The St. Helens City Council is moving forward with financial decisions regarding different projects throughout the city, like the intersection of 1st Street and St. Helens Street, along with the Columbia County Tourism Initiative.
For the St. Helens Street and S. 1st Street intersection, Kittelson and Associates project manager, Tony Roos, answered councilors’ questions on the scope of work for the project at the work session, particularly cost factors for the project. Kittelson and Associates is the consulting agency assisting the city with the plan.
At a meeting earlier this year, Kittelson and Associates representative Caleb Cox said a four-way stop would not be installed at the intersection, although Councilor Keith Locke has repeatedly said he would prefer the intersection be a four-way stop. Cox also gave an estimated $300,000 overall cost for the project.
More recently, the council allocated $250,000 from the city’s timber revenue for the project. Sue Nelson, Interim Public Works Director, told the council there was also up to $150,000 available from the Service Transportation Program for the project. At that meeting, Nelson said construction would begin next year.
Councilors had different concerns about the intersection, namely factoring in traffic for future growth from the Waterfront Redevelopment Project, expense of the project and putting in a four-way stop sign.
Regarding future traffic growth, Roos said Kittelson and Associates created the Riverfront Master Plan, which enabled the
consulting firm to account for peak traffic 20 years down the road.
“We used projected data developed from the Riverfront Master Plan, that’s what the analysis is based off of,” Roos said.
Several councilors expressed concern about the expense of the project, with Councilor Stephen Topaz saying he wanted the team to make the project 40 percent cheaper.
Councilor Ginny Carlson asked Roos to detail the factors that would either increase or decrease the cost, saying the city has seen subdivisions of 30 homes cost less than the expected cost of the intersection, and public comments have expressed concern about the expense.
“There’s quite a difference between a green development subdivision versus coming in and trying to retrofit a facility that has zero setback buildings, and make sure those buildings have access and ADA access,” Roos said, adding, “we could cut the fee down 40 percent if we didn’t care about that. The detail we have to put into these plans to make sure they are accurate and buildable is what drives the cost up.”
Roos also added that warrants are in place for a four-way stop if the city decided to convert the design in the future.
City Administrator John Walsh said the intersection was “ground zero” for planning work regarding the Riverfront Connector Plan.
“I think it’s extremely important to get this intersection right,” Walsh said. “I think we need to do a really good job designing this intersection, because it’s going to set the tone for the rest of development.”
Representatives Amanda Lowthian, Alison Hart, Chuck Daughtry and Casey Garret presented on the Tourism Initiative to city councilors.
The initiative began in July of 2018 in collaboration with Travel Portland and the Columbia County Economic Team (CCET) and aims to encourage more tourism development in the county. The program involves a steering committee of 22 members from across the county, representing both public and private entities and interests.
During their presentation, the initiative reviewed its progress, including three different projects: Prescott Beach, Crown Zellerbach Trail and the new St. Helens Recreation Area.
To continue their progress, the group established a goal of obtaining $80,000 this year, according to CCET executive director Chuck Daughtry, which will sustain the program for an additional year.
The initiative has been gradually building funds, recently obtaining $10,000 from Columbia County and $5,000 from the City of Scappoose. They requested $5,000 from the City of St. Helens for the current fiscal year. While Walsh noted that tourism funds were already spent, the council found room for funding the project from council funds, and ultimately approved $5,000 for the initiative.
According to Daughtry, the initiative has now raised approximately $50,000.
“We’re getting close to getting the funding we need for another year, we might be a little bit short, but we’ll adjust to fit our budget,” Daughtry said, adding the initiative has yet to request funds from Vernonia and Rainier city councils.
The next step for the initiative, according to Daughtry is to figure out a way to make the initiative sustainable.
“We’re not quite sure how we’re going to fund it,” Daughtry said. “Maybe a county-wide room tax, we just don’t know yet.”