State of the City: Independence

Vibrant. Energetic. Glowingly optimistic...



INDEPENDENCE -- Vibrant. Energetic. Glowingly optimistic.

In other words, Independence Mayor John McArdle thinks his city is doing OK.

"The state of the City of Independence as we begin 2001 is wonderful," he told the Monmouth-Independence Rotary Club Jan. 25.

He confessed a little bias. However, he said, a lot of people back him up.

"Business people, fellow mayors, our folks in Congress, friends and even people who've never set foot in our city have heard about what's being accomplished, about the vision of our citizen and our optimism for the future."

Specifically, McArdle noted that:

♦ Voters approved $500,000 in November to turn an old auto parts store on the corner of Second and Monmouth streets into a new public library.

"The vision shown by the voters will provide us with a wonderful library in our historic downtown," McArdle said.

♦ City officials got grant money to provide new play equipment this spring in Riverfront Park.

♦ City officials got $300,000 from the Oregon Downtown Development Association to fund a renovation along Main Street that will include street and sewer improvements.

"New street scapes and improved sewer and water are all in keeping with our historic flavor," McArdle said.

♦ Officials for the Army Corps of Engineers are talking about building an amphitheater in Riverfront Park next year as a community service project.

♦ The Independence State Airport went through a $1 million renovation and expansion, using federal and state funds.

"This important facility will continue to bring people and support business in the local area," McArdle said.

He attributed the accomplishments of the past year to the city council and staff. "We have a wonderful city council that's committed to doing what's right for the whole community," he said.

Civility and cooperation coupled with hard work and a willingness to make decisions have made our city government the envy of others in the region."

The staff also deserves credit, he said. "We have an outstanding professional staff and a senior leadership team that is committed to finding ways to support the vision and create yet another success."

McArdle said he is especially proud of Independence's partnership with other local governments, particularly Monmouth.

"Our staff communicates well with their counterparts and our councils meet together -- after a 20 year hiatus -- when necessary for our mutual benefit."

Joint efforts between Independence and Monmouth encouraged Boise Cascade executives to rebuild their regional headquarters in Polk County, McArdle said.

The headquarters on Highway 99W was torched by environmental terrorists on Christmas Day in 1999.

Another example of cooperation is the new bridge that will link 16th Street to the Central School District's new intermediate school.

"The $800,000 for the bridge across Ash Creek at 16th Street was the result of the school district, cities, fire district, sheriffs office, the Chamber and our friends at the County working together to solve a community challenge."

Officials in both cities are also working to keep the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Practices in Monmouth.

Independence grew by 2.2 percent during 2000 and by 45 percent during the last decade.

"This growth has been planned growth," McArdle said.

"New homes and apartments are going into designated areas. The council has looked very closely at planned developments, and been resistant to those wanting to dilute our quality of life."

A positive attitude from city hall has resulted in luring industry to town, McArdle said.

Executives at Marquis Spa are just finishing a major addition to their local facility.

Next to Marquis Spa, Medallion Kitchen (a major supplier of cabinets to Home Base), is building 150,000 square feet for a new plant.

The operation promises to employ some 250 people later this fall.

McArdle said priorities for the coming year include:

♦ Making the city ready for broadband cable and other high-tech advances.

"Broadband cable is as necessary to the infrastructure of our community in the 21st century as roads were in the 19th," McArdle said.

♦ Exploring alternatives to traditional single family homes.

About 70 percent of homes contain only one or two people, McArdle said. "It is important to explore a variety of high-quality, affordable and ultimately desirable options."

♦ Upgrading local parks.

City officials are looking for a foot bridge in Riverfront Park to connect the north side of the creek for ball fields.

A foot bridge is also needed to get access to Wildfang Park, McArdle said.

Staff members are working with the developer on the park at Gun Club and Hoffman roads.

"I also have hopes that we can improve the park next to the millpond by the Old Mountain Fir," McArdle said.

"My goal is that we complete all of these projects in the coming 12 to 24 months."

McArdle said he will spend the legislative session defeating attempts to reduce money coming to cities.

Efforts are being made in the Legislature to eliminate franchise fees -- fees that make up a good portion of cities' general funds. General fund dollars pay for police, libraries, parks and other services.

McArdle vowed to fight attacks on franchise fees.

He is not daunted by the upcoming battle. If anything, McArdle said the past year has energized him.

"Independence is a wonderful place to be now," he said.

"I ask for your continuing energy, your vision, even your sweat, to join with other committed people from all walks of life dedicated to the special spirit that is Independence."



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