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Council urges ODOT to reconsider bridge process
VAN BUREN BRIDGE

Council urges ODOT to reconsider bridge process

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The Van Buren Bridge is seen from the east side of the Willamette River along the multiuse path. The Oregon Department of Transportation plans to replace the bridge, with the City Council and preservationists making efforts to preserve the existing bridge for bikes and pedestrians.

Late Monday night during a Corvallis City Council meeting that lasted 4 hours and 50 minutes, councilors passed four motions that might make it easier to save the Van Buren Bridge.

The 1913 bridge over the Willamette River is being replaced by the Oregon Department of Transportation, which is using $69 million in state funds on the project. The City Council voted 8-1 last Oct. 21 not to take possession of the bridge, but councilors and preservationists have continued to raise questions, claiming the public process surrounding Van Buren Bridge issues was rushed and flawed.

Councilors passed four motions that were put forward by Ward 4 Councilor Barbara Bull in a letter to her colleagues. The motions called for:

1. City Manager Mark Shepard to notify ODOT project management that the council believes the decision-making process regarding the Van Buren Bridge was rushed.

2. Shepard to request that ODOT begin negotiations to change the current Coast Guard rule governing the time allowed to open the Van Buren Bridge (the bridge is a swing-span model that has not "opened" in decades).

3. Shepard to request ODOT complete its analysis of the option to use the Van Buren Bridge as a temporary detour bridge during construction of the replacement vehicular bridge with the potential for retaining it as a permanent bike/ped facility.

4. Shepard to request that the analysis described above be presented by ODOT to the City Council 30 to 60 days after completion.

Motion 3 passed 8-0, with Jan Napack (Ward 1), Charles Maughan (Ward 2), Hyatt Lytle (Ward 3), Bull, Charlyn Ellis (Ward 5), Nancy Wyse (Ward 6), Paul Shaffer (Ward 7) and Andrew Struthers (Ward 9) all supporting it. Ward 8’s Ed Junkins was out of town on a work-related trip.

The other three motions passed 7-1, with Wyse opposing all three.

Several councilors noted during the deliberations that they still don't want the city to pursue taking ownership of the bridge. Instead, their support was intended to make it easier for another entity to purchase the bridge.

Also, it was noted during the discussions that the city cannot compel ODOT to take any actions on the issue.

Anna Henson, the ODOT project manager on the bridge work said "we are waiting to receive the request from the City Council in writing. Ten we will have more information regarding (the impact on) our project timeline."

In another high-wattage topic during Monday’s full agenda, councilors heard a report from a four-person ad hoc committee on possible review of the city charter. Struthers delivered the report. He was assisted on the six-meeting project by Napack, Lytle and Bull.

Struthers noted that the full council could take the charter amendment proposals and a) direct staff to develop charter language; b) direct staff to develop changes in council polices as applicable; c) form community task forces to work on some concepts; or d) do nothing.

Councilors directed staff to work on proposals that would upgrade pronouns, extend the city manager search process, establish a regular interval for charter review and fill councilor vacancies.

The council called for the ad hoc committee to come up with options on compensation for the mayor and councilors. The options would be forwarded to the citizen members of the Corvallis Budget Committee for review.

Benton County uses a similar process to establish compensation for members of the Board of Commissioners. Only the citizen members of the county budget panel vote on commissioners’ raises.

Corvallis Mayor Biff Traber receives $100 per month. Councilor positions are unpaid.

Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@gazettetimes.com or 541-812-6116. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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