The city of John Day has six capital projects on the books with investment horizons ranging from 20 years to more than a century, City Manager Nick Green told the city council. But he doesn’t expect to see more big capital projects in the immediate future.
“This next year is all about execution,” he said.
To present these capital projects to the residents of John Day and Grant County, Green plans to deliver a state of the city address early in the year followed by less formal town hall meetings at multiple venues through June.
He also wants to create a Community Advisory Committee and a Technical Advisory Committee to provide public input and assistance in the planning process for these projects.
The first committee would be well rounded, with no special requirements and representative of all perspectives, Green said — including the young, elderly, business and education sectors. They would pass on ideas to the second committee, which would include people who are more detail-minded and have professional expertise, he said.
“That would be people who like to look at regulations and look for blind spots,” he said.
Each committee would have about 10-12 members appointed by the city council, but they don’t need to be John Day residents, Green said.
Improving internet access in Grant County is a top priority for the city, and Green successfully lobbied state legislators for $1.8 million to pay for running a fiber cable from the backbone fiber network in Burns to John Day.
The city council and the county court approved creation of the Grant County Digital Network Coalition to oversee development of a broadband network in the county, but it will be March before the coalition will begin meeting.
“I hadn’t expected a 90-day delay with the county ordinance,” Green said.
In the meantime, the city council approved two consulting contracts Dec. 12 to get the process started. Green said he spoke to three firms, but it was not a formal bidding process.
Victor Braud, managing director of Fiber Channels Inc., will negotiate with internet service providers for access to the fiber backbone at Burns. Braud’s contract is not to exceed $15,000 and will run through April 30.
Braud has extensive experience at the highest levels of wholesale marketing for internet connections, and “is ideally positioned to help the coalition,” Green said.
The second contract is with Commstructure Consulting LLC to provide infrastructure design and project management. The contract is not to exceed $25,000. Together, Green estimates the city will spend $91,800 of the $1.8 million by July.
The city’s acquisition of the former Oregon Pine mill property will address several city goals: provide land for a new wastewater treatment plant, turn a brownfield property into a public venue called the Innovation Gateway and utilize reclaimed water from the treatment plant in a commercial greenhouse that will provide a revenue stream to the city.
The city will receive a $200,000 state Transportation Growth Management grant in February for planning and design, which might not be completed until March 2019, Green said.
Construction of a riverfront trail could start in April. The overall plan also calls for extending Seventh Avenue to Patterson Bridge Road and converting the former planer building into an open market. Remodeling the steel shop building for use by the Public Works Department could be completed this year.
Plans for the commercial greenhouse were presented to the council Dec. 12. The city will solicit additional funding and start harvesting this fall.
The city plans to reclaim about 80 million gallons per year at a new wastewater treatment plant constructed on the north side of the John Day River. A feasibility study for the plant began in September, with contracts awarded to Anderson Perry Associates of La Grande and Sustainable Water of Glen Allen, Virginia.
The estimated cost for either a conventional or reclaimed water plant is at least $10 million, which might mean sewer rate increases. An income survey of John Day and Canyon City residents will help determine if the city is eligible for federal and state funding.
Housing and blight
The city has two projects to address housing inventory and blight in John Day. The city used a $100,000 Main Street Building Revitalization grant to purchase the Weaver Building on Main Street.
Downtown merchants asked the city to apply for the grant to fix up the downtown building that was listed for sale, Green said. While performing due diligence on the building, it was determined four buildings were connected by a roof, which created a fire hazard. The city council approved the purchase of the building with plans to renovate.
The goal is to provide a mixed-use downtown building with four commercial businesses on the ground floor and six condos at about 1,000 square feet each on the second floor. The city will hold an open house for contractors this year. The completed cost is estimated to be around $2 million.
The city also initiated plans to create a Housing Development District with the goal of seeing 100 new homes in John Day. The idea is to encourage homebuilders by providing a 7 percent rebate on the cost of building a new home and fronting the cost of water and sewer hook-ups. The additional property tax revenue collected from each new home is expected to cover these subsidies in about seven years.
The city applied for a $37,800 grant from the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development to conduct a feasibility study for the proposal. If the grant is awarded, the city will hire two consulting teams in February to develop the plan, Green said.
A state law limiting renewal districts to only 25 percent of a city’s total area must be addressed. Green hopes the legislature will consider an exemption, waiver or flexibility in its definition. The city will also solicit public feedback and hold formal public hearings on the plan. The target date for creating the district is July, Green said.
Completing construction of the city fire hall on South Canyon Boulevard stands out among the city’s long-term investments.
“It’s the only capital project without a capital plan,” Green said.
The city has sold the old fire station, but about 1,473 square feet of space remains unfinished in the new station. The John Day Rural Fire Protection District lacks funding to complete the project, Green said, and a bid from a contractor in Bend to complete the project came to $291,700. One city councilor noted that a new house could be built for that much money.
Pinnacle Architecture, which designed the new fire hall, contacted CSDI Construction of Boise, which is currently remodeling the Meadowbrook II apartment complex in John Day, about completing the fire hall, but they declined. The city council discussed taking on the project as a general contractor and hiring subcontractors, but no decision has been made.
“We have an obligation to the public,” Councilor Paul Smith said. “It was a hard sell to get the new fire hall.”