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La Grande City Hall rests serenely on Adams Avenue on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021. Built in 1911, the historic building will receive a new HVAC system now that the city council approved a bid for the upgrades.

LA GRANDE — The La Grande City Council met virtually for its monthly meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 6, discussing a limited agenda.

The lone topic of new business considered was awarding the bid for an HVAC upgrade and replacement project at city hall. The bid was awarded to Valley Metal & Heating in Baker City for $141,872. The new system will replace the current infrastructure that is roughly 20 years old.

The project was part of the 2021-22 fiscal year building maintenance budget, with the projected cost at $100,000. Due to the rise in material prices, the project ended up more than $40,000 over budget.

The city’s $300,000 in undesignated general reserve can be used to cover the additional price of the project. The city previously hired an engineer to evaluate the building’s needs in order to best fit the upgraded system.

According to La Grande Community Development Director Mike Boquist, the goal for a date of completion is by the end of December. The city hall building currently has several units that are unlikely to make it through the winter without costly repairs.

City Councilor David Glabe voiced his concern that both the bids came from HVAC companies outside of Union County. Boquist informed the council that no bids were received from any local businesses after the city contacted nearly every HVAC company in the county.

The motion was passed by City Councilor Gary Lillard and unanimously approved by the council members in attendance.

Prior to discussing the new business, La Grande Mayor Steve Clements made a personal statement on COVID-19 vaccines, following the city’s town hall on vaccines on Sept. 27.

“I understand the desire for personal freedom, but what about the responsibility that comes with that freedom?” Clements asked. “With rights come responsibilities to act not only in your own best interest, but in the interest of the community that you are a part of.”

Urban Renewal Agency extends agreement with Liberty Theatre

Following the city council meeting, the La Grande Urban Renewal Agency met to discuss an extension to a loan agreement with the Liberty Theatre Foundation, the group working on the restoration of the local venue.

City Manager Robert Strope explained that a $150,000 loan to the foundation will convert to a grant if certain criteria are met. Due to delays from COVID-19, the Liberty Theatre Foundation asked for an extension of the deadline for completion from this past June to June of 2023.

Jeff Clark, vice chair of the Liberty Theatre Foundation, provided an update on the project ahead of the agency’s vote.

“We’re approximately three quarters completed with the overall project and we were recently awarded $250,000 from the Murdock Charitable Trust, which really takes us over the final hump,” Clark said.

The grant from the Washington-based M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust was awarded to the theatre in late September and will help guide the project into 2022. The agency voted unanimously in favor to extend the agreement with the Liberty Theatre Foundation.

The La Grande City Council and Urban Renewal Agency are set to meet next for regular sessions on Nov. 3.

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