Loan for development, Brooks gets millions for infrastructure improvements


Brooks has long been on the lookout for new commercial and residential developments.

Located a few miles north of Salem and Keizer along Interstate 5 and Highway 99E in unincorporated Marion County, the area has advantages such as road access, property taxes reduced and many undeveloped lands.

The communities of Brooks (the area east of I-5) and Hopmere (west of I-5) had a total of 1,567 employees despite only 543 residents, according to an October 2021 report.

But water – mainly its lack – and sewers have hampered development for decades in Brooks.

Business owners talk about the inability to get enough water for sprinkler systems. Building anything substantial requires drilling a well, expensive chemical fire suppression systems to meet building codes, or installing multiple fire doors.

And there are not many sources of funding for this kind of infrastructure improvement in this region.

Marion County has allocated $9.8 million for drinking water improvements in Brooks and $5 million for the sewer system of the $67.5 million it is given by the federal government under the American Rescue Plan Act.

“This is a generational investment,” said Marion County Commissioner Kevin Cameron. “So look at water and sewage for economic development.”

Workers harvest seedlings for processing at Brooks Tree Farm in Salem, Oregon, Monday, Feb. 21, 2022. A shortage of saplings is expected to replant areas of forest that have been destroyed by wildfires.

Water, or its lack

The water has always been tricky for Brooks.

Brooks’ only well that serves customers is owned by Chemeketa Community College and is located at its Brooks campus. He has owned it since 2008 when he received the well from Marion County Fire District #1.

The water district is not large: it had 17 customers in 2019. Most homeowners and businesses in the area have their own well, which is a bottleneck.

“One of the things that has been a problem for businesses in the area is that there is no community water system,” said Daniel Sullenger, vice president of Oregon Bath & Kitchen, based at Brooks, and Chairman of the Willamette Valley Christian Schools Board of Trustees.

Marion County allocated $14 million to Brooks, $9.8 million for drinking water improvements and $5 million for sewer systems in Brooks, Oregon on Friday, April 29, 2022.

In 2018, Chemeketa’s outdated pump needed replacing, and Marion County had to find the money to do it.

Property developers have sought to connect to the system but have not been allowed as it does not produce enough water.

When Willamette Valley Christian, a private school in Brooks, built a new gymnasium a few years ago, it was done with fireproof construction, meaning the building was all metal.

This increases construction costs.

Sewer service in the area is a bit better. It connects old septic tanks to a Covanta lagoon with about 250 pumps. But this system has been in place since 1991 and has not been updated since.

The question that arises in studies of the Brooks Hopmere area concludes that it needs water and wastewater improvements for the area to meet the projected demand for population and business expansion.

The area’s largest employer is NORPAC, a vegetable processing plant in Brooks now owned by Oregon Potato Company. Other large employers include May Trucking (200 employees), Pilot Travel Center (100) and Curry and Company (40). Chemeketa also attracts around 500 students to its Brooks campus.

The Oregon Department of Transportation is studying the Brooks Interchange for a potential project that would widen the interchange and widen Brooklake Road on Interstate 5. Project concepts are estimated at $57 million to $87 million, according to a presentation ODOT.

The Covanta Marion facility in Brooks.

ODOT has not identified funding for any project in the region. Marion County’s goal is to have all improvements in the area made before it does.

“There’s just a lot of opportunity in that particular area, and you can’t go too far because now you’re entering UFE land, you have to preserve that as well as find a place where we have the industrial “, says Cameron.

“And most of those things that I think you’ll see developing there will be agricultural and industrial. It’ll be processing, it’ll be those kinds of things, but you have to have water for that, you have to have sewers for it, so it’s a long term project, but I’m glad we’re doing it.

Of all the studies done on the area, no price tag has been put on needed or desired water and wastewater improvements. The combined $14 million likely won’t pay for all of the needed water and wastewater upgrades at Brooks. But it’s a start.

“We always know that if we can get to a certain point, you can get the next bucks to do it,” Cameron said. “The longer it takes, the higher it goes, right? But you must continue. We did the study, the water study, and then we asked for a little more detail on that. We are working on this with our existing economic development funds, which makes it a priority.

Money for other communities

Greg Benthin, the City of Gates Superintendent of Public Works, poses in front of the city's membrane water filtration system trains.

Marion County said it is allocating more than $26.4 million of its ARPA funding to water and sewer or septic projects for cities and service districts. These include:

  • $1 million for the Aumsville Wastewater Treatment System.
  • $1 million for upgrades to Aurora’s downtown water transmission line.
  • $1 million for water system upgrades in St. Paul.
  • $600,000 for a sewage treatment facility for the Fargo Interchange Service District, which provides sewers to the area around Ehlen Road and Interstate 5 at the Donald-Aurora Interchange.
  • $1 million for new drinking water wells for Donald.
  • $1 million for water system upgrades in Gates.
  • $1 million for water system upgrades in Hubbard.
  • $450,000 for the recirculation system for the new water treatment plant in Jefferson.
  • $1 million for sewer upgrades in Mill City.
  • $450,000 for a sanitary sewer line in Mt. Angel.
  • $500,000 for a 30 inch sanitary pipe on Ida Street in Stayton.
  • $1 million in water system upgrades at Sublimity.
  • $200,000 for a booster station in Turner and another $450,000 for a storm sewer for the city.
  • And $1 million for a sewage pump in Gervais.

Most of these projects had been planned for a long time, but the municipalities had no funding to go ahead.

Sublimity Mayor Jim Kingsbury said the upgrade will add a water tank on Boedigheimer Road and add a booster pump to ensure it provides sufficient water pressure in the event of a fire.

“It’s something, it was in our master plan, our water master plan, and it absolutely would have been a taxpayer-paid upgrade,” he said. “It was an upgrade that had to be paid for by city taxpayers. It actually saved Sublimity residents $1 million.

Money for other types of projects

Simon Watson, 8, plays on the swing at Keizer Rapids Park on October 26.

In other projects that Marion County is funding with ARPA funds, the county is spending $9 million to upgrade the county’s radio system, part of which was destroyed in the holiday wildfires. of Labor of 2020:

  • $3 million to help build the new Salem Homeless Navigation Center.
  • $1 million to build a new Hope Pregnancy Clinic and rebuild a food bank in Woodburn, which was destroyed in a fire.
  • And $2 million to build turf soccer and football fields at Keizer Rapids Park.

This would go towards the proposed $4.2 million development of sod fields in the regional park.

Marion County Commissioner Colm Willis said during his first election as commissioner in 2019 that he learned about a football program through 4-H when people involved in the program had spoken to the Commissioners about it.

Although this soccer program no longer exists, the need for fields on which young people can play still exists.

“As we were thinking about what to do with our ARPA money, one of the things that came up was the ability for the kids to have a place to play, and for this type of program to continue where your ability to play sports is not dependent on how much money your parents earn,” Willis said.

In the plan, Keizer Rapids Park would end up with two grass fields, as well as bleachers and lights on undeveloped park property.

Bill Poehler covers Marion County for the Statesman Journal. Contact him at[email protected]


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