Consultant hired for Urban Renewal District

Feasibility study will be conducted

   News Editor
   The Madras City Council approved a service agreement with the Spencer and Kupper Consulting firm last Tuesday to guide it through the process of creating an Urban Renewal District.
   With little discussion, the council voted unanimously to accept the $9,750 contract of the Portland-based firm its members have said is one of the most highly regarded in the state.
   Charles Kupper will conduct an urban renewal feasibility study and present recommendations to the City Council. He will work toward outlining the processes involved in creating an Urban Renewal District, or URD, and the impacts it could have on Madras.
   Communities that form urban renewal districts designate these areas as sites for beautification projects, which could include anything from painting dull buildings to buying vacant property to turn into green spaces or burying utility wires.
   Creating a URD in Madras was a campaign pledge by Mayor Rick Allen. Earlier this month, a 16-person task force was created to explore the potential of such a district. That group recommended giving the feasibility study contract to Spencer and Kupper after examining a total of three consulting groups.
   If the urban renewal task force and City Council like what they see in the feasibility study, it is a given that Spencer and Kupper will be employed to conduct Phase 2 of the process, which would be to draft the final URB plan and report.
   Kupper has indicated that he would ask for $8,800 in compensation for an estimated 80 hours of work during that phase. Phase 1, the feasibility study, will take an estimated 90 hours.
   Allen said utilizing a consulting firm helps the city wade through all the legal jargon and complicated Oregon Revised Statutes so it can get the plan "signed, sealed and delivered" in a quick, cost-effective manner.
   The city kick-started this effort when it raised the transient-room tax from 6 percent to 9 percent. The money generated from that tax increase alone covers Kupper's compensation.
   Kupper will likely work with the city through February, Allen said.
   "He's reported to know more about urban renewal districts than anybody in Oregon so we're lucky to have him on board," Allen said.
   In early discussions, the Madras Urban Renewal Task Force has envisioned the district encompassing the downtown business area, from Hall Road north to Safeway. Funding for the district could take many shapes, including private grants and donations or creative taxing methods.
   Oregon law declares that an Urban Renewal District cannot encompass more than 25 percent of a city or 25 percent of its assessed value.