Cascade Locks city, port, plan joint meeting Feb. 2

January 28, 2012

CASCADE LOCKS - City Council, Port and City officials will meet Feb. 2 at the Port Pavilion to work on an economic development strategy for the community.

"To provide a forum and resources for the two elected bodies to begin developing a comprehensive collaborative economic development strategy for the community," is how Interim City Administrator Paul Koch described the process.

Following comments by Port Commission President Jess Groves and Mayor Lance Masters, the forum will move to an hour of presentations by and an introduction to what the parties are calling a "multi-faceted concept."

Local officials will also report on current economic development activities and hold a general discussion and question-and-answer period between officials, staff and resource people and the community.

Koch said the meeting should accomplish the following basic goals:

Establish where the Port and City stand now in their joint efforts for economic development and identify where the city goes from here

Share information about potential job creators; acceptance of the multi-faceted approach

Begin development of an action plan

Long-term, the goals are creating jobs, working together and strengthening local businesses, and developing an "enhanced community ability to respond to economic opportunities."

In other business Monday, City Council:

Brainstormed on hiring criteria for choosing a permanent city administrator, which will begin in February. The process is expected to continue through June, with the new administrator coming on board in August. Interim city administrator Paul Koch will present an updated plan in one of the next two council meetings. (Koch is on contract until August.)

Approved the formation of a council subcommittee on economic development, to work with the Port of Cascade Locks, local citizens, the Downtown Revitalization Committee and others "to significantly enhance the economy of the local community."

The primary measurement of success will be that "the Nestlé project will be approved and built creating new jobs in the community," according to the subcommittee job description.

The other measurements are that: "A downtown revitalization project will be started leading to more successful local businesses"; "There will be more jobs for local citizens" and "Added-value and utility customers will have been added."

Heard a report from Nestlé representative David Palais, who said he would appear Friday in Salem at the next meeting of the Oregon Water Commission, which will establish a process for reviewing the thousands of comments received by the state over the proposed water rights transfer from the Department of Fish and Wildlife to Nestlé, which involves the city as intermediary.

The conclusion of the project and start of operations for Nestlé in Cascade Locks "is not imminent," according to Palais, who also asked for council support for the proposal.

Masters and council members voiced support for Nestlé gaining the water transfer and in its efforts to work with the Port on a plant location, which Palais also reported.

Heard a plea for support for a merger with Corbett School District or a boundary change with Hood River County School District.

George Fischer, chairman of the Cascade Locks Charter School Committee, asked the city to write a letter of support, but no action was taken on the request.

"Before we take that step, it's important to gather more information and different perspectives," Masters said. "As Mark Storm put it, we owe it to the community to look at this issue."

Masters said, "In general we're going to have a consensus to support the project, but it's too early to tell.

"One of those people we need to hear from is (Hood River County School Supt.) Charles Beck on his perspective on this.

"It also critical to have some sort of discussion with the superintendent from Corbett," Masters said.

"You never know what you're going to get, because school boards change and budgets change," he said. "We wouldn't want to go into it blind without at least asking the question, 'Would Corbett be open to opening a K-12 program in Cascade Locks?'"

He added that the district is hoping to hold one of its next meetings at Cascade Locks School, in hopes that parents will attend and give their input on the future of the facility.

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