Grants to provide boost

By Robert Strope, City Manager September 02, 2009 02:14 pm

The dedicated staff at the city of La Grande has been very busy over the past several months with initiatives that will provide almost $2 million in benefit to our citizens with almost $1.4 million coming from successful grant applications.

I wanted to take a few minutes to acknowledge those involved and to let everyone know what they can expect to see in the way of improvements. What follows is a list of major grant projects or purchases that are planned for construction or have been completed.

The city received a grant from the Oregon Economic & Community Development Department (now known as Business Oregon) in early July in the amount of $7,143 for downtown historic building renovations. La Grande received the funds due to our active participation as a selected Oregon Main Street community.

The funds were matched with $6,635 of Urban Renewal money to put toward two downtown building improvement projects, one at 1118 Adams Ave. and one at 108 Depot. The private property owners are also contributing a combined $7,217 toward the project. Both projects are under way and will be completed by the end of November.

The Public Works Department was successful in receiving $97,000 to replace old, inefficient vehicles with three new hybrid cars. The grant dollars were from federal air quality funds under the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) program and covered 100 percent of the purchase. The seven-month process took the efforts of six employees, Norm Paullus, Jessica Lindley, Lee Mannor, Ray Clemens, Pat Pattee and Debbie Cornford. The three new cars are being used by the Police Department, Fire Department and the city manager and were purchased locally.

The same team from Public Works also received $167,000 in CMAQ funds to purchase a new street sweeper. Again, these dollars covered 100 percent of the cost of the purchase of the street sweeper, which is currently being built. The new street sweeper will be quieter and more efficient in picking up dirt, which will reduce the amount of dust in the air during use and meet all of the DEQ standards. The sweeper’s engine is more environmentally friendly as well, resulting in reduced engine pollutants in the air.

We are excited about the upcoming improvements to our streets that we will be able to complete. The city council recently awarded a contract to La Grande Asphalt for the paving of the gravel roads throughout the La Grande area. Using $130,000 of street user fees accumulated over four years, the city was able to leverage an additional $270,000 in CMAQ funds to allow us to place a 2-inch asphalt mat that will reduce dust on gravel roads located in seven different streets.

The $400,000 project was made possible through the efforts of Norm Paullus, Josie Boyk, Billie Jo Boothman and Nancy Beem and work will begin the first of September.

Early next spring we should begin using over $250,000 of grant funding to reconstruct C Avenue from Fourth Street to First Street with curbs, storm sewer, ADA ramps and full street improvement including base rock and asphalt. The total project is estimated at $400,000 with the remainder of the cost being paid by street user fee dollars. This grant involved four staff members — Norm Paullus, Josie Boyk, Ray Crapo and Danny Martens.

We did receive $277,000 of Federal Economic Stimulus Funds for the overlay of Spruce Street from Monroe Street to Z Avenue. The project is estimated at $500,000 with the remainder of the funds being paid by the street user fee funds and is projected to start construction in the late spring of 2010. This grant involved five staff members — Norm Paullus, Jessica Lindley, Josie Boyk, Ray Crapo and Danny Martens.

Though not grant funded, I thought people should know that because of the recent increase in street user fees we will be able to pave three minor streets within the city. The Parking, Traffic Safety and Street Maintenance Committee recommended that J Avenue between Second Street and Fourth Street, Empire Drive between 25th Street and Oregon Avenue, and Jackson Avenue between Fir Street and Spruce Street be overlaid with new asphalt.

These three projects were selected because they represent three different geographical areas of the town and more fairly distribute the work. The majority of the cost will be from the street user fees with the labor being paid out of the street maintenance funds so that more work can be done with the limited amount of funding. This project is estimated at $140,000 and should be done in September.

The city is also proud of the partnerships we enjoy with Union County and the La Grande School District. Derick Reddington and Carla Greenough of the La Grande Police Department, with the assistance of Cathy Falck from the Union County Sheriff’s Office, prepared a successful Edward Byrne Memorial grant application. The city of La Grande will receive just over $10,000 and will purchase portable radios, body armor to protect officers and a new audio/video system to record interviews and interrogations.

The La Grande School District worked with our Public Works Staff to acquire a Safe Routes to Schools Grant for $250,000 to place sidewalks on six blocks in the vicinity of Central School. This funding will create a safe place for young children to walk, keeping them away from traffic as they travel to and from Central. The project is in the development process and is projected to start construction in May of 2010. This grant process involved three staff members — Norm Paullus, Josie Boyk and Danny Martens.

The final project I want to talk about is the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife grant that Mark Touhey and Minnie Tucker of our Parks Department submitted. Thanks to their efforts we are in the process of making $67,556 in improvements to Morgan Lake, all grant dollars, which will give us new restrooms, four fishing piers, a small dock at the boat launch and two new campsites.

I think we all can agree that this is a very impressive list. There are many others who are not mentioned who played a role in all of these projects and more who we all owe a debt of gratitude. As you see these projects under way and enjoy them when they are done, please know that your city of La Grande staff is dedicated to doing the best possible job despite the very tough economic conditions.

Robert A. Strope is La Grande’s city manager.