Grants help La Grande

By Robert Strope, La Grande City Manager March 27, 2012 12:36 pm

Many city projects benefitting from outside funding

I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about some recent and upcoming City of La Grande projects and talk about how these projects are funded.

Currently, the city is completing the rebuild of the Riverside Park Pavilion, which should be done in the next few weeks.

During the week of March 21, the new appliances donated by the Soroptimist Club were installed and the final touches on the fireplace were completed.

This project was funded by insurance proceeds, grant funds including a major grant from the State of Oregon, and
thousands of dollars of donations from groups and individuals in our community.

Public Works has done 14 blocks of street overlays this past year throughout the city using $400,000 of Street User Fee revenues.

They are also finishing up the 2nd Street Project, which was necessary to avert a potential water main break due to the roadway slipping. This $900,000
project included $360,000 of Federal Transportation Enhancement Act grant funding.

We are about to begin work on the first phase of the Greenway Project, which is a bike and pedestrian trail that will begin in Riverside Park and ultimately end in Island City.

The centerpiece of the project is a bridge across the Grand Ronde River, with $841,000 of the funding coming from an Oregon Department of Transportation grant.

Union County, the City of La Grande and Island City are partnering to complete this $938,000 project and are providing matching funds and in-kind work.  

Two other major projects will happen downtown this summer, improvements to the alley approaches and the Urban Renewal funded Big “H” streetscape
project.

The alley approaches at 22 locations will be improved to create a better transition along the sidewalk and from the alley to the street using over $300,000 in grant dollars.

The Big “H” project will improve and beautify the sidewalks along Adams Avenue and Depot and Elm streets.

The city has borrowed $1 million to fund the project and the loan will be repaid with future years’ Urban Renewal tax revenues.  

Because of the way Urban Renewal works, there isn’t any increase in taxes associated with this loan.

This is probably a good time to explain in more detail how Urban Renewal works.

In 1999, the City of La Grande formed the Urban Renewal District, with boundaries that encompass many of the commercial properties in La Grande and extends from downtown to the La Grande Business and Technology Park.

When the District was formed the assessed value of the property within the District was “frozen.”

Agencies that received property taxes from those properties continue to receive those taxes based on that value, but all increases in value form the basis for the tax revenues that go to the Urban Renewal Agency to be reinvested in the District.

Currently, that translates to over $800,000 a year in revenue. These revenues are restricted and must be used for the benefit of the District, and cannot be used for things like paying for new fire trucks or hiring police officers.

Speaking of fire trucks, the city will be purchasing a new “used” aerial truck using a $352,500 FEMA grant that we recently received.

Most people recognize our existing aerial as the giant sprinkler we set up for community events like Crazy Days. While it works great to cool off people on a hot day, it isn’t certified for use and so we need to replace it.

We are also in the process of having one of our existing ambulances upgraded, taking the ambulance box off the back of a worn out chassis and putting a new one in its place.

There are also four new vehicles in the city’s fleet, including a new unmarked police car, all paid for through a Federal Congestion, Mitigation, and Air Quality Program grant that allows us to add fuel efficient cars to help with air quality.

I guess the real message here is that there is a lot going on, much of it using grant dollars to help improve our city.

I am very proud of the efforts of everyone involved, including our partners, who helped make these projects a reality.

As city anager, part of my job is to answer questions that members of the community may have, not just about projects and funding, but anything related to the City of La Grande.

So if you would like, don’t hesitate to call on me.

I can be reached at 962-1309 or by clicking the “Ask the City Manager” link on the city’s website to send me an e-mail. 

 

Robert Strope is the city manager of La Grande.