Mayors share successes, challenges that lay ahead

Monmouth & Independence state of the cities address

INDEPENDENCE -- Monmouth Mayor John Oberst and Independence Mayor John McArdle entered into a wager a few years ago regarding which project would be done first, Independence Station or a planned Walgreens at the intersection of Main Street and Highway 99W in Monmouth.

"I'm sorry to say that, barring a miraculous impact from President Obama's stimulus plan," Oberst said during the pair's joint "State of the Cities" address on Feb. 12, "I'm going to be buying John a steak.

"That will be in Monmouth, by the way."

About 60 community members and local government officials attended the presentation at Independence Cinema to hear about the cities' successes and challenges in 2008, and learn what the future holds.

McArdle and Oberst touched on the local impact of the recession. Walgreens has put its four-year-old plans for a pharmacy in Monmouth on hold indefinitely as it slows national construction of new stores for 2009, Oberst said.

The city's budget picture should be stable, though the construction slowdown has hit hard Monmouth's self-funded Building Department, which eliminated some positions.

Oberst said there is much interest from outside parties about relocating into downtown. An enhancement to the S-curves and a Monmouth Power & Light substation are slated for this year.

Oberst said Monmouth is participating in Oregon's Main Street Program, a statewide commercial district revitalization initiative that will involve citizens and business owners.

In Independence, McArdle referenced layoffs of about 20 at Franklin Equipment Company on North Main Street, and the subsequent closing of the business -- which had operated since 1968 -- in January.

On the flipside, the city has seen an influx of new businesses, such as Rogue Brewing and Ladies of Liberty Mercantile. Officials will also try to increase the presence of Chemeketa Community College to boost post-high school education in Independence, McArdle said.

Another phase of the Ash Creek Trail, a state grant-funded enhancement of Gun Club Road and groundbreaking on a new city hall on South Main Street are scheduled for 2009, McArdle said.

"Most of these projects also leverage grants and private funding to stretch our civic investment farther," he said.

Other items of interest:

* Monmouth Senior Center worked with the state to establish a Food Stamp Pilot program for seniors over 60.

* The Monmouth-Independence Network (MINET) has 3,100 customers -- or 43 percent of all households -- in the two cities subscribing to the internet, cable and phone service it offers.

* Work on Independence Station will continue all the way through its projected completion in Spring 2010.

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