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PCC holds forums in Columbia County

College officials ask Scappoose, St. Helens residents what they want from new center


by: SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: ROBIN JOHNSON - Columbia County residents discuss the presence of a Portland Community College building in the county during a forum at the Scappoose High School library.Portland Community College held two public forums this week in Scappoose and St. Helens to gather information from residents about what they would like to see at a proposed PCC center in Columbia County.

PCC posted flip-chart boards with specific questions at the meetings for community members to answer. The questions ranged from “What student services are most important?” to “If you only took one course, what would it be?”

Sandra Fowler-Hill, campus president of PCC’s Rock Creek campus, said that while “everybody wants everything,” there were some specific takeaways from the meetings. She said residents felt basic and advanced computer courses are needed, as well as pre-manufacturing and pre-employment courses with an industrial focus.

Among other things, Fowler-Hill said residents want courses to prepare students to have basic work ethics and work safety. She added PCC would likely offer a broad range of courses that accommodate transfer and high-school students.

PCC is considering possible locations in both Scappoose, where it held a forum Tuesday, and St. Helens, which had its forum Wednesday.

While PCC has been considering developing land in the Scappoose Industrial Airpark for the past four years, the land in question falls within a contested proposed urban growth boundary expansion in Scappoose of 365 acres.

State Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, said she feels classes at PCC are highly compatible with the airport, and noted that the Rock Creek campus offers a number of aviation-related courses already.

“It will start modestly, even though I don’t want it to,” Johnson said. “What we’re looking for is a center with ample room for expansion and with physical attributes to the site.”

Meanwhile, the city of St. Helens is in talks about acquiring the site of the former Boise Inc. paper mill. A team of experts from the American Institute of Architects said last month the property could host a community college campus.

While St. Helens has yet to gain the Boise land on which a PCC center might sit, the Scappoose location has its own obstacles.

The city’s UGB expansion has been tied up in appeal by two opponents, causing PCC to consider other properties for its Columbia County educational facility.

Johnson said the appeals, handed down by Scappoose attorney Mike Sheehan and former Columbia County resident Pat Zimmerman, highlight a greater problem with land-use policy.

“Our land-use process is cumbersome,” she said. “What works in dense metropolitan centers does not work in rural areas. We cannot allow our land-use system to inhibit and to limit economic development. This isn’t working.”

Zimmerman and Sheehan have appealed Oregon Land Conservation and Development Commission decisions in favor of the UGB expansion.

Zimmerman believes the job and population statistics used by Scappoose to validate its growth goals to the LCDC are false.

Sheehan said in an earlier interview with the Spotlight he is not opposed to incremental development, but the development advanced by Airpark Development LLC in the proposed UGB area was based on bringing 8,000 jobs to Scappoose, a number he believes “looked nutty.”