The City of Mosier has removed the controversial manager of its waterfront restoration project in an attempt to avoid costly fines for illegal construction.
Mayor Bill Ward said there was “no choice” but to ask Gay Jervey to step down from her contracted role. He said that was the only option that the City Council could take after it became clear that Jervey’s refusal to follow proper permitting procedures throughout 2002 had landed the municipality in hot water with both state and federal oversight agencies. Currently, Jervey’s violations of the Endangered Species Act have jeopardized $500,000 of federal grant funds administered by the U.S. Forest Service. The Oregon Division of State Lands is also threatening to levy almost $24,000 of fines — $6,750 of which includes Jervey personally — for a trail cut through a protected riparian area, installation of unauthorized culverts and fill materials dumped near the waterway.
“Gay had a lot of enthusiasm for this project and should be commended for that, but enthusiasm is like fire — you let it get out of control and it’s going to burn you somewhat,” said Ward.
However, Jervey is blaming the Forest Service for mismanagement of the project, saying the federal agency is so “paralyzed” by its internal process that it has failed to champion recreational opportunities as authorized by the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act. She is mounting a campaign that she intends to take to Washington, D.C., to have the agency’s role in oversight of recreational dollars and projects taken away.
“The Forest Service doesn’t seem to get it, in about two weeks we are going to have major use of the waterfront by recreationists and instead of being ready we are not finished and we could have been easily,” Jervey said, referring to the oncoming tourist season.
The Forest Service shut down the restoration work along 12-acres of Mosier’s waterfront last fall. At that time, officials expressed concern that Jervey had not finalized the master plan and then had not followed the draft model either. Jervey is accused of not following the rules and waiting to begin construction until the proper permits were all in place — in spite of repeated warnings to “cease and desist” construction activities.
Jervey contends that last January she showed about 300 people an outline of the work that was to be accomplished — and no one objected then to either her plan or timeline.
She said the work was repeatedly held up because Mike Ferris, the sole Forest Service administrator, was gone most of the time on other business and she wound up trying to force action by making at least weekly trips to the Hood River office.
While Jervey is working toward Scenic Area reforms that she believes are long overdue, the city has chosen its own planner, Dotty Devaney, to take over Jervey’s role and utilize her land-use expertise to get the work back on track. Ward has vowed to meet all Forest Service requirements to obtain $74,000 of reimbursement requests that were declared “questionable” in the agency’s recent audit.
That official scrutiny determined that some of the listed expenditures were unauthorized because there was no “notice to proceed.”
In addition, the Forest Service has disagreed with procurement procedures, the city’s activity reporting system for employees and contractors paid on an hourly basis, and failure to obtain written quotes from three qualified bidders before assigning jobs.
“It was a great surprise to find out that nothing was being taken care but we will do everything in our power to have all good work be paid for,” said Ward, who inherited the problems that were ongoing last year when he took office on Jan. 1.
Meanwhile, Jervey is advocating that a Recreation and Restoration Working Group be formed to establish “reasonable” timelines for activities and projects.
She envisions that organization operating out of the “Rainbow Epicenter” in Mosier, an old rock quarry adjacent to the residential area.
Jervey would like to see that site used as a nursery to propagate Gorge native plants, establish a fuel recycling station and alternative energy center, and provide learning and training facilities for volunteers and interested parties. She is lobbying federal officials to allocate $300,000 per year to operate the center which would also partner with many other agencies and private non-profit groups.
“Most importantly, the economic infusion to local economies that additional recreation would bring has not occurred.
“Just as with economic development funding that was promised in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Act, this has left the Scenic Area with all the burden of additional regulation and with little or nothing of the promised rewards,” wrote Jervey in her proposal that has been sent to both state and federal legislators.