Council OKs Ralston Park master plan

Work on renovating Ralston Park will begin following unanimous approval of the Ralston Park Improvement Plan by the City Council Wednesday, June 12, during their monthly meeting Wednesday, June 12, at the Santiam Travel Station.

The plan to renovate the city’s central park grew out of its 2040 Strategic Action Plan, approved in April of 2016 by the council, City Manager Gary Marks said. Last September the council established an ad hoc planning committee to come up with a plan for the park. That committee met several times, taking public comment multiple times, he said.

Councilor Jason Bolen, who chaired the commission, thanked the participants, who, he said, “spent a good portion of time” on the plan.

“This is commuity-based, not just something the council wanted,” he said. “There was a lot of community interest, not just residents of the area.”

He said the committee “worked hard” to incorporate the desires and needs of various interest groups.

The goal, he said, is to have a park that will be “more appealing to families” and used by the public.

He emphasized that the master plan is simply a roadmap “to get from Point A to Point B” and that there will be changes as the project of renovating the park gets under way.

Council member Karin Stauder said that it was important everybody realizes that.

“The Garden Club has been “very concerned” about the plan, she noted. “There is still lots of community input.”

Mayor Paul Aziz noted that the process was the same for Strawberry Plaza.

“When it was done, it looked a little different” than the original plans, he said. “Quite honestly, I think it came out pretty decent. I think Ralston Park will be the same way.”

Marks said it may be a year or two before work begins in earnest. Initially, there will be earthmoving and the grading of the canal that splits the park – “subtle changes that have to happen to the landscape first,” he said. “That sets the pins for everything that comes after.”

In other action, council members:

n Awarded a bid to RiverBend Materials for street preservation work, including the north end of Main Street, between 5th and Tangent, and on Sherman Street.

RiverBend, of Salem, bid $178,472, which was the lowest of four bidders for the project, but Engineering Services Director Ron Whitlatch said that was well over the city’s estimate for the work.

He told the council that the economy has created a situation in which “contractors can name their price.”

Also, Whitlatch said, the project in question includes sidewalk access ramps, which are unpopular with contractors, thanks in part to a recent lawsuit against ODOT involving such ramps.

A similar project on Park Street, involving replacement of 10 ramps, he said, came in at $83,000. Typically, he said, the cost would have been $4,000 per ramp. The ramps have to be structured on precise measurements spelled out by the  American Disabilities Act, he said.

Whitlatch said one option would be for the city to go ahead and repave the streets in question, then have its own staff build the ramps later in the year, when work on other projects tails off. The risk there, he said, is the precision required for the ramps.

The city could also postpone the work, he said.

He added, “we’re gambling on these streets. There’s zero base to them. When we take the asphalt off, we always run the risk of complete failure of the road.”

Council members worried that members of the public might question why the roads were being worked on by the city after being repaved, but they agreed they didn’t want to spend the kind of money reflected in the bids.

Aziz, who uses a wheelchair, noted that the ramps will be necessary.

“If I have no access and have to go all the way around, it’s a danger,” he said.

Whitlatch estimated that the paving work could be done for $95,412, and councilors voted unanimously to award the contract without including the ramps.

Also at the meeting, city council:

  • Approved revised wording in two city ordinances reflecting changes in the council’s meeting time (6 p.m.) and location (Santiam Travel Station).
  • Presented a parting gift to City Clerk Linda Kaser, who is retiring.
  • Proclaimed July as Fireworks Safety Awareness Month.
  • Reappointed Ray Hendricks and Sheree Speaks to the city Arts Commission.
  • Appointed Ronnie Kyle Randleman, a local pastor, to the Senior Services Advisory Committee and reappointed Henry Chambers to the committee.
  • Appointed Jennifer Puccio, a local plant specialist and Arbor Foundation member, to the Trees and Trails Advisory Committee.
  • Approved a public utility easement for a newly constructed storm line and detention facilities as part of the Mill Race Station development north of Reeves Parkway.
  • Approved a full on-premises sales liquor license for The Cellar, a restaurant that will be open Wednesday through Sunday evenings at the location of Sugar Vibes Donut Co., 754 Main St.

Also, Marks reported to the council that he has hired Kelly Hart of Stanton, Calif. as the city’s new community development director, replacing Walt Wendolowski, who is retiring, and Kim Scheafer, the current city clerk in Canby, to replace Kaser.

He described Hart as a “dynamo” who is “on board with what we are doing here,” and Scheafer as a “very fortunate” hire, particularly in the current economy.

Scheafer has been with Canby, a city almost identical in size to Lebanon, for 16½ years.

She and her husband have been seeking an opportunity to move to Lebanon, where their son lives, Marks said.

She starts June 24.