Jon Neal selected as Mayor Pro Tem
OROVILLE – Councilman Jon Neal was selected to serve as Oroville’s Mayor Pro Tempore, should Mayor Chuck Spieth be unable to attend a city council meeting.
The recommendation was made by Councilman Tony Koepke who felt Councilman Walt Hart might need a rest after serving in the Pro Tem position for the past several years.
“I’d like to thank Walt he has done a really good job representing us for quite a few years,” said Mayor Spieth.
Chris Branch, director of Community Development, brought up Oroville Reman and Reload’s request to make changes to the Bob Neil and Jennings Loop Road where they go through the wood manufacturer’s facilities. The company is concerned about a wide turn on the road, as well as the safety of drivers and fork lift operators where Jennings Loop passes between the company’s property on each side of the road.
“By making the changes truck drivers could turn with the road wide enough to actually stay away from driving off the right of way,” said Branch, who said the proposal wasn’t perfect, but could lead to additional changes in the future, including a public railroad crossing near the company’s facilities.
Branch said that Gold Digger Apples Inc. did not appear to like the plan, however. The fruit packer has a plant on Jennings Loop and many of their trucks use the road traveling back and forth with loads of fruit.
The city is looking at replacing a portion of the current road, as well as changing parts of Bob Neil Road and Ninth Street.
“As most of you know there is a sawmill operation located on a city street,” Branch said. “The plan would take Bob Neil Road straight across the tracks and run through Reman and Reload.”
There is a possibility that much of the money to change the road would be available from the North Central Washington Economic Development District in the form of a grant. Oroville Reman and Reload would also foot part of the bill as a matching funds.
“It is not the most ideal solution, but Oroville Reman and Reload owns the land and it makes for a straight shovel ready project,” said Branch.
“There might be opportunities to change the design in the future. We are asking for quite a substantial amount of money with contingencies for some design modification,” said Branch. “I look at the design and even if it doesn’t make a perfect situation Michael (Guss, NCWEDD director) needs to get started on the grant process. We would have to annex part of the property because it is in the county.”
Branch said the railhead, which is utilized by several companies in the area, will face problems in the future if the city doesn’t get ahead on the issue.
“There are also a couple of properties for sale there and if they don’t have good access to the railhead they don’t have as much to sell,” Branch said.
“I don’t want to seem negative because Reman and Reload employs a lot of people, but this seems to serve one entity,” said Councilman Neal.
“I did have three entities that said that this configuration would make a public railroad crossing work. We could do this piecemeal and kind of work from the middle. The roads are all there but they are inadequate and falling apart,” replied Branch.
“We’re going to have to do something,” said Councilman Koepke.
Neal said he felt that access for people on Ninth Street needed to be accomplished before Ninth was vacated.
Branch said he would like to spend time with the new street committed members to discuss that access.
“I think there are options there,” he said.
“I thing the city holds pretty heavy liability the way it is now,” said the mayor.
Councilwoman Neysa Roley said that the city should consider that the grant opportunities are here now, even if the current plan isn’t perfect.
There is a water main that goes through the Oroville Reman and Reload property and Public Works Superintendent Rod Noel said that access would have to remain for the city to work on the utility.
“That water main serves Gold Digger, Reman and Reload and all the customers down there,” he said.
Koepke recommended the city apply for the grant to the NCWEDD and use it if the changes can be worked out.
“Do we want to proceed?” asked Branch.
Roley made a motion that the city pursue the grant and it was seconded by Koepke and passed with Neal abstaining
In other business
Kay Sibley, the director of the Borderlands Historical Society, updated the city on the Visitor Information Center and the Depot Museum.
“Last year we were up in visitor in May and June, we broke every record, then there was July and August and the fires started in BC. Starting in July the bulk of visitors are usually from Alberta and this year there were nine from there. The numbers for the VIC were below the 5500 there were last year,” she said.
Sibley said the historical society is working hard to raise money for the museum to complete painting and renovation, especially the west side which she says has deteriorated.
“We received $6000 from the county and that was fabulous,” she said.
“On another note the log cabin has been redone. We have the Hart room which has a bedroom suite from the 1800s that was donated by Walt Hart’s grandfather,” she said. “We also have some items the Blacklers found while moving house. Perry’s dad’s brother had a suitcase full of kid’s toys,” she said.
The society also has plans to install six more historical site signs around town and complete a walking map around the historical sites. Sibley asked for people to share pictures of the fruit warehouses that used to be in the Oroville area.
“At one time we know there were at least 13. Our theme this year is ‘It was the water’ celebrating the 100th birthday of the irrigation system that changed the north county,” she said.
Sibely also asked to extend the society’s lease on the depot building back up to 25 years so it can go after some preservation grants.
“We are also applying to the state for recognition as a historical building, then we will go for national,” she said.