The La Grande City Council took its final step Wednesday to implement La Grande’s Quiet Zone.
In a 5-1 vote, the council authorized Mayor Steve Clements and City Manager Robert Strope to take all remaining necessary actions to actualize the Quiet Zone.
The only steps remaining are to complete installation of the safety devices at La Grande’s five intersections, and to “provide a notice of Quiet Zone establishment to all concerned parties” at least three weeks before it goes into effect.
Strope told The Observer following Wednesday’s meeting that documentation of the completed safety devices has to be included with the filed paperwork. Once the documents to establish the Quiet Zone — which Clements has to sign — are turned in, at least 21 days are required to pass before the last whistle blows in town.
“We should be done with all the stuff we physically are able to control around the 16th of this month,” Strope told the council.
He noted one of the intersections has a crossing signal arm that must be adjusted — work that would need to be completed by Union Pacific — but does not see that being a concern.
“Once all those improvements are done (and) we have the documentation ready, we (will) ID a specific date and time,” he said.
With installation of safety devices nearing completion, the Quiet Zone ordinance will likely go into effect by the end of September, Strope said during the meeting.
There was little discussion prior to Wednesday’s vote, on which councilor Justin Rock was the lone nay vote. One of the major proponents and activists in establishing the Quiet Zone, Michael Jennings, expressed his gratitude to the council — and especially Mayor Clements and Mayor Pro Tem Gary Lillard — for their efforts.
“My deep heartfelt gratitude (goes) to Councilman Lillard and Mayor Clements for participating directly in the process, and all the council members that supported this effort,” Jennings said, later calling the move one that would “go down in the history books.”
“This is an important investment for our city,” he said. “It will make a difference in the quality of life in our city. It’s going to grow our city, and the return on investments are something we will realize forever.”
During his address to the council, Jennings unfolded an oversized sheet of paper from his personal files on the project that listed several of the options considered over the years.
“Remember when we went back and discussed all the alternatives for different Quiet Zones?” he asked, then, in a show of victory, crumpled up the paper and tossed it over his shoulder, exclaiming, “It’s all done! Thank you very much.”
Jennings also commented on the fact that the project is slated to come in well under budget. Four of the five crossings, according to documents obtained by The Observer, as of publication, are each at least $10,000 under budget, with the fifth more than $9,000 under. The Willow Street crossing, the most complex with more than $100,000 of budgeted expenses, has cost only about $43,000, and less than $5,000 of the work remains.