Dan Gibson NW Natural helping Vernonia rebuild

Another great story about a natural gas utility doing great work in their community. This time it’s NW Natural. The small city of Vernonia, Oregon was hit in December 2007 with a 500-year flood of historic proportions. This would have been bad enough in itself but the city was still recovering from a similar flood that occurred in 1996 that decimated the region.

The flooding from Rock Creek and the Nehalem River left much of the city’s public infrastructure and property  damaged or destroyed. Half of the district’s 2,200 homes suffered damage, 800 of which were substantially damaged. More than 100 homes were deemed to be beyond repair. The elementary school, middle school and high school were left uninhabitable after five feet of water poured into the buildings.

But instead of giving up, the people of Vernonia devised a plan to rebuild those schools that are so essential to every community. They call this plan the CATALYST plan.

The plans diverse group of community leaders selected a site and developed the master plan for the new campus. In November 2009, the community approved a $13 million bond – the down payment toward the $37 million price tag to rebuild three schools. NW Natural has already stepped up with a significant contribution and is encouraging others to do the same.

You can get the full scoop over at  Oregon Solutions but here are some details on the plans for the schools.

  • Carefully located in a central, accessible and safe location high above the flood plain;
  • Built for current classroom capacity and at least 30 years of projected population growth;
  • The first LEED Platinum-certified public K-12 building in the country which will lower operating costs considerably in the long term;
  • Designed with “green” environmental features and indoor/outdoor spaces that provide powerful learning opportunities and curricula that link to emerging Oregon economic opportunities;
  • A unique-to-Oregon integrated K-12 model; and
  • A case study in investing in schools as a means to stimulate rural economic development and recovery.

Here’s a video snippet on the project. If you’re working on this, let us know in the comments.

Dan Gibson

About Dan Gibson

Dan Gibson has lived on the web for more than 14 years. His travels have included the IEEE Computer Society, United Rentals, the National Association of Workforce Boards and the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals to name a few. The different perspectives he has gained from these various roles has enabled Dan to have a comprehensive view of the web, and the messages and conversations that happen there.
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