$56,000 of Lebanon loan leftovers went to program

LEBANON — As a father who raised his family in Alaska, Lebanon city finance director Dean Baugh is used to writing some big checks for groceries.

But never one for more than $56,000.

At least not until Thursday, when Baugh purchased that amount of food at the Linn Benton Food Share in Tangent, to be used to feed Lebanon residents until it runs out.

The story of how this large food purchase came to pass dates back to the 1980s, when the city of Lebanon began taking part in a federal community housing rehabilitation program. Loans were given to low-income residents who needed to make improvements to their homes, such as a new roof or septic system.

“They were no-interest loans that were repaid when the homeowner either refinanced or sold their property,” Baugh told the city council on Wednesday. “There are about 35 to 40 loans still out.”

The city had been allowed to keep any income from repayments that totaled less than $25,000 per year and spend it as needed, Baugh said. The city has traditionally earmarked that money for building improvements.

Any income over $25,000 per year had to be used for further housing rehab projects, Baugh said.

Now, the program is being phased out by the end of February. Lebanon needed to disburse income from recent years and transfer its outstanding loans to the Willamette Neighborhood Housing Service.

The $56,000 was money accumulated over the last three or four years.

Accounts at the food share will be set up for food banks that serve Lebanon residents: Caring Team Ministry, FISH of Lebanon, the Lord’s Storehouse, St. Vincent de Paul, Trinity Baptist Church, Lebanon Soup Kitchen and Lebanon Gleaners.

“Linn Benton Food Share will allow these groups to pick up the food as it’s needed,” Baugh said. “It will help a lot of people.”

Baugh said this will “zero out” the program on his books.

“I was told by letter to get the loans off my books by Feb. 28,” Baugh said. “It basically defederalizes the money.”

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Alex Paul is the Linn County reporter for the Democrat-Herald. He can be contacted at 541-812-6114 or alex.paul@lee.net.