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Port chair questions beach cost

By RAELYNN RICARTE

News staff writer

June 21, 2006

Hood River Port President Sherry Bohn expressed doubt on Monday about the estimated cost given by the Park Development Committee to construct a new waterfront beach.

At a special meeting between the port, PDC and City of Hood River, earth-moving was roughly figured at about $1 million. However, Bohn said, when the port built the Event Site from 1988-1991, the fill permits alone came to about $50,000. The engineering work for that project came to another $100,000 and the construction about $1.2 million.

In addition, she said the 2005 estimate for the port to dredge the Marina and remove 300,000 cubic yards of material was $1.7-$3.3 million — with an additional $1 million for the permits.

Bohn hesitated to approve the calculations for the initial phase of construction presented by the PDC.

“I’m not willing to personally approve cost estimates tonight. I’d like to see permitting costs first,” she said.

At the June 19 meeting, Bohn agreed with Mayor Linda Streich that the PDC’s work during the past year had been “impeccable.” However, where Streich felt the conceptual plans should be adopted immediately so that fund-raising was not impeded, Bohn worried the chosen design could be unaffordable.

The PDC was equally nervous about asking the Hood River Parks and Recreation District to front about $175,000 for technical studies without first having both agencies onboard. The district had already paid the $22,000 bill to hire GreenWorks, Inc., of Portland to render schematics that included the desired park elements.

“I guess what I’m asking is that, if we do this investment to get to the next stage, you guys commit design-wise,” said Mark Zanmiller, PDC co-chair.

“You have to be able to tell everyone this is going to happen before you can ask them for money,” said Christine Knowles, PDC co-chair.

She said the PDC needed a “pat on the back” with a showing of support. She said the financial climb to reach the first $1 million goal seemed even steeper with recent news that the project had failed to qualify for $500,000 in funding through the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.

“Basically, we lost on timeliness. The other projects were down the road in terms of having permits and other documents,” she said.

The PDC outlined that the second phase of construction would incorporate more of the aesthetic elements and cost about $2 million, with another $600,000 added in for art and other visual features. Knowles said these plans could be scaled back if fiscally necessary.

Although both the city council and port board signed on to the PDC plan, neither agency addressed a bigger issue. The topic of the $30,000-$45,000 in expected annual maintenance costs was given only a cursory review.

The port believes that it has fulfilled its financial obligations to the park by deeding over the $1.7 million shoreline parcel to the city.

“We haven’t talked about the maintenance estimates because we’re not maintaining it —that’s up to you guys (city and parks district),” said Bohn.

However, both the city and district are facing budget constraints that could render them unable to pick up the tab.

“We really want this to happen, so whatever it takes — except money,” said Streich.

The city and parks district will meet to further discuss the issue at a special meeting on Aug. 2. Streich said it may be necessary to go to voters with a bond levy proposal for the waterfront park development and/or upkeep.

Meanwhile, the PDC remains optimistic that money can be found to address the many challenges of creating a “world class” family park. The group envisions that maintenance costs can be defrayed with parking charges, special event fees and volunteer labor from area service organizations and community justice work crews.

In addition, Brent Foster, executive director of Columbia Riverkeeper, said volunteers can be found for conservation landscaping. He said Riverkeeper could donate $80,000 toward the cause.

“I think there’s really some interest in making this a homegrown thing,” he said.

Streich said the original plans for the new county library came in at about $7 million.

However, even downsized to $3.5 million, the new facility was still “fabulous.”

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