EUGENE, Ore. (KMTR) -- The future of the Lane Regional Air Protection Agency (LRAPA) is up in the air as local county and city governments are trying to figure out if the thousands of dollars they pay to fund the agency is worth it.
Eugene, Springfield, Cottage Grove, Oakridge and Lane County’s governments all met on Tuesday, November 27 to talk about the future of LRAPA.
Collectively, the five governments pay about $121,000 worth of dues each year into LRAPA. But with tight budgets, some are wondering if the money is well spent and what would happen if LRAPA was dissolved.
LRAPA was established in 1968 as a way to meet state and federal air quality rules and regulations. The agency is responsible for air quality monitoring and reporting, complaint response, air quality progress reports, local ordinance implementation like open burn permitting and more.
A recent report generated by LRAPA says that without the agency, each local government would stand to pay significantly more money for what is required by state and Federal air quality law.
Under its estimates, LRAPA says Eugene would pay about $251,887 a year to do the work LRAPA does. Springfield would pay around $92,279; Cottage Grove, about $40,503; Oakridge, about $135,078 and Lane County would pay about $160,963. That adds up to $680,710.
Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy and City Councilor Pat Farr along with Oakridge Mayor Jerry Shorey, Cottage Grove City Councilor Mike Fleck and Lane County Commissioners Jay Bozievich and Rob Handy all agreed on Tuesday that they like the work LRAPA does and want to continue funding the agency.
However, Commissioner Jay Bozievich raised the question of how the agency will continue to be funded. Bozievich said that the current method of funding through in-kind contributions is not working. In the recent years, the City of Springfield, City of Eugene and Lane County have cut or reduced dues to LRAPA because pf financial issues with the general fund budget.
LRAPA only receives its funding based on Federal government matching dollars. Even though the agency has been short matching dollars in the last few years, the Federal government has been okay with the unmatched funds. However, there’s a concern that LRAPA will not receive those funds at some point.
"We're already under the microscope because of some other grant activities with the Federal government. I don't want to . . . come under the microscope again, so I think we need to resolve that issue moving forward and determine that we're either going to provide budget for LRAPA or we need to look at another model of some kind,” said Jay Bozievich, a Lane County Commissioner.
If LRAPA were to dissolve, one of the most significant impacts would be on air quality permits for industries and businesses, also air quality violation complaint response. Those would all have to go through the DEQ in Salem. DEQ officials admitted on Tuesday that both permitting and complaint response would likely take longer to deal with than LRAPA can mainly because of the present workload. The DEQ says long-term air quality issues in Lane County would be prioritized along with the rest of the requests from around the state. Currently, Klamath County and Lakeview have more pressing air quality concerns compared to Lane County, according to the DEQ.
The local governments are still trying to come up with a way to keep funding LRAPA more sustainably. Commissioners also discussed Tuesday the idea of returning some local control of open burning permits and authority to local fire agencies. Currently, LRAPA does all burn permitting for Lane County.