The Dalles City Council will hold a town hall-style meeting to discuss homeless issues. Councilors reached consensus on that after discussing a potential ordinance to create a “civil exclusion zone” in the downtown business area that brought an overflow audience to City Hall. Mayor Steve Lawrence early on told the audience the ordinance was still in draft form and would only be the subject of discussion among Council members whether to move forward to have staff continue to develop it and eventually schedule a public hearing, and no comment would be taken on the subject during the public input period. But that didn’t sit well with at least one person who had a loud exchange with Lawrence, and after an outburst while another person was commenting was escorted from the room by Police Chief Pat Ashmore. Councilor Tim McGlothlin, who has been active in discussing the homeless issue, said he hopes many people offer ideas for solutions, pointing out the number of homeless in The Dalles has more than tripled since 2015. Lawrence said a town hall-style meeting will be planned before anything moves forward. The draft ordinance that was discussed would allow people who habitually violate any one of 24 different offenses to be excluded from the downtown area for up to 90 days, and face a second degree criminal trespass charge if found in the zone with some exceptions, including work or receiving social and medical services. The intent was to address aggressive panhandling and loitering in tourist and shopping areas. Police Chief Pat Ashmore told the Council he felt no more than five-to-six people would be impacted by an exclusion zone, noting it would be for anyone who habitually offended, not just people who are homeless.
A special meeting to discuss using urban renewal to develop infrastructure for Lot 1 on the Hood River Waterfront between the Hood River Urban Renewal Agency Board and the Port of Hood River Commission will take place. The URA panel is made up of the City Council and two Port Commissioners. A feasibility analysis done by EcoNorthwest for the Port indicated there will need to be public involvement to pay for infrastructure needs that would allow Lot 1 development to be feasible. City Manager Steve Wheeler notes no formal ask for expansion of the maximum indebtedness of the Waterfront Urban Renewal District has been made by the Port, but the topic was discussed during Monday’s URA meeting. No date has been set for the meeting.
The Hood River City Council has passed a resolution to revise parking in-lieu fees and downtown residential parking spaces. It establishes a reduced in-lieu parking fee of $2,000 per space for new residential development in the City’s commercial districts that provide at least two-thirds of the required parking. Councilors made the move in response to a request by Key Development to reduce what had been a fee of over $20,000 for residential parking downtown as the company considers an apartment complex in that area. At a goal-setting session over the weekend, Councilors indicated they want to develop a comprehensive effort to review parking issues downtown.
Interstate 84 west of Hood River will see rolling slowdowns and delays in both directions after 12:30 p.m. Wednesday for rock blasting necessary to build the latest segment of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. Rock blasting will take place between 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. The delays, which could last up to two hours, will be the fifth in a series of as many as seven blasts near milepost 53. This rock blast was originally scheduled for November 8, but was postponed. The blasting is necessary for construction of the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail segment connecting Wyeth and Lindsey Creek. The work is located in the same area where eastbound traffic is temporarily diverted into one lane of westbound I-84 due to fire debris removal activity from the Eagle Creek Fire.
Oregon Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley are asking for federal help for the Ports of Hood River and Cascade Locks, which experienced a combined $228,000 in lost toll revenue from the Eagle Creek wildfire. In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Wyden and Merkley say the lost toll revenue means important economic development initiatives will go unmet. The Eagle Creek wildfire forced an extended closure of the Bridge of the Gods owned by the Port of Cascade Locks, and to facilitate the movement of emergency safety vehicles and traffic detoured across the Hood River/White Salmon Interstate Bridge, the Port of Hood River lifted tolls for that crossing. Toll revenue lost by the Port of Cascade Locks totaled $158,000, and the Port of Hood River lost $70,000.
After taking public input, particularly from children, a design for the new Hood River Children’s Park structure has been unveiled. It does expand the current structure to make use of a slope to the south. The firm Play By Design will now do a more detailed design, and fundraising will take place to fully pay for the structure, as the City has budgeted some money for the project. The goal remains to have the new Children’s Park finished sometime around Memorial Day.
Three people have been nominated to fill the remainder of John Huffman’s term as Oregon State Representative for District 59. Mae Huston of Jefferson County, Bob Perry of Deschutes County, and Daniel Bonham of The Dalles are the nominees. Republican committee members from Wasco, Jefferson, Deschutes, and Wheeler counties made the selections over the weekend. County Commissioners from the four counties will meet to make the appointment. No date has been set for that to take place, but under state law it must occur by November 30. Huffman resigned last month as he accepted an appointment from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. His term expires at the end of 2018.
Hood River County will be updating its county forest designations. County Administrator Jeff Hecksel says it has been over 30 years since that has been done, noting the County currently has 34,000 acres of land, most of which is forest. Part of the need to revise the designations is as a result of the County making acquisitions that have consolidated land holdings with the proceeds from sales of lands outside the County that were acquired in an exchange with the Forest Service a number of years ago.
The Port of The Dalles has been has been looking at opportunities for value-added agriculture business that might not currently be filled in the region, and one answer comes as a bit of a surprise. Executive Director Andrea Klaas says the Port’s current planner through the University of Oregon’s Resource Assistance for Rural Environments, Bayoan Ware, has found custom meat packing is a need, as specialty meat producers can wait for over a year to get their meat cut at a U.S. Department of Agriculture certified facility in central Oregon. Klaas notes the meat packers are indicating one of the problems they have is a lack of qualified meat cutters, and that’s an impediment to expansion. She says they plan to convene a focus group to discuss what can be done to meet the deman. Klaas says they also plan to talk with tree fruit and berry industry representatives to discuss value-added product production in those sectors.
Both The Dalles and Hood River city councils meet Monday evening. The Dalles City Council will discuss a potential ordinance to create a “civil exculsion zone” in the downtown business area. It would allow people who violate any one of 24 different offenses to be excluded from the zone for up to 90 days, and face a second degree criminal trespass charge if found in the zone with some exceptions, including work or receiving social and medical services. The intent is to address aggressive panhandling and loitering in tourist and shopping areas. The meeting in The Dalles is at 5:30 p.m. in City Hall. The Hood River City Council meeting includes an Urban Renewal Agency agenda that will include discussion of Lot 1 development on the Port of Hood River Waterfront and the possibility of using urban renewal for infrastructure in that area. The Hood River meeting begins at 6 p.m. in City Hall.