and Forest Grove transfer stations will see their programs increase by $317,000 when the fee changes from $0.50 to $1 per ton. The current fee has never been increased; the new fee matches the state of Oregon’s legal allowance.
“I’m a big advocate of this program because I see, on the ground, the real difference it makes in our community,” said David Frasher, city manager in Oregon City. “These dollars really have enhanced our community in really meaningful ways, that people can see. There are projects that just would not have happened without these funds.”
Oregon City is host to the Metro South Transfer Station, which currently raises $133,000 each program year, projected to be $266,000 in the upcoming cycle.
“We’ve also been able to leverage opportunities for students in our schools to get involved in construction projects and public works, and give them great experience,” said Frasher.
Each jurisdiction is working to coordinate how they will manage their funds, which will be collected by Metro and passed to each committee responsible for the local program on a quarterly basis.