Gelser Gets $4M Wishlist

Senator Sara Gelser (D-Corvallis) announced the sum of $4 million to be allocated across Linn and Benton Counties for key initiatives. The funds were made available through the $4 billion in federal aid targeted to Oregon under the American Rescue Plan Act.   

The bulk of the funds will be allocated through the regular budget process. However, each Oregon State Senator was given the authority to allocate $4 million and each State Representative was permitted to allocate $2 million to projects or initiatives of their choosing. The projects were required to be one time expenditures for initiatives or projects that could be completed before the end of 2024.  

“I chose to focus on initiatives that will significantly impact my constituents in visible ways. I was also looking for projects that would be unlikely to occur in the near future without these investments,” said Gelser. “In the end, the projects I identified will make kids safer, address the increased risk of fire in our rural communities, provide desperately needed education services to kids disproportionately impacted by COVID, create a lasting economic development opportunity for the COVID impacted food industry, and in one case literally allow a community to sleep better at night.”  

Gelser allocated funds to address education, transportation, fire and public safety issues, economic development, and safety in youth residential care. In choosing projects, she consulted with constituents, local government officials, local non-profit organizations, the local economic development agency, and community organizations.  

“Over $1 million in spending in this package is the direct result of letters of concern from constituents in Corvallis and Lewisburg prior to these funds being available,” said Gelser. “Because of the active engagement of my constituents, items such as the Oak Creek fire evacuation route and the Lewisburg Quiet Zone were at the top of my list. Without active constituents, I would not have known about these desperately needed project. This was an object lesson in how much of a difference individual citizens can make through their advocacy and communication with elected officials.”  

Gelser’s project list includes the following:  

Education  

Students in the Corvallis, Albany and Philomath School districts significantly impacted by COVID will benefit from significant investments ($1.4 million) in the two areas: 

  • Young adults with significant disabilities who would otherwise age out in 2021 or 2022 will receive 1-2 additional years of Community Transition/WINGS services. This investment will allow students to complete their modified or extended diplomas without sacrificing the transition services that help them prepare for work and independent living. 
  • Students who are unable to return to in-person school for the 2021-22 school year due to COVID risks, mental health challenges, or other issues that make the return to school transition challenging will receive enhanced access to synchronous learning with licensed teachers and synchronous social activities with their peers. 

Greater Albany Public Schools will receive $500,000, Corvallis School District will receive $725,000 and Philomath School district will receive $175,000 to carry out these initiatives.  

Wildfire, Fire and Emergency Medical Services 

A fire evacuation route/first responder access route will be built for the Oak Creek Area improving fire safety for hundreds of Benton County residents in a neighborhood at risk for wildfire and which has inadequate escape options. In addition, fire risk assessments will be completed for additional limited access neighborhoods at risk of wildfire in the Senate District 8 portion of Benton County. Unused funds from this allocation will be put towards fire mitigation efforts and projects in those neighborhoods. ($350,000) 

Radio repeaters will be replaced across Benton County, providing Fire and EMS professionals the modernized tools they need to respond to the needs of residents across the county. ($250,000)  

Livability and Rail Safety  

Permits, a railroad crossing arm, and construction costs necessary to complete a Quiet Zone in Millersburg will be funded. Currently, trains passing directly behind homes blow their horns in the middle of the night. A Quiet Zone will allow the horn to be silenced when the crossing arm is deployed. ($700,000)  

Improving Safety and Capacity in Youth Residential Programs  

Nearly 3000 staff working in children’s residential facilities statewide, including the Children’s Farm Home, will receive training in nonviolent crisis intervention. This will reduce trauma for kids, reduce injuries to staff and youth, improve staff retention and reduce workers’ compensation rates. ($750,000)   

Economic Development for COVID impacted Food Sector  

A new Food Hub and Food Products/Restaurant Business Incubator will be launched in South Corvallis. The incubator will support agriculture producers, manufacturers, restaurateurs, entrepreneurs, and innovators and strengthen the local food products sector. Funds will be used for the acquisition, remodeling, and development of the physical space for the Hub and for other program related startup costs. ($550,000)  

When Funding Will Come Through  

The funds will be finalized through the budget process before the adjournment of the 2021 session.  Once received, these funds will be allocated to Linn County, Benton County, the Linn Benton County ESD, and the Department of Human Services to carry out the projects specified in the allocation document.  

“Due to this process, there are meaningful projects that will be funded in every corner of the state. It’s been a great way to learn more about the communities across the state, and a unique opportunity for members to respond directly to unique needs in each district,” said Gelser. “I look forward to seeing these projects take shape across my district and am grateful for the opportunity to help launch them.”