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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow $4.9M Urban Renewal budget passes

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$4.9M Urban Renewal budget passes

A $4,968,437 Urban Renewal District was approved by the La Grande Budget Committee Monday night on a 9-5 vote.

The passage included a $500,000 placeholder for a request to establish Market Place Family Foods on the corner of Fourth Street and Adams Avenue. Funding for that project was the major issue of contention among budget committee members. 

Steve Clements, who was a member of the La Grande City Council when the Urban Renewal Plan was adopted in 1999, said he supports the program but is not comfortable with the $500,000 request, which would be disbursed to the developer and grocer in the form of a loan. The funding could convert into a grant if the store meets requirements laid out by the city, including a specific number of jobs created. Clements said he is concered about the debt service the city will have to pay on the short-term loan to disburse the $500,000. Debt service would be $125,000 over five years. Ken Bruce, another member of the budget committee, said the city should explore sharing the debt service with the applicant.

District Manager Robert Strope said that was not in the purview of the budget committee. 

Budget committee member Corinne Dutto called the $500,000 "excessive," while others, who were more favorable of the project, said past projects had not been big enough to give the city a return on its investment. Rod Sands, who served as chair of the Urban Renewal Budget Hearing, said the grocery store project could be the project that brings La Grande to the "critical mass" it needs to accelerate economic development.

Councilors John Lackey and Mary Ann Miesner noted before the vote that the $500,000 placeholder is also in the current budget. The project is still subject to final approval by the URA.

Following the URD budget, the committee jumped into the city's general fund budget, which is largely unchanged from the current budget. The committee expressed an interest in finding funding for software for the police department, but adjourned prior to budget approval. They will reconvene at 6 p.m. tonight in the community room of Cook Memorial Library. At tonight's meeting, they will hear public comment on the general and enterprise funds. Public comments for Urban Renewal were heard last night. 

All budgets are subject to final approval and adoption by the La Grande City Council and Urban Renewal Agency. 

For complete coverage, see Wednesday's edition of The Observer. 

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