By SUE RYAN
News staff writer
January 10, 2007
The first council meeting of the year for Cascade Locks was marked by standing-room only attendance Monday night.
So many people came to the session that there were some standing in the hallway outside listening to the council. Not only the year changed but almost the entire council did as well. There are five new members on the council, two appointed in the wake of a recall election last fall that has split the town over several issues.
One of those came to the forefront Monday night when the issue of building a new fire hall was considered. Mayor Roger Freeborn wanted the council to set a date for a public hearing on the matter.
“I put the item on the agenda because in the last six months I have only heard from one person supporting the issue,” he said. “I’ve heard from more people tonight for it than before.”
Freeborn was not mayor last year but was one of six candidates who ran for the position in the election. Many people spoke both for and against the proposed fire hall during an hour-long public comment session. That included some who showed in force at one point when at least 10 volunteers from the Cascade Locks Fire Department came although not all spoke. One who did was volunteer and chaplain Don Howell.
“I believe there is a need to move forward on getting bids for this project and not back to discussion or committee,” he said.
Many of those opposed to the fire hall said it was not that they didn’t support the fire department but they wanted details on what the city would be spending $1.4 million for. Bobby Walker spoke and referred to his experience working for the state department of transportation.
“For jobs like these we have a prospectus drawn up outlining the need, cost, and options,” he said. “I don’t know what the plan is for the fire hall but I’m asking council to describe it, to come up with basic facts and put it out there.”
The plans for a new fire hall are nothing new to Cascade Locks. Efforts to build a new structure have been going on for about 20 years. The current effort was led by former city administrator Bob Willoughby, who got three grants for the project totaling $700,000.
The city sold the McCoy property for $310,000 and planned to finish the gap with selling the existing fire hall on Wa Na Pa Lane and the property for $350,000.
Joshua Drake said he did not want to see the city lose the grant money obtained for the structure.
Drake said, “$700,000 has been given to us, it’s there. Why are we arguing over that,” he said. “I think the town needs something to be proud of and if that is a building so be it.”
The council voted to set the hearing at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 5. The location is to be determined. Acting city administrator John Morgan did ask the council allow staff to continue work so that the city does not lose the Community Development Block Grant funding.