|Couple battles setbacks to keep youth ranch operating|
|April 27, 2012 09:58 pm|
GOLD BEACH – Bonnie Paasch and her husband Chris spent $500,000 to build the Dreams, Hope and Faith Foundation ranch for underprivileged youth only to be told by a state fire marshal that the centerpiece show arena and group gathering place is not up to code, she said.
Instead of immediately closing the foundation, Paasch contacted elected officials, the Oregon state fire marshal’s office and wrote a letter to the Curry Coastal Pilot to voice her concerns and see what else could be done.
“It’s frustrating,” Paasch said. “My husband and I ... put a half million dollars into this of our own money. We just wanted to give back.”
Dreams Hope and Faith, a nonprofit, is located on 480-acre Cornerstone Ranch in Gold Beach. The website is www.dreamshope andfaith.com.
It offers acres to roam, a horse arena, a greenhouse to learn how to garden, a music studio to learn to play and record music, a multi-purpose room for youth groups or family nights, a metal and wood shop room to learn the art of these crafts, and horse sessions to provide therapy or to teach youth to ride horses.
More than 100 children enjoyed the ranch until Oregon Deputy State Fire Marshall Charlie Chase visited the ranch two months ago. Based on the way the 16,000 square-foot agricultural building was constructed, no more than 10 people can be in it at a time for it to be fire safe, which means it can’t be used for horse shows and public gatherings – the entire reason it was built.
Paasch also was told by Chase, she wrote in her letter to the Curry Coastal Pilot, that exit signs, a hand rail, plugging in a soda machine with an extension cord and larger fire extinguishers were all needed.
“It just kind of gets you really disheartened when you’re trying to do the right thing.”
Attempts to contact Chase were unsuccessful, but Oregon Assistant Chief Deputy Fire Marshal Stacy Warner, Chase’s supervisor, was available for comment.
He said “all we did was ask the owner of the property to contact the county to clarify the documency classification, and let us know what they say. It’s between the property owner and the county.”
Paasch admits that she didn’t read the fine print when getting building permits, but she thought the building was up to code.
When getting permits, Paasch talked to people involved with planning at the Curry County Public Services Department and told them of her plans to use the agricultural building for public gatherings. Paasch was told that would be fine, she said.
Paasch had the agricultural building designed by an engineer from a reputable steel company who examined the building codes as well, she said.
“I thought that I’d done everything right,” she said. “I want to be safe.
“The problem is, they have so many laws and regulations nowadays that nobody can keep up with them.”
When Paasch contacted Warner, she was told it’s not up to the fire marshal as far as what the county allows to happen to the building.
When Paasch inquired about the countless 4-H buildings in Oregon that host horse shows in agricultural buildings, Warner explained the problem is, people have taken advantage of the system. There have been agricultural buildings basically built out of matchsticks that have collapsed.
“I think the biggest point is, there are hundreds of horse facilities that would be in the same situation just in our county, let alone the whole state of Oregon. And they’re very aware of it, so why doesn’t Charlie (Chase) go after them?” Paasch said.
Paasch also contacted the Curry County commissioners.
Curry County employees and Commissioner Bill Waddle visited the property.
After looking at the property, Waddle told her “Great, what can we do to help her? This is a wonderful thing for our county.”
Other county employees told Paasch there should be other types of permits she can get.
Paasch didn’t stop there.
She contacted State Rep. Wayne Krieger’s office.
After Paasch explained the situation to Krieger’s legislative aide, he looked into the matter.
“I think it’s totally inappropriate for any agency to be a roadblock for things that are good for our community,” he told the Pilot.
Krieger is working to find a way to get the Dreams Hope and Faith agricultural building in compliance.
Krieger said that there are special types of events that people can do on agricultural land with a conditional land permit.
“There’s always a way to get the yes, and benefit society and the kids and everybody involved. In this case you’re not hurting the environment, so what’s the problem?” Krieger said.
He said it is the responsibility of the agency involved to help guide Paasch through the process so that the agency can provide a service.
Krieger also is in contact with the State Fire Marshal’s office. It is Krieger’s understanding Chase has been pulled from the project.
Krieger decided to get involved in the matter because legislators are often called upon by their constituents, he said.
“We need people in the community who want to step up and do things like that, and bear the expense for the benefit of other people,” he said. “We surely should be encouraging that all we can.”
Paasch’s option right now is to write a letter to people in the Building section of the Curry County Public Services Department that includes what Dreams Hope and Faith will be used for. The county will then see what it can do to find a happy medium, she said.
For now, Paasch will continue to use the ranch for small activities such as horse sessions while she decides what to do.
“It’s kind of at a spot right now where it’s just resting,” she said.