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Commmission eyes farmer's market

Market-filled lot would enhance town appearance
By Holly M. Gill
   News Editor
   The idea of a farmer's market in downtown Madras has aroused the interest of a Madras man, who would like to see his vision take shape in the near future.
   Bill Houts, Madras representative on the board for the Opportunity Foundation of Central Oregon, told the Jefferson County Commission last Thursday that he hopes to enlist the county's help in establishing a farmer's market on the former site of the Ron McDonald Chevrolet dealership on the corner of Fifth and B Streets.
   The Opportunity Foundation is a non-profit organization set up to help mentally and physically handicapped individuals. The Redmond center has served Jefferson County since 1965.
   "We have very individualized programs that build on people's strengths," said Darrel Wilson, executive director of the foundation. The foundation trains its clients to use cash registers, do repair work, and work in the Redmond secondhand store.
   The vacant lot, now owned by the Opportunity Foundation, will eventually be the site of the foundation's new 40,000 square-foot building, but that project is two to three years in the future, Houts said.
   In the meantime, Houts and Wilson would like to see the lot cleaned up and graveled in preparation for a farmer's market.
   "It would be something to stop people as they go through town," Houts said. "It reinvigorates peoples' abilities to get together. They can sit and visit and sell things."
   Houts displayed an article on farmer's markets which says that the markets revitalize downtown areas by creating an active meeting place and income-producing community.
   "We're approaching the county to see if they could work with us to help gravel the lot," Houts said. He is hoping to get the county to help grade and donate gravel for the lot. The 60,000 square-foot lot would require about 555 cubic yards of gravel, he said.
   Commissioners Walt Ponsford, Mary Zemke and Bill Bellamy all expressed support for the plan. "I think it's an incredibly good idea," said Zemke, who suggested that they look for matching donations from businesses.
   If the idea of a farmer's market takes hold in Madras, Houts said it could be moved to a new location when the Opportunity Foundation's new building is built. The foundation has complete plans for the building and is now seeking grant funds to build the $4 million project.
   The two-story, L-shaped building will have space for the Opportunity Foundation to train its clients, as well as open space for rentals for mainstream clients, and about six apartments on the upper floor.
   In other business, the County Commission held a public hearing on the Public Facilities Plan for the Urban Growth Boundary Management Area for the city of Madras.
   Carol Parker, city planner, explained that the plan summarized the city's plans for storm water, water, sewer and transportation.
   "We must be prepared to show the state that we're ready for growth," she said.
   No members of the public spoke regarding the plan and the commission approved the plan as presented.
   Madras Mayor Rick Allen spoke to the commission about a resolution supporting open access to the Lower Deschutes River. The city of Maupin prepared the resolution for the six local governments located along the lower river, and the city of Madras added its approval at its meeting earlier in the week.
   Those favoring the resolution are hoping to stop the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department from implementing a permit system for the river. The department's 1993 management plan called for such a system if use of the river exceeded certain levels. (See related Madras City Council story on this page.)
   In November, Allen said, the OPRD said fish numbers were at record high levels. "The said use levels from 1995 to now have trended down, and the number of days over (the level set by the plan) have gone from 40 to 30 to 10. This year, it could drop to five."
   The Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and the Bureau of Indian Affairs support a limited-entry system.
   Bellamy commented, "The tribes are bothered that private people are making money guiding trips on a river that they don't feel they should have access to."
   The commission discussed the resolution, but put off any action until they have time to consider it further.