Powers that be
Urban Needs—Rural Government
Part 4: Our Urban Service Providers
by Bruce Bartlett
In the previous articles in our series on the governance of Cedar Mill, we reviewed some history of the development of the area, how annexation into cities has occurred (and not occurred), and described the Special Service Districts that serve the area. In this article we will explain the critical services needed by an urban community and how those services are provided in Cedar Mill. In other regions of the country, some cities provide most or all of these services to residents. (Public non-profit agencies are listed in green and for-profit providers are listed in gold.)
In this discussion, a reference to the “urban unincorporated area” (uua) refers to Cedar Mill. The services can be divided into physical services, safety and criminal justice services, and transportation services. Next month we will discuss community services which are typically provided by cities and are mostly lacking in the “uua.”
Water: The Tualatin Valley Water District (TVWD - www.tvwd.org) provides water to much of Washington County. TVWD has two primary sources for the 22 million gallons of water we use each day on average, (70% residential, 30% commercial). TVWD purchases a majority of our water from the City of Portland’s Bull Run Watershed. TVWD’s other water source is the Joint Water Commission (JWC) comprised of the Tualatin Valley Water District and the Cities of Hillsboro, Beaverton, Tigard and Forest Grove. These cities each purchase some or all their water from the JWC, with Beaverton and “uua’s” primarily served directly by TVWD. The JWC controls water contained in Hagg Lake (Scoggins Reservoir) and Barney Reservoir in the upper reach of the Tualatin River. TVWD will stop getting water from Portland within a decade and all our water will come from the JWC at that point.
Sanitary sewer: Sewage treatment for all of Washington County is provided by Clean Water Services (CWS - www.cleanwaterservices.org). The various award-winning treatment facilities clean about 60 million gallons of wastewater on an average day, discharging water so clean it actually improves Tualatin River water quality.
Storm water management: Clean Water Services also manages surface water for all of urban Washington County. In cooperation with Washington County and the 12 cities in the district, CWS builds, maintains and enhances the public drainage system to meet public needs and to comply with strict water quality regulations set for the Tualatin River drainage area by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). CWS plays a big role in water quality, stream and watershed protection.
Air quality protection: DEQ (www.oregon.gov/DEQ) monitors air quality statewide. It inspects vehicles for emission levels. Wood heating stoves are a significant source of air pollution in Cedar Mill.
Streetlights: Cities provide streetlights for their residents. In the “uua,” residents may form a Local Lighting District and tax themselves to provide neighborhood streetlights. Washington County provides lighting on other roads.
Animal control: The Washington County Animal Services & Bonnie L. Hays Small Animal Shelter (www.co.washington.or.us/deptmts/at/dog/dog.htm) provides care and protection for an estimated 80,000 dogs and 90,000 cats. Cities rely on this countywide service.
Refuse removal and recycling: The Washington County Solid Waste & Recycling Division (www.co.washington.or.us/deptmts/hhs/wste_rcy/swr.htm) provides overall management of waste collection and disposal in “uua’s” through the franchised services of 26 different haulers. Walker Garbage (walkergarbage.com) is our hauler in Cedar Mill. Metro controls rates and other aspects of the region’s solid waste disposal. Recyclewise is the recycling information website.
Electricity: All of Washington County gets its electricity from Portland General Electric (PGE - www.portlandgeneral.com) except the City of Forest Grove which has its own local Public Utility District. On the local level, PGE is responsible for all utility poles. They provide and maintain streetlights under contract with the county.
Natural Gas: All of Washington County receives its natural gas from NW Natural (www.nwnatural.com). They deliver gas to residential, commercial, and industrial customers in Oregon and southwest Washington. NW Natural buys natural gas from suppliers in the western U.S. and Canada and owns the pipes and infrastructure that transport natural gas.
Telecommunication and Utilities: Numerous companies provide telecommunication services. Landline and mobile phone, fiber optic and cable lines all provide access to the Internet. Verizon provides the majority of the landline telephone services and Comcast provides cable, although both are busy competing in each other’s traditional service area these days.
Safety and Criminal Justice
Fire and Rescue service: All of the “uua,” as well as Beaverton and eight other cities in western Washington County, plus parts of urban unincorporated Clackamas and Multnomah Counties receive fire and rescue services from Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue (TVF&R - www.tvfr.com). 22 fire stations are spread throughout the district with a target response time of six minutes to your house or business. Only about 25% of their calls are for fire protection; the majority of their calls are for medical response, incident control (traffic accidents) and rescue. Some cities, such as Hillsboro and Forest Grove, provide their own fire and rescue service, .
Emergency preparedness and services: The Washington County Office of Consolidated Emergency Management (OCEM - www.ocem.org) develops and maintains a county-wide, integrated system to prepare for, respond to, recover from, and mitigate against disasters. OCEM comprises Beaverton, Tigard, Hillsboro, Washington County, and Tualatin Valley Fire and Rescue. Its office is at the TVF&R administration office. Additionally, the Oregon National Guard provides large-scale safety and rescue services (when they are not in Iraq).
Ambulance service: MetroWest Ambulance is the oldest continuous owner-operated ambulance service in the State of Oregon. Owned by the Fuiten family, Metro West has provided ambulance service since 1953, starting from a base operation in Forest Grove and expanding into a Washington County-wide service in 1997. Metro West has a five year franchise for 9-1-1 emergency medical services in all of Washington County. They work closely with TVF&R.
Police service: Law enforcement is provided in a tiered fashion where responsibilities are well defined. All cities in Washington County provide their own police departments. The “uua” is served by the Washington County Sheriff’s Department (www.co.washington.or.us/cgi/sheriff/lec.pl)and, as described in the January News, the Enhanced Sheriff’s Patrol District (ESPD). provides police protection additional to the basic level provided through out the county (to be similar to that provided by a city).The county provides jail space for all offenders so cities only need to provide their own holding space. If an offender’s sentence is less than 1 year, that sentence is served in either the county’s jail or at the Community Correction facility both of which are in Hillsboro. For sentences greater than 1 year, offenders are placed in an Oregon State correction facility.
Justice and the courts: Washington County provides all parts of the justice system: prosecution, public defenders, judges and courts. Of special note is Washington County’s Drug Court which allows non-violent drug offenders to receive intensive community-based treatment instead of incarceration. The Drug Court exclusively deals with methamphetamine users due to the extreme nature of that drug’s culture and the unique damage it causes.
Roads: Transportation planning uses about a 20 year horizon, that is it looks 20 years into the future and predicts how and where the population will grow and what kind or transportation system will be needed. Land use planning agencies at all levels of government work together in designing and building the ways we get around.
The Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1944 created the Interstate highway system. This system provides the large-scale principle arterial roads that cross state boundaries like Interstate-5, I-84 and I-205.
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT - www.oregon.gov/ODOT) has responsibility for the next-largest-scale roads (and their on- and off-ramps) like Highway 26 to the beach and Hwy 30 along the Columbia River to Astoria. Most of the county, including Cedar Mill, is in ODOT Region 1.
The Washington County Land Use & Transportation Department Capital Project Management Division (www.co.washington.or.us/deptmts/lut/cap_proj/cap_proj.htm) provides all aspects of capital transportation projects, building county roads, bridges, intersections and making system improvements. County roads include major arterial roads like Walker , Cornell and Saltzman Roads. County roads are maintained by county’s Operations and Maintenance Division.
Cities have responsibility for all the streets within their jurisdictions except for County, State and Federal roads. In Cedar Mill, this includes roads inside the city limits of Beaverton like stretches of Barnes by the Teufel development and Cornell along Sunset High School, as well as all the streets that connect neighborhoods within Beaverton.
In the “uua,” the county is responsible for maintaining all the urban/suburban neighborhood streets that are built to county standards. Maintenance is paid for by the Urban Road Maintenance District (URMD), another Special Service District discussed in the January edition. As a result of the URMD tax, most roads in Cedar Mill are now in good shape.
Sidewalks and pedestrian facilities: In general, cities have the responsibility to improve neighborhood streets within their boundaries to modern standards, which means sidewalks and other pedestrian facilities are provided as needed. Washington County, on the other hand, does not have the same mandate for the “uua” and only builds sidewalks along new county road projects. Other new sidewalks are only provided as part of a development and then are only required along the frontage of the development. The county rarely requires developments to perform off-site improvements and only maintains sidewalks to whatever standard they are constructed. This accounts for the disappointing lack of sidewalk continuity and the legendary gaps in the sidewalk system in Cedar Mill.
Bike lanes: Similarly, cities focus mostly on local travel which ensures bikes lanes and other bicyclist facilities are added to city streets, while the county builds bike lanes only on new construction projects.
Transit service: While much could be written, Cedar Mill has bus and light rail service provided by TriMet (www.trimet.org). In addition, TriMet provides a portion of the Cedar Mill area with transit service through the Cedar Mill Shuttle, a van that provides service between your door and the Sunset Transit Center. Visit www.trimet.org/schedules/cmshuttle.htm to learn more. You can register for regular shuttle service through the website and request service by phone.
Airports: The Port of Portland (www.flypdx.com) controls major airports including the Hillsboro Airport. Other smaller airports are privately owned and Washington County is addressing further regulation of these as the population grows more dense.
[Special thanks to Marc SanSoucie for the original list of services]