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COOS BAY — The Coos Bay Urban Renewal Agency met at the Dolphin Theater in Empire on Tuesday for a town hall meeting to discuss its intention to amend the Empire Urban Renewal Plan.

The URA hopes to amend the plan to increase the Empire Urban Renewal Districts maximum indebtedness. Maximum indebtedness is limit of spending on projects, programs and administration in a URA. An increase in the spending limit would allow for additional funding to be allocated to the reconstruction of streets within the area.

At a meeting the URA asked district residents what they wanted to see happen in the Empire District. The URA found that there was a lot of interest in fixing the roads within the district, façade grants, and construction of signs to mark the entrance to Empire district.

Many of the 15 or so in attendance were with the Community Coalition of Empire, and were very supportive of the URA’s decision to pursue a raise in the maximum indebtedness.

If approved the amendment will raise the Empire Urban Renewal District’s maximum indebtedness from $12,550,011 to $18,890,011, an increase of $6,340,000.

“There is a process that says how much we can increase the maximum indebtedness from the original plan through an amendment. That percentage came out to be about $6 million dollars,” Coos Bay city manager Rodger Craddock said.

The primary focus of raising the indebtedness is to work on roads. Roads in Empire that the URA has scheduled to update should the amendment pass include parts of Newmark Avenue, Michigan Avenue, Mill Street, Marple Street, Wall Street, Wasson Street, Cammann Street, Main Street, Schoneman Street, and Norman Street.

One citizen in attendance, Carl Siminow, asked the URA if while it’s replacing these streets it would also replace the infrastructure underneath the roads, specifically water and sewage pipes. The URA answered by saying that it would try its best to work with organizations like the water board to fix piping under the street in conjunction with paving projects if possible.

Citizens were also interested in when issues with residential streets in Empire might be addressed. Craddock explained that roads with heavier traffic are often prioritized over residential roads, and if more road problems were addressed using urban renewal funds then more money might be freed up to work on residential roads.

“Most of the attention goes to the roads that get the most use. That’s why we’re trying to beef up funds in other areas so we can expand out,” Craddock said.

This increase would lengthen the estimated timeframe of the area the fiscal year end of 2031, an additional six years.

Craddock said that if the increase is approved a few of the streets on the list would likely be taken care of in 2019.

“Just because the council approves a new maximum indebtedness doesn’t mean we have the ability to go out and get that additional $6 million off the bat, we also have to have the ability to make those debt service payments. What we would probably be looking at would be at least taking on two or three streets,” Craddock said.

Before the amendment can be approved it must be presented for public input, a finding of conformance to the comprehensive plan by the Planning Commission, a briefing to Coos County, and a hearing in front of the City Council that is noticed to all citizens of Coos Bay. The city’s hopes to have the amendment passed by mid-October.

According to the city, increasing the indebtedness will not increase property taxes for those living in the URA.

Folks who attended the meeting were generally thankful of the URA and supportive of the amendment.

“We’re happy with what’s been done here. Our taxes are going to the right place,” Siminow said.

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Nicholas A. Johnson can be reached at 541-266-6049, or by email at nicholas.johnson@theworldlink.com.

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