The Observer asked public officials in Union and Wallowa counties what their goals were for the upcoming year. At the end of 2019, The Observer will follow up with the officials to see if the goals they set were accomplished and what challenges they faced along the way.
Cove will be led by a new mayor and three new city council members in 2019. Mayor Del Little has brought a bevy of goals with him. Even though much of the discussion around Little’s proposed new ordinances at his first meeting in January was negative, Little said he would like to update the city’s charter and pass additional ordinances in 2019.
Little will also be encouraging community participation in the council. He hopes to have more attendance at the monthly council meetings and would like to recruit community members to join the city budget committee.
The city will also be implementing a geographic information system program to help locate water and sewer lines.
Lastly, Little said he will be looking for any training opportunities for himself and city councilors.
“The more informed individuals on the council are, the better decision making we can do — with the help of the citizens’ input,” Little said.
Mayor Allan Duffy would like “to continue the forward progress that Elgin has been making” into and throughout 2019, which includes getting the Indian Valley Estates subdivision regulations approved by the state. The soon-to-be neighborhood will be split up into 19 one-acre lots, some of which have already been sold and built upon.
Other than the housing project, Duffy has three specific projects in mind.
The first is to add dressing rooms to the back of the Elgin Opera House, which serves as a major tourist attraction and source of income for the city. Performers currently have to change underneath the building in an old jail. Duffy would also like to upgrade the theater’s staging area and renovate the offsite rehearsal space.
“The Opera House is such an important part of our community,” said Duffy. “It’s an economic draw, bringing people not only from Oregon but also from out of state and all over the country to watch plays there.”
The city has plans to form a capital campaign committee to focus specifically on the Opera House improvements in order to complete this resolution.
Duffy’s second 2019 resolution for Elgin is to help the museum move into the old city hall building by this summer, as their displays have been without a home for about 10 years now, and to apply for new grants to help the museum “get up and running.”
The museum was recently denied a grant by Cycle Oregon, and if it does not complete renovations on the old jail in time, the museum will have to return a $3,500 grant to the Kinsman Foundation, which will put them $400 in the red.
Duffy isn’t worried, though.
“They have a little setback with one of these grants, but I think with a letter from the city explaining the change of the buildings, these folks will reconsider,” the mayor said.
His third resolution for the city is to find the funds for a new ambulance, which will add up to about $250,000. Although the city has some money set aside, it will have to apply for grants to raise enough for the new emergency vehicle.
Last year, Elgin completed all of its goals, as Duffy recalls. He expects that trend to continue in 2019.
“(There has been a) renewed awakening that (the people of Elgin) need to be proud of their hometown and community because we are doing a lot of things,” he said. “We’ve been fairly fortunate with the grant monies that we’ve gotten and how we’ve been careful with our finances.”
Imbler Mayor Mike McLean said he hopes the city’s animal control ordinances can be consolidated over the next year. He noted that presently the city has two animal control ordinances, each of which applies to different portions of the city.
“We have different animal regulations for different areas. This is creating confusion,” McLean said. “I want to combine parts of both and add some things.”
The problem was created at least four decades ago when the Westenskow addition was annexed into the north portion of the city. The Westenskow addition has a separate animal control ordinance that limits the number of livestock households can have. The animal control ordinance for the remainder of the city places no limit on the number of livestock. However, the ordinance for the area outside the Westenskow addition does prohibit swine and limits residents’ to three dogs per household.
McLean said the city council will strive to create a single new ordinance with the same rules for all parts of the city.
“We want to make sure we are fair,” he said.
The public will have a chance to comment on the proposed combined ordinance before the city council votes on it.
Robb Rea, Island City’s mayor-elect, hopes to boost communication between his city and La Grande in 2019.
Rea wants Island City’s and La Grande’s city officials to meet every three months to discuss what their communities are doing and how they can better work together. He said this will be important because the cities are so close.
“We share (a) border,” he said. “What one does can have an impact on the other.”
The meetings would involve people including the mayors of both cities, La Grande’s city manager and Island City’s city recorder.
Rea, a member of Island City’s city council for about 20 years, was elected mayor in November. He will be sworn in as mayor at the Jan. 14 city council meeting. Rea will succeed Delmer Hanson, who is now completing his fourth year as mayor but did not run for re-election.
Rea said he will work to make sure the city will continue programs Hanson has started such as the road maintenance program, via which upgrade work is done on two to three streets each year. In 2019, the soon-to-be mayor wants work to be done on west Fourth Street and west Second Street. Rea also would like the city to look at Mulholland Drive, where cracks may need to be filled in. He noted the area needs to be ready for increased traffic since a tire store will open near there later this year.
Rea said the extent of road maintenance work done by the city in 2019 will be determined by how much grant funding for roadwork Island City receives from the state.
La Grande Mayor Steve Clements said the main focus for the city this year will be the housing situation.
The city has been given a grant to work at finding where the need is and that process will begin in 2019. Several meetings regarding the housing crisis took place in 2018, and Clements said he hopes the council will be able to “get a better handle on the housing situation.”
A complementary goal of the city is to continue to focus on economic development, which “will be a big thing for a while,” the mayor said.
The La Grande City Council holds an annual retreat in late January to discuss the council’s priorities for the year. The Observer will report on the retreat in a future publication.
See complete story in Friday's Observer