City leaders expect growth, new development and staffing changes in 2017

INDEPENDENT PHOTO: JULIA COMNES - Superintendent Chuck Ransom stands with Washington Elementary School students at the groundbreaking for the most recent bond project on the school property, which started in December.It may be impossible to predict what will happen in the new year, but those in power can give us a good sense of what's on the agenda. The Independent spoke with leaders from some of the city's cornerstone agencies to learn what's planned for Woodburn in 2017.

New fire engine

In fall 2017, the Woodburn Fire District will replace its primary fire truck with a new $467,000 apparatus.

The district's current primary apparatus has been in use for more than 10 years, according to Woodburn Fire District Chief Paul Iverson.

"It's used every day. It has lots of miles on it, and maintenance costs are increasing fairly rapidly on it," Iverson said.

The district signed a contract for the new truck in 2016, but Iverson said it usually takes about a year from the day the contract is signed for a fire engine to be complete. It's estimated that the truck will be done in October or November this year, Iverson said.

The new truck won't look too different from the current one, Iverson said, though it will feature newer technology like LED lights.

"And yes, it will be the same color," Iverson said.

Decisions on UGB

Following last year's long-awaited approval of Woodburn's Urban Growth Boundary expansion, the city will determine how to encourage development in the 619 acres of land added to the UGB.

Mayor Kathy Figley, who during the November 2016 election listed overseeing development in the new area as a reason for running for her eighth term as mayor, said the city will need to be deliberate in making development in the area as easy as possible.

"Sometimes local government just gets in the way," Figley said, including that she wants to avoid slowing down the process.

In the beginning of the new year, the Woodburn City Council will hold a workshop to discuss ways of incentivizing employers to bring their businesses to the area.

Figley said that could include expanding Woodburn's Enterprise Zone, which currently comprises city limits, to include the newly added area. An enterprise zone, Figley said, attracts new companies by waiving some property taxes for eligible businesses.

Figley said in addition to figuring out how to incentivize companies to develop in the new area, the city council will have to decide which companies would receive the incentives and which ones wouldn't.

"My first instinct is, OK, what kind of company, what kind of jobs?" Figley said. "That's a policy decision that all seven of us (on the city council) have to make."

INDEPENDENT PHOTO: JULIA COMNES - This year, the city will begin adding bike lanes, sidewalks and improved travel lanes to West Hayes Street between Settlemier Avenue (pictured) and Cascade Drive.

New developments throughout city

Woodburn residents can expect to see some new features in the city by the end of 2017.

That includes Centennial Park's splash pad, which is scheduled to be completed in the spring. Funding for the splash pad, which will cost an estimated $203,000, came in part from a grant from the Oregon Parks & Recreation Commission.

Another feature will be the updated alley between Grant and Hayes streets in downtown, which is also expected to be completed in the spring. The new alley will feature trash and recycling enclosures, additional light fixtures, planters, signage and bike racks. The project will cost an estimated $71,472.

The mural depicting Woodburn's heritage, slated for the south-facing wall of the Woodburn Independent office, is scheduled to be completed and installed in the spring. The mural, which features the Settlemier House, tulips, a turn-of-the-century locomotive and other symbols of the city, was originally scheduled to be done last autumn, but was delayed due to weather conditions.

In addition, work will begin this year on West Hayes Street, between Settlemier Avenue and Cascade Drive, to improve pedestrian, bicycle and vehicular safety with bike lanes, sidewalks and improved travel lanes.

And, while Figley said nothing is guaranteed, she said the city will revisit the idea of a Woodburn community center in 2017.

Hillcrest and MacLaren to be combined

This summer, Hillcrest Youth Correctional Facility, located in Salem, will be consolidated with MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn.

Work began in summer 2016 to expand and renovate MacLaren facilities in preparation for the consolidation.

The newly expanded facilities will double MacLaren's capacity, increasing it from 136 youths to 272.

Bond work

When asked what's in store for the Woodburn School District in 2017, Superintendent Chuck Ransom replied: "Bond, bond and more bond."

While many of the projects included in the $65 million Capital Improvement Bond won't be completed until 2018 and 2019, the projects will see significant progress this year, Ransom said.

And some, like the construction of the new Success High School, are scheduled to be done before the end of the year. The new Success will be located on the same site as the new district office on Meridian Drive and is scheduled to be completed in August this year.

And while the entirety of the project at the high school won't be completed until 2018, the renovation of classrooms that experienced smoke damage in the 2012 fire is scheduled to be completed this year.

Police department staffing updates

The Woodburn Police Department underwent a reorganization last year under the new leadership of Chief Jim Ferraris. The new structure eliminated the captain positions and added a deputy chief, among other changes. This year, Ferraris said the focus in the department hiring and promoting personnel rather than reorganizing the current structure.

The department as it is now, Ferraris said, is stretched thin due to staffing shortages. In the new year, the department will hire up to five new entry-level officers to fill current vacancies.

Though Ferraris said the new officers will help with the department's shortness of staff, it won't be an immediate fix.

"We won't be out of the woods quite yet," he said.

Ferraris said that the new officers will need to undergo training, which is a months-long process.

The department is also moving to promote several officers to sergeants. The department currently only has two sergeants — and Ferraris wants to get that number up to the five the department is budgeted for.

And, the department is working to add one of its officers to the Marion CountyMobile Crisis Response Team, which responds to mental health crisis calls. Officers that work for the mobile response team are specially trained in working with those going through a mental health crisis and are paired with a mental health professional when going out on calls.

"So much of what we do is tied to helping people going through a mental health issue," Ferraris said.

Ferraris said the department will present the proposal on becoming part of the program to the City Council this month.

Julia Comnes covers all things Woodburn. She can be reached at 503-765-1195 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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