Wednesday, June 20, 2001
Mayor John McArdle, with his characteristic gift for hyperbole, calls it the "Independence Renaissance."
However, anyone who sees what's going on around town would have to agree.
By fall, the sidewalks of downtown Independence will be 3 feet wider and lined with trees, planters, park benches and antique-style street lights.
Street corners will be extended bulbs -- slowing traffic and making it easier for pedestrians to get from one side of the street to the other.
None of this costs local taxpayers a dime. It's being paid for by a $300,000 grant from the Oregon Downtown Development Association.
In all, five blocks of Main Street -- from Riverview Park to Monmouth Street -- will be renovated with the Oregon Community Development Block Grant.
City officials will also spend about $400,000 for underground water, sewer, storm drain pipes and street pavement.
Rural Development (part of the United States Department of Agriculture) kicked in another $45,000 to pay for the street lights.
As exciting at this project is, it's only the beginning. Eventually, city officials want to extend the old-fashioned theme from Main Street up Monmouth Street to Independence City Hall and the site for the new library.
The new library is another shining example of this Independence Renaissance. Voters approved $500,000 last November to turn the old A-to-Z Auto Parts Store on Second and Monmouth streets into a new library.
The rest of the money is being raised through private donations.
Another project is an amphitheater to replace the aging ball field at Riverview Park.
City Manager Greg Ellis said he's been after the Oregon National Guard to donate labor to excavate for the $63,000 amphitheater.
The $63,000 is coming in part from an $8,000 grant from the Mid-Valley Arts Council and a $35,000 grant from state lottery funds.
The other $20,00 is coming from other grants, Ellis said.
Independence won't lose a ball field in the process. Local Boy Scouts are clearing land for a new field in the park. McArdle said more ball fields will follow.
Park development has been another priority for the city. New playground equipment has been put in at Riverview Park and the brand new Wildfang Park is set to open.
Independence is growing.
Steady growth as well as new industries like Medallion Cabinetry have allowed the city council to pass a $10.5 million budget with ease.
No cutbacks, no reductions in services.
People often resist the idea of growth, especially in small towns, but a certain amount of growth is needed to provide basic services without hiking taxes.
The list of good things happening in Independence is dizzying. While most downtowns in small communities are hurting, there isn't a vacant storefront in downtown Independence.
We haven't even touched on the Salmon Run where people raise money for art scholarships or the proposed Hop Festival later this summer. Or a city council that works and plays well with others.
We wish there was some secret recipe here that other communities could copy. However, there are no simple answers. Independence is the beneficiary of a certain amount of luck.
The right forces just happened to come together at the right time.
But there is more to this than luck. There is a community spirit in Independence that cannot be denied. People are committed to working together to get things done.
When that happens, good things are bound to result.