Compromise reached on Country Club Rd. realignment project

February 15, 2012

After months of back-and-forth negotiations the City of Hood River and the Oregon Department of Transportation appear to have reached a compromise on the re-alignment of Country Club Road.

The county had requested that ODOT provide $3 million in a lump sum payment for the project up front, while ODOT had insisted on reimbursing project costs up to $3 million.

After discussions with Key Development, the contractor which will be handling the project, the city determined that cash flow would not be an issue and that both could live with reimbursements.

However, Key wanted assurances that any plans it submitted to ODOT would not sit waiting review for months, thus delaying the project.

In return for the reimbursement payment structure, ODOT said it would return all plans within 30 days and then return any change reviews of those plans within another 30 days.

ODOT also pledged to process the reimbursements within 10 days of receiving them.

City Attorney Dan Kearns said that was a significant concession on ODOT's part considering his prior dealings with the agency.

"The bills will go from Key to us to ODOT, where they will disappear into their bureaucracy and come out the other end somehow," he said.

Mayor Arthur Babitz and City Manager Bob Francis met with ODOT officials Friday to hammer out the agreement.

While ODOT will not be paying the city $3 million up front, it will be dedicating $3 million specifically for the project, and Babitz said they wanted the city to understand the implications of that.

"There are two elements they wanted to make sure I understood," Babitz said. "One was that $3 million is a lot of money and two was that the agreement is with (the city) not Key Development. We are obligated, once we get this three million, to produce this road system whether Key Development performs or not."

Some city departments are still finishing their review of the contract and it still must get through the Oregon Transportation board, but Francis said the agreement passed muster with the city.

"I'm comfortable with it," he said.

The motion to approve the intergovernmental agreement passed unanimously.

In other news from the council Monday:

The council agreed to submit grant applications for both the Waterfront Park Development Committee and the Hood River Community Tennis Court Committee to help in their respective projects.

The Waterfront Park Committee is working toward completing the final phase of Waterfront Park, including an amphitheatre and landscaping, which it estimates at being around $500,000. They hope to get $250,000 of that through an Oregon Parks and Recreation district grant.

The tennis committee is looking into ways to replace the aging Tsuruta Tennis Courts next to the Hood River Aquatic Center.

Committee member Leslie Kerr said that $25,000 had been raised so far, with another $6,000 committed through donations from local businesses, and that they are hoping to get more funding through a variety of grants, including the Oregon Parks and Recreation grant.

After a brief discussion of whether applying for both would diminish the chances of getting either, the council determined that both project should still be able to get grants even if they both applied in the same year, and approved the applications for the grants.

The city also continued to look at restructuring the Urban Renewal agency, which governs spending in the three urban renewal districts in the city. The discussion had been moved over from the last meeting when only the bare minimum of council members were present.

After deliberations the council directed city staff to work on the possibility of creating a new advisory committee, made up of representatives from each district, to make recommendations to the city council.

Instead of serving as an independent body, it would serve in much a same way as the planning committee or budget committee does now by making recommendations to the city council for final approval.

Mayor Arthur Babitz will deliver his state of the city address at Hood River Rotary Feb. 23.

"I stayed up until 3 a.m. writing last night because I thought it was this Thursday," Babitz said. "I actually have another week."

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