Tuesday, October 4, 2011/lk
After months and months of work and hundreds of revisions, the process of developing a 20-year plan for the city of Hood River's transportation systems and interstate access management is wrapping up.
"I now - and forever - declare this public hearing closed," Hood River Mayor Arthur Babitz said to chuckles and a few sighs of relief from the city council and city staff Monday night.
Babitz and the council spent two hours wading through minutiae and fine-tuning details before approving the plan.
Among the final additions were changes to the language to reflect plans for an expansion to the Historic Columbia River Highway trail which would eventually go along Westcliff Drive and allowing for alternatives to a set lane plan for eventual expansion of the exit 63 overpass.
Ultimately the council decided on multiple occasions to choose language that would leave the public and future councils options with how to proceed on the exact details of the plans.
"There are a whole lot of alternatives and I don't want to hamstring a future council or planners for taking a certain path. We need to look at it holistically ..." Councilman Jeff Nicol said. "We all know we want to keep as much parking downtown but (keeping parking and expanding the overpass) may be incompatible at some point."
After finally getting to close the book on the process, Babitz said he believes the city will be better for it and will have a better working relationship and understanding with the Oregon Department of Transportation going forward.
"We've established a solid relationship with ODOT about maintaining for freeway traffic and making sure our local economy is protected," Babitz said.
In other council business Monday night, Babitz accepted the immediate resignation of councilwoman Dawna Armstrong. Armstrong has been heavily involved in a construction project at the Oregon Coast and did not feel she could devote adequate time to continuing her duties on the council. Armstrong was elected in January.
"We are going to miss her," Babitz said. "She didn't feel she could spend adequate time and we appreciate all her work."
The council should have a fairly light agenda with the TSAP/IAMP hearings out of the way, and should begin interviewing candidates Oct. 24 to fill the position until the next election for the position in three years.
Reached by phone Tuesday, Armstrong said she learned a lot during her time on council and encouraged others to apply for the spot.
"I loved it," she said. "I would encourage citizens to get out there and volunteer for their community; it really is a serving position."
The council also approved a request by the city public works department to purchase three new vehicles: sewer cleaning truck, 5-yard dump truck and F-350 crew truck. It also approved a request from the Hood River Fire Department to purchase a cardiac monitor system for its third ambulance.
City Manager Bob Francis said that renovations at city hall are going well and the police department should be ready to move into its temporary quarters in the downstairs of the building by the end of the week. He said work crews had found a small amount of asbestos while pulling up some linoleum and would be removing it.
In a nod to the council's temporary meeting area in the county administration building while the renovation is underway, Babitz opened and closed the meeting not with a gavel, but by banging councilwoman Carrie Nelson's metal water bottle on the desk.
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