Chamber requests tourism funds to fix destroyed building

The Chamber of Commerce director requested financial assistance for the remodel of their building at the Feb. 14 City Council meeting.

Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Rebecca Grizzle presented the board with a proposed redesign of the former 1950s cinderblock DMV building, which was converted to the Chamber in the 1980s.

“It wasn’t designed to be a visitor’s center,” Grizzle said, “and largely our physical presence, that’s what we are.”

Johnathan M. Davis, of Salem, crashed into the Chamber in March 2023, leaving staff without a functioning building for a year now. The crash ultimately moved two walls within the building, making it unsafe to occupy.

“That began a long and painful process of redesign, rethinking that space,” Grizzle said. “It’s pretty extensive damage that has to be repaired.”

A proposed remodel of the Chamber of Commerce includes a seating area and a space to honor the historical tribes of the area.

As Chamber staff work through the nuts and bolts of what it will take to get their building back into working order, they determined now would be the best time to update it. Ideas include more frontal windows, an ADA-accessible bathroom, cedar pillars and siding “to honor the timber industry in town,” as well as a section to honor the local historical Calapooia tribe.

The “rough” estimated cost for the remodel totaled to about $296,400 ($202,000 for the build, $25,000 furnishings, $20,000 cultural display, and $49,400 contingencies). The Chamber also plans to build a patio for community business use, estimated to cost an additional $115,000. Insurance from the crash will cover $180,000, and a T-Mobile grant for the patio will provide $50,000, leaving a $181,400 deficit.

Grizzle said the City is currently “sitting on” roughly $200,000 in tourism funds. She asked the Council to use $100,000 from that fund for the redesign, noting that the money cannot be used by the city for anything other than tourism-related use. She also informed the Council that Linn County agreed to work with the Chamber to try to help cover the rest of the financial need if the City also does.

The Council expressed support for the request and will address the decision at the March meeting.

In other business, the Council:

◆ Authorized a transfer in budget appropriations for City Council PERS and to cover additional fringe benefits for court staff beyond the original budget;

◆ Approved a contract renewal for Public Defender Erik Moeller, giving him a $4,000 per year increase from $22,000 to $26,000, his first raise in four years;

◆ Approved an intergovernmental agreement with the Lebanon Community School District for outdoor maintenance services from the City for $155,000, which will end June 30, 2024.