‘You all just relax,’ commissioner tells citizens concerned about Wichita Center


Dozens of people showed up to the meeting of Clackamas County commissioners meeting on Feb. 29 to support the Wichita Center.

Dozens of people recently showed up to protest Clackamas County commissioners’ decision to terminate an agreement to provide food pantry, clothing closet, toiletry essentials and access to a variety of partner agencies serving homeless youth and families.

North Clackamas school officials say that the commissioners’ decision to end the agreement early could impact the school district’s ability to provide community services out of the Wichita Center location starting June 30.

North Clackamas School Board member Mitzi Bauer again called on county commissioners to sell Wichita School back to the school district for $1, but the county’s elected officials repeated their assertion about Wichita’s $1.37 million valuation in 2018 as part of a property exchange with the parks district. With the two numbers so far apart, Bauer expressed concern about an impasse.

“I’m heartened to hear that you are moving forward and you’re committed to these services, but as you spoke, you know you need to do your executive session, you need to do transparency. We need to do that also, so we need to get this moving,” Bauer told commissioners during their Feb. 29 meeting.

Since the time of Wichita’s six-year-old valuation, the building’s roof has fallen further into disrepair, along with seismic upgrades estimated to far exceed the 2018 valuation. School district officials say that Clackamas County created a precedent in selling land and buildings in September 2020 to Parrott Creek Child & Family Services for $1.


North Clackamas School Board member Mitzi Bauer provided testimony to Clackamas County commissioners on Feb. 29.

County Commissioner Paul Savas sees the sale of Parrott Creek for $1 as “not an apples-to-apples comparison. He said that he also serves in the position of an NCPRD Board member whose job is to “work in the best interest of the parks district and recognize its financial circumstance, which is completely different than the financial position of the county.”

Newly released documents show that Clackamas County Chair Tootie Smith signed the latest intergovernmental agreement with the school district in 2022, which provided NCPRD free access to fields and required the school district to replace turf. Pamplin Media Group had requested that Clackamas County release all three signed intergovernmental agreements between the school district and North Clackamas Parks.

As envisioned by the original agreement, NCPRD would use Wichita for parks and recreation activities at the end of a transition period scheduled to end in 2020. But NCPRD then allocated its budget for community centers at another location, and in 2020 the transition period was extended to 2026 to provide more time for a transition plan.

Original 2018 agreement

In December, county commissioners provided notice to terminate the agreement early without consulting NCSD or the North Clackamas parks advisory board. Clackamas County commissioners said that the school district’s interest in purchasing the property spurred them to decide, behind closed doors, to end the agreement early.

2020 amendment to intergovernmental agreement

County Commissioner Mark Shull said transparency is a “very important thing, but again, these negotiations and discussions on the future of the Wichita School has been done in executive session in accordance with state law, so that makes transparency difficult.”

Shull said that the county intends to resolve the situation before its termination of the agreement in June.

Shull stated: “I hope to get this resolved as soon as possible to keep kids in the school and the school that they could they are familiar with and maintain those services. Um, but at the same time, it’s important that everybody understand that we’re in a changing time of budgets, county budgets and in this case the North Clackamas County, uh, Parks and Recreation District budget so that’s why we need to make changes and I, I, uh, would like to reassure you all just relax, and I think in the next, oh the near future before the end of the school year, we’ll get this thing resolved, hopefully.”

Leslie Robinette, a recent retiree who worked in public education for 18 years, is helping organize the campaign to save the Wichita Center. Robinette said she saw daily the life-changing difference that Wichita services made on children who need the programs.

2022 amendment to intergovernmental agreement

Robinette told the county elected officials: “I remember the high school girl who showed up asking for help wearing her sister’s shoes two sizes too small. She needed black shoes and black pants so she could start a job at a movie theater. Her family was burdened with medical debt, and she got the job to help pay their rent. I remember the single dad with three small boys who started coming to the food pantry when his employer abruptly closed the business, leaving him unemployed. They came for groceries every week for two months until he found his new job. I remember the youth soccer coach who unexpectedly became a foster parent to one of her former players who had been living alone on the streets. The sixth-grade boy arrived with nothing. He needed clothes, shoes, a warm jacket and pajamas.”

Over the years, Robinette has managed a food pantry, clothes closet and school district dental program.

“Wichita services provide a lifeline for children impacted by difficult circumstances so I’m very grateful you have offered North Clackamas schools an exclusive opportunity to purchase the property,” Robinette told the county commissioners. “Please move quickly to negotiate a deal that will allow these children support programs to continue without disruption. The school district is doing amazing work on a very tight budget. Thank you for doing all you can to support that.”

Clackamas County officials have also attempted to clear up some confusion over whether the parks district is planning to transfer Wichita ownership to the county or the school district. NCPRD’s assessment of Wichita, to help it determine next steps for the property, was dated Nov. 22 and raised the possibility of selling the property to the county. The county’s FAQ sheet from Feb. 24 said that NCPRD offered NCSD an “exclusive opportunity to purchase the property.”

County spokesperson Scott Anderson said, “Once it became clear North Clackamas School District was interested in purchasing the site, the option of selling to the county was put on hold. To this date, all options are still under consideration and no decision has been made. At this time, as per our joint statement with North Clackamas School District, we will provide public updates as progress in our discussions is made.”


Recent Blogs