Prineville loses funding for Ninth Street project

Federal appropriation would have contributed $1M to realignment

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin

Published: December 29. 2006 5:00AM PST

The city of Prineville has lost $1 million in federal transportation funding for its proposed Ninth Street realignment, potentially delaying the start of construction on the project by two years.

Assistant City Manager Jerry Gillham said he was informed last week – just before the presentation of a final report on the project’s potential socio-economic impact – that the city will not be awarded $1 million through the Federal Highway Administration’s 2007 budget.

That is because the new Democratic leadership in the U.S. Congress has pledged to remove earmarks from appropriations bills for 2007. In July, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $1 million for the approximately $3.7 million project.

The funding for the Ninth Street arterial would have appeared as a line item in the Federal Highway Administration’s budget, said Mike Morrow, field operations engineer for the Highway Administration’s Salem office. Instead, Congress will use a continuing resolution so that the Highway Administration will operate off its 2006 funding levels, Morrow said. That means earmarks that were not in the 2006 budget won’t receive funding.

“This arterial extension on Ninth was not ever a fully funded project. It was just in a draft budget that didn’t get approved and probably won’t for ’07,” Morrow said. “It doesn’t mean that the project necessarily is dead. They’ll just have to find other monies to keep it going or get it in next year’s budget.”

Gillham said he had hoped that construction would begin a year from now, but this setback will probably delay the work until late 2009 or early 2010. The city had worked with Oregon’s congressional delegation to have the funds included in the Highway Administration’s 2007 budget. Now, city planners will have to start over with a new application in the hopes of securing federal funding in the future, Gillham said.

“All across the U.S., they went out and basically cut dollars for every state on various projects,” he said. “I assume that’s part of the federal wrangling that happens on a regular basis.”

Morrow said that seven other local agency projects throughout Oregon will not receive funding, totaling about $7 million, because of the budget changes.

Prineville will still receive $500,000 from the Oregon Department of Transportation for the project, Gillham said. The city is considering three potential routes for punching through Ninth Street to join up with Laughlin Road and provide an additional east-west path through the city, one of which could potentially displace the Wagner’s Price Slasher grocery store.

At a public forum last week, Gillham said he will recommend to the City Council at its next meeting, Jan. 9, that it consider just two of the options: one that would cut diagonally from Deer Street up to 10th Street, or one that would extend Ninth Street through part of the Price Slasher property.

At last week’s forum, many residents questioned the numbers included in a socioeconomic-impact report prepared by consulting firm ECONorthwest. They said the costs associated with each option seemed artificially low and did not take into account real-world market values or the cost of construction. Gillham said the City Council had expressed similar concerns when it reviewed a draft of the analysis, and ECONorthwest is now refining the report to include market analysis in its costs.
Even if the council makes a decision soon on which direction the Ninth Street arterial will take, the city will have to reapply for federal funding to make the project feasible.

“I was hoping next year at this time to begin some initial engineering of the first facet of whichever route the council chose. That’s clearly, from my perspective, not going to happen,” Gillham said. “The one thing they told us is that we essentially have to start all over again (to apply for federal funding), and so that’s what we’ll do.”

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Year ends without Prineville city plan

Council hopes to complete first-ever growth plan in ’07

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: December 26. 2006 5:00AM PST

For months, Prineville city councilors have been saying that they wanted to approve the city’s new comprehensive plan by the end of the year.

The council’s last meeting of the year was scheduled for today. But negotiations with Crook County, whose comprehensive plan currently guides city planning, couldn’t be concluded on time and the meeting was canceled.

That means veteran councilors Brenda Comini and Chet Petersen, who decided not to run for re-election this year, will not be able to preside over the completion of the comprehensive plan process. The council has been talking about adopting a plan for several years and actively working on it for about a year.

“I’ve been here four years, and I basically have accomplished everything I set out to do,” Petersen said. “The only thing that’s remaining on the table – and we’re very close to accomplishing that – is the individual comp plan of the city of Prineville.”

Petersen said that he is not worried that the arrival of two new councilors will further delay the adoption of the comprehensive plan. “I would certainly hope that the new council keeps that as the high priority that I know it is right now and gets that accomplished within the first 30 to 60 days.”

Comini, who could not be reached for comment, has expressed doubt in the past that the plan would be passed by the new year.

The goal of the comprehensive plan is to provide a road map for future growth in the community. Petersen described it as a “living document” that can be adapted as the need arises. Prineville is now operating under the county’s comprehensive plan, which was adopted in 1978 and updated in the mid-1990s.

“You will have to go back in from time to time and adjust your comp plan,” Petersen said. “I think one of the perceptions is that you set it in stone as your own comp plan and then you can’t do anything about it, and that’s just simply not true.”

Incoming councilor Dean Noyes said that the new council has already met to discuss its goals for 2007, and adopting the comprehensive plan is at the top of the list.

Noyes said he does not have any major concerns with the details of the plan – city employees released a draft in April and have been refining it since then. But he added that one of his goals while on the council is to help improve communication between the county and city.

“The relationship between the city and the county government is an important one, and that’s the fulcrum that’s tying up this approval,” Noyes said. “I just talked to (Chet Petersen) the other day about it and (approving the plan) was one of his primary objectives before he left. And that’s obviously not going to happen in terms of being official and in place, but that’s on the front of the plate for the rest of us in the first quarter.”

Steve Uffelman, a second incoming member who has served on the City Council and as Prineville’s mayor in the past, said he has not reviewed the whole of the draft comprehensive plan.

“From what I know of it and what I have read of it, I really don’t see any major issues at all in the comp plan,” Uffelman said. “I think the comp plan is well constructed, I think it will serve the community well.”

Despite having to leave before the comp plan is officially in place, Petersen helped tackle a number of things during his four-year term.

Petersen said that when he ran for office in 2002 he thought he would probably serve just one term. He has been a vocal participant in council meetings on a variety of issues.

“I’m really for term limitations for everyone, I see senators that have been in there since time began almost,” he said. “I said, ‘This can’t be good in the long run,’ so I go in, I work really hard for four years, do my very best, and then step aside and give someone else a chance.”

He said that some of the council’s major accomplishments during his term included the construction of a new City Hall and the clarification of the city’s budget process.

“What I really would like to see is more people step up to the plate and serve on the budget committees and all the other committees that we have, and city council, and get involved in your city government,” he said. “I think people need to get more involved because I don’t think they understand some of the complexities of what goes on in city and county government.”

Crook’s seized large animals to go to local humane society

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: December 25. 2006 5:00AM PST

PRINEVILLE – In the case of the mean-tempered llama, everyone lost.

Crook County took possession of the animal earlier this year, and it went home with a county employee until the dispute with the owner could be settled. But it was so cantankerous that the employee brought it back, saying he could not care for it. Eventually, it had to be put down.

“I think it was the nasty llama that finally told me, we need to figure out something better to do with this,” Crook County Judge Scott Cooper said. “Because, frankly, after the employee brought it back and said, ‘I don’t want him,’ I don’t have a list of people who love mean animals on my desk – he’s not moving into my backyard.”

For years, Crook County operated under an informal protocol whereby large animals that had been abandoned or seized were often housed at the farm or ranch of an employee such as a sheriff’s deputy. The county now plans to shelter them at the local humane society.

Cooper said that the problem has not been very frequent in the past, but when it has occurred it has posed a significant challenge for the county.

“It really hasn’t warranted a big discussion prior to this, and (the Sheriff’s Office) just gets the call in the middle of the night, they have to do something with the animals, and they look for the first and most immediate person who will deal with the problem,” he said.

Now, the Crook County Court wants to establish an official policy for dealing with large animals like horses and llamas that are surrendered or seized. It is working out the details of a contract with the Humane Society of the Ochocos to make housing and caring for these animals its responsibility.

Lori Durant, the manager of the humane society, said the organization is building a new enclosure on its 2-acre property in Prineville to care for larger animals. It will also look for foster caregivers to take in livestock in the future. The county and the humane society are not currently caring for any large animals.

“There were a few animals that came in from the county (in the past), but there was no definite agreement or any kind of contract that really told what parties were responsible for what,” Durant said. “So the new contract will take care of that, give us a little bit better guidelines.”

Durant said that the employees at the humane society all have some degree of training with livestock. The animals she anticipates they would care for could be strays or ones taken in by the county because of charges of neglect or abuse. They could eventually be put up for adoption.

Crook County Sheriff Rodd Clark said the new system will help with investigations into those kinds of incidents.

“It’s like anything else received as evidence in an investigation and it has to be guaranteed security,” Clark said. “There’s been more and more of these occurring and it’s an expense and it’s an inconvenience, obviously, for employees to do this.”

Cooper said that county employees who took in horses or llamas in the past were not paid to care for them, but would occasionally receive a small sum for hay or feed. Sometimes, the employee ended up keeping the animal permanently.

“There’s been no system for compensating them and that didn’t seem very fair either, to dump these animals on someone else in a crisis situation and then expect it to be their burden forever,” he said.

Under the new contract, the county will pay the humane society a set fee for large animals in addition to the usual monthly support it gives the private, nonprofit organization. The exact amount will be determined in the new contract.

Nearby Deschutes County has a more formal system in place than Crook County’s current one. Troy Kerstetter, animal welfare director at the Humane Society of Central Oregon, said that the organization has a contract with the city of Bend and Deschutes County to care for livestock. Each situation is evaluated on a case-by-case basis because the humane society does not have large animal facilities on site, so it will work with the county and city to find temporary care or a foster home.

Crook County Sheriff Clark said that the new animal policy is further evidence of the changes occurring in the county as the population grows. In 2005 and 2006, Crook County was the fastest-growing county in the state, according to the Portland State University Population Research Center.

“As population grows, things that you used to do on a handshake become more formalized just because of the way society is today and the certain number of people,” he said. “Years ago we may have even had a rancher that would say, ‘I’ll take care of those horses for a while for you, Sheriff,’ and you’d say OK and you’d shake on it … Well, it’s obviously a lot better if you have some sort of formal agreement for when things come up.”

Redmond’s Maple Avenue Bridge to link east, west side

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: December 24. 2006 5:00AM PST

The Maple Avenue Bridge, which will provide a new east-west route over Redmond’s Dry Canyon, is slated to open Jan. 2.

The $8.2 million bridge in north Redmond has been under construction since March 2005 and is one of a number of transportation projects currently under way in the city.

Assistant City Engineer Tim Pflum said that the construction includes improvements to Maple Avenue from Northwest 19th Street on the west side of the canyon to Northeast Fifth Street on the east side.

The bridge, which is almost entirely financed by Redmond system development charges, is being built in conjunction with an overpass that will extend Maple Avenue farther east to Negus Way.

The Oregon Department of Transportation is financing the overpass.

There will also be a new traffic light at the intersection of Maple and U.S. Highway 97 once the bridge construction is completed.

“It’s virtually finished, we’re just getting the lights put on it … we didn’t want to open the bridge up before we got the signal at Highway 97 because there would be a lot of traffic trying to access right there,” Pflum said.

The city will have an official ribbon-cutting for the bridge, with a speech from the mayor and police and fire vehicle processions, on Jan. 2 starting at noon. Pflum said that construction was completed on schedule.

The bridge will make it easiier for drivers to get from one side of town to another, City Engineer Mike Caccavano said, and it will eventually improve access to the planned reroute of Highway 97.

“It’s real important to get another connection across the Dry Canyon,” Caccavano said.

“We have a connection there at Antler and Black Butte and then there’s nothing to the north of that, and we’ve got a whole lot of development on the north end of town and that canyon blocks the connection.”

Pflum said that the bridge will feature two travel lanes with bike lanes and 7-foot sidewalks on either side. It will also include viewing platforms and will be open to some pedestrian and bike traffic before Jan. 2. The bridge will be about 780 feet long and rise 80 feet above the canyon floor.

Construction on the existing portion of Maple Avenue caused some delays, Caccavano said. He added that he has heard from many residents who “can’t wait till it opens.”

The bridge and overpass will also provide easy access to the planned Wal-Mart Supercenter at the corner of Maple and Highway 97 for residents living on the west side of Redmond.

“The traffic signal will improve the safety of access to Highway 97 up there in that area, also the new Wal-Mart is going in just north of Maple Avenue over on Northwest Fourth Street, so it improves access to that area in general and (is an) overall access improvement between east Redmond and the west side,” Pflum said.

Crook County OKs development fees

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: December 22. 2006 5:00AM PST

After a second consecutive year in which Crook County was the fastest-growing county in the state of Oregon, officials hope to increase revenues by implementing fees on new developments to help offset the strain of population growth.

The Crook County Court recently decided to hire a consultant to study how best to implement system development charges in the county. The study will probably take six months to a year to complete, Crook County Commissioner Mike Mohan said, and the charges would go into effect soon after that.

System development charges are applied to new developments and help pay for the costs of new infrastructure needed for a growing population. Crook County’s SDCs would be earmarked for use on improvements to the county’s transportation system, but could not be used for regular road maintenance.

“It’s just a generalized concept that growth should pay for itself, because it’s not fair to ask existing residents who aren’t adding to that level of demand,” Planning Director Bill Zelenka said. “The growth has really started in the past two to three years here, and we’ve been talking about some kind of funding mechanism since it happened, so this is just the next logical step.”

Crook would be the second county in Central Oregon to adopt transportation SDCs. Jefferson County already has the system in place, and last year collected $341,433. Deschutes County is also considering a plan to pay for road improvements through SDCs.

The county fees would not affect the city of Prineville, which already charges SDCs for roads, sewer and water. Development charges are usually collected when a developer applies for a building permit, but Zelenka said the details in Crook County have yet to be worked out. The developers’ costs are often passed on to buyers in the form of higher home prices.

“Before you determine how much (money the SDCs will raise) we’re going to have to determine what kind of projects we anticipate that the growth will require us to put in over and above the normal maintenance stuff,” he said.

Mohan said the new fees will probably start next fall or winter, after the County Court and county planning commission review the consultant’s study and recommendations.

Much of the current development in Crook County is centered on the three destination resorts under way in the Powell Butte area. Because the destination resorts – in particular Brasada Ranch, which has broken ground – have already pledged money to cover transportation improvements, they could earn some exemptions from future SDCs, Zelenka said. But they would still be responsible for some charges.

Mohan added that many other development projects are under way in parts of the county outside of Powell Butte.

“The destination resorts probably will contribute a significant portion of this because they’re significant-sized developments, but we’ve had a huge amount of subdivisions that have been platted, and some have been built on and some have not,” Mohan said.

The Juniper Canyon area and neighborhoods within Prineville’s urban growth boundary but outside of the city limits have seen plans for new subdivisions lately, he said.

All together, the three destination resorts – which are in various stages of construction and planning – will include about 3,850 single-family homes in addition to overnight housing units.

Chris Pippin, vice president for Winchester Development, the Calif.-based company developing Remington Ranch, said he is not sure how the SDCs would affect the project, but he generally considers them “a very positive thing.”

“SDCs are good ways for states or counties or municipalities to collect funds on a fairer basis from everyone who’s doing development in the county,” Pippin said. “There is not a great mechanism right now for Crook County to get funds specifically for their county road systems, so I think it certainly is something that was probably needed, with or without the destination resorts that are coming in.”

Bend Elks pack food boxes for annual Christmas drive

By Rachael Scarborough King / The Bulletin
Published: December 21. 2006 5:00AM PST

Will Robertson slowly pushed a shopping cart down the aisles of folding tables covered with cardboard boxes at the Bend Elks Lodge on Wednesday morning, dropping in cans of food as he went.

Robertson was one of about 20 Elks members filling boxes with food Wednesday. He has been helping with the Elks’ annual food and gift drive for 35 years, he said.

“This is the giving season – everybody likes to give, and how better can you do it?” Robertson said. “People are in need of dinner, and it’s Christmas time.”

Every year, the Elks collect food and gifts at donations boxes throughout the city. The boxes – filled with canned food, cooked hams and wrapped presents for children – are delivered on Christmas Eve to needy families in Deschutes County who have been identified by The Salvation Army.

This year, the Elks have also teamed with the Bend post of the American Legion to provide gift boxes for veterans and the families of deployed Oregon National Guard members. All together, the group will pass out boxes to about 250 families this year, said Rick Lewis, the group’s leading knight and the organizer of the food and gift drive.

Lewis said the Elks collected six tons of food this year, with help from the local high schools, their ROTC programs, the Boy Scouts and local businesses.

The Elks also have a charity ball in early December that helps pay for the program, said Donald Gotcher, the organization’s exalted ruler. Gotcher added that the Elks have been collecting donations at Christmas for over 50 years.

“We’re a charitable organization,” he said, adding that many people might think of the Elks as more of a social group.

The lodge’s secretary, Myrtle Farleigh, echoed that sentiment, saying she thinks many people do not know that the Elks have some sort of charitable involvement almost every month.

“The public is not always aware of what we’re doing unless we have this (Christmas program),” Farleigh said.

Jeffrey Lightburn is an Elks member and the commander of Bend’s American Legion post. He said that the Christmas gift drive has grown every year since he has been involved, and this year he asked for recommendations from the National Guard for veterans and deployed soldiers who would benefit.

“This is a way for the Elks and the post to say ‘thank-you’ to those who are serving or have served our country,” Lightburn said. “It’s hard getting your feet on the ground and it’s hard getting readjusted, so this is one obstacle removed.”