Achievements spark a First Street fiesta
Dozens of youngsters flitted about the Woodburn Public Library grounds, scrambling, scaling and bobbing about as they broke in the new playground equipment on a balmy Monday evening, Aug. 26.
A block away the evening framed a festal setting as Woodburn held its biweekly city council meeting on the steps of its newly renovated city hall in conjunction with a community barbecue.
The unusual council format accommodated hundreds of residents between the city hall parking lot and the library grounds, as the community feted a plurality of milestones and a legion of folks who collectively contributed to them over time.
Four ribbon cuttings ensued the short meeting's adjournment: Woodburn City Hall, a peace pole on its grounds, Library Park's new playground and the First Street Improvements – all achieved in earnest over the course of the summer.
"You're going to move to the recognition of the many projects that have been going on here for (more than a decade)," Woodburn Mayor Eric Swenson addressed the council and the crowd. "A small economic crisis hit in 2008, and the city has been quite prudent in saving its money for a decade and enabled us to now renovate First Street and a number of amazing projects that our city manager will (elaborate on) in a second."
Swenson, who took office in January, saluted former mayors and council members, planners, city staff and educators.
"The truth is, this city has been in good hands for many years," he said. "In many cases thanks to the leadership that was with Nancy Kirksey, Kathy Figley, Frank Lonegran and with City Manager Scott Derickson, who has been our city manager for 10 years. All the things you are going to hear about tonight have been under his direction."
Derickson also lauded the leadership and the city's perseverance – officials, staff and citizens – in confronting challenges along the way to see downtown projects to fruition, which he said were about 95% done.
City hall renovations included the repair of a failing roof, a leaky cover that served well for growing mushrooms, but not necessarily conducive to conducting city business, Derickson observed. Ventilation (HVAC), security and mechanical systems were also upgraded.
Construction forced the city to move its business to temporary digs around the first of the year, while a vagabond council held meetings at improvised settings around town.
"We're really excited to be back in city hall; we're really excited to be back downtown and be part of the community here as well," Derickson said.
First Street improvements were achieved after years of planning, and encountered considerable obstacles once underway, not the least of which was finding 12 fuel tanks that needed to be environmentally mitigated. The city knew of three going into the project; the others were not registered with the Department of Environmental Quality.
"By the time we were done, we removed 12 (fuel tanks)," Derickson said, adding that the surprises sparked an office poll, in which he guessed there would be 13. "As a result of those gas tanks, we mitigated over 1,000 tons of contaminated soil to bring downtown into environmental compliance."
Other elements included the removal of a dangerously dilapidated Pix Theater, providing spaces for tree planting and the peace pole.
"The peace pole project is a movement that has been inspired in cities all across the country, particularly in communities that are diverse...communities that recognize the differences in their communities and among themselves but find that the share the oneness of being together in a community the same place at the same time, with respect," Derickson said.
The peace pole is in four languages: Spanish Russian, English and Somalian.
The Library Park addition was largely achieved through Woodburn Rotary's leadership. Live music sounded out over the library grounds, a classic-car cruise in lined the newly improved First Street section in front of it, and a handful of kids sported over the new play equipment, providing a fitting backdrop to its ribbon cutting ceremony.
Meanwhile, back at city hall a hearty line mounted at the food-serving tables as residents loaded plates with grilled meats, veggie trimmings, potato salad and chips.
"This is the most attendance we've had at a city council meeting when it's been all positive – nobody's complaining," Swenson observed. "Thanks for coming."
• Woodburn City Council also expanded the number of people on its Community Center Citizens Advisory Committee from 12 to 22, adding Councilor Lisa Ellsworth, Lani Biddle, Jenne Marquez, Rachel Westrick and Rebecca Hayes.
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