SPRINGFIELD – The pandemic has demonstrated that more preparation is needed in instances of sudden change, and Lane County commissioners are evaluating ways to open more housing and recovery opportunities during a crisis.

In the past two years Lane County has faced a 50-year snowstorm, 100-year flood, wildfires, a global pandemic, and now extreme heat.

One of the initiatives is building a covid-recovery center at 100 River Ave. for people that would house 75 to 90 beds, purchased for $1.8 million, with about another $1 million in renovations coming from federal resources, said Steve Mokrohisky, county administrator. 

County Commissioner Joe Berney said “we need to be better prepared for emergencies and disasters even if we considered their occurance a rare possibility, even if it is unknown whether the County Board of Commissioners will be replenishing the reserve fund.”

Mokrohisky said the county has spent the past several years building up the reserve budget in preparation for an emergency; then two major emergencies occurred within the course of a year. The reserve has been spent, but money from the American Rescue Plan will help replenish it, as well as help in the larger recovery efforts. 

“Lets control the assets and repurpose them as needed because we don’t have enough assets for people to begin with,” Berney said. Seventy housing units have recently opened in Springfield, behind Fred Meyer on G St., with plans for nearly another 150 units, he said.

“This crazy housing market is leaving a lot of people behind,” Berney said.

County government, Berney said, is the default entity to provide those services.

The events of the past year have been an escalated learning experience, and Lane County has kept up where it can, commissioners said. 

“We’ve got to keep steadfastly focused on solutions,” Berney said. “We have to lobby Salem for money, and we’ve been able to secure funds that will be coming into the county and Springfield to deal with multiple issues.”