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Dallas seniors continue wait on center

DALLAS — City leaders have a critical choice to make about the site proposed for the new Dallas Senior Center.

One is ready to build, but not preferred. The other site seems much better suited, but it’s not certain it will pass an environmental assessment.

Becky Baxter, Business Oregon’s Community Development Block Grant program policy coordinator, added another figure to the equation: The city’s contract with CDBG program for $1.95 million in funding for the project has technically expired.

The city was awarded the grant in December 2014, and the three-year contract was established in February 2015. Baxter said her agency is under the gun to explain the delay to the source of the grant, the U.S. Department of Housing and Development.

“However, we know everyone is working in good faith, good effort, so we are willing to continue,” Baxter said during a council work session on Monday evening.

If the city switched, the work already done on the Carnegie site would have to be redone at the armory lot at an estimated cost of $70,000. That couldn’t be paid for with grant money.

Also, if the remaining money didn’t cover the cost of construction, the city would have to issue a plan to provide additional funding.

A full environment assessment could take six to 10 months, and if issues were found, that could cost more money and time to resolve, Baxter said.

Members of the senior center at Monday’s meeting said the organization would be willing to help pay for those costs and expressed a desire to move the site.

“That site behind the Carnegie Building is terrible,” said Dallas Area Senior member Jerry Wennstrom. “It’s terrible. I don’t know a better word I could use in mixed public.”

Urban Renewal District Advisory Committee Chairman David Shein requested if the council and the Urban Renewal Agency Board — the council serves as both — move the senior center to the armory site, that city reimburse the district for the cost of purchasing the property.

Shein noted that a prospective business had been working on start-up plans to open a business on the site and may look outside of Dallas if it’s no longer available.

Baxter recommended that the city stay at the Carnegie site to complete the project in a timely manner, but said her agency would be accommodating to the city’s decision.

“We want to see this built and completed,” Baxter said.

Monday, the Dallas City Council decided to seek one more piece of information before ultimately deciding whether to start building on the lot behind the Carnegie Building now or adjust plans to build it on the newly acquired former armory lot: how soon a Level I environmental assessment could be completed.

Baxter said that assessment would give the city a good idea what kind of environmental mitigation, if any, is needed on the site to build a federally funding senior center on the site.

When the Dallas Urban Renewal District purchased the property from the Oregon Military Department, it had to be cleared by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.

Having a clean bill of health from a state department doesn’t mean the site meets federal standards, Baxter said.

Regardless of the site decision, the city and Business Oregon will have to amend the contract, either to allow more time to build on the current site or make the switch to the new site.

Baxter stressed that needs to be done soon.

“We’re not here to take the money back. We don’t like to take the money back. We don’t want the money back,” Baxter said. “We’re here to try to figure out how to make this work.”

The council asked Interim City Manager Greg Ellis to find out if, and when, an assessment can be completed and report back at or before the council’s next meeting on the feasibility of assessing the armory site.


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