Close encounter

One of Oregon's two U.S. senators, Jeff Merkley, talks with one of his constituents after a town hall meeting ended Wednesday evening at the Tillamook County Library's main branch in Tillamook.

Merkley focuses on Wheeler water woes

 
 
 
Oregon's U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley came to Tillamook County for a town hall Wednesday.
He did more than just visit Tillamook County Library's main branch and speak to approximately 60 people.
He was able to squeeze in a tour of Wheeler with Mayor Stevie Borden – focusing the water drainage problems which caused flooding and also closed down postal service in the town.
“He walked all over town and got a really good look,” Burden said after the town hall. “He was there for about 45 minutes today and can't believe he called the Post Office when he asked about whether or not it would be open.“
He was told by the person at the post office building that he didn't know and that Merkley would have to call the man's mother.
“He asked for her number and apparently between Wheeler and here (Tillamook) he got the answer. So, we may get a post office,” Burden added.
“We have been getting general delivery mail in Nehalem since December. We have citizens who are retired. We have citizens who work shifts. We can only pick up our mail between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. and not at lunchtime.
“We have no boxes. Our mail has been messed up since December. With the senator's help today, we can hope it gets expedited,” Burden said.
The wet portion of the tour focused on a culvert in central Wheeler that was built a long tome ago. “There is a culvert that was put in about 75 years ago that runs from the bottom of the hillside to our post office and down ubder Highway 101 out into the river.
“It should have been replaced about 50 years ago, but we just can't afford it. We are just a small municipality.
“I was giving the senator a look at what we are up against. I am so glad we are going to have a new post office, but I don't want to go through the same thing in a couple of years when we have the same flooding all over again,” the mayor explained. “A little prevention is worth a pound of cure in my world.
The post office building was damaged by the flooding in December, forcing the mail to be handled in Nehalem.
The wet water tour of Wheeler may an impression on the senator.
“The mayor gave me a good tour to show me how the post office was damaged in the first place. There used to be a stream that was turned into a culvert a long time ago. When that culvert gets plugged, the waters overflow. You can see that little basin in there that fills up.
“The challenge is in fixing the culvert,” Merkley explained. The city is looking for funding sources, he added.
The flooding problems exacerbated by blocked culverts are not only a problem for Wheeler and surrounding communities, but has also been a problem for some communities along the Columbia River. “There were some very similar situations,” he added, pointing to the town of Rainier.
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