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South Y project ignites concern

by: Photo By Holly M. Gill - Rae Ellen Stillings, who owns The Outpost with her husband and family, is concerned about potential reconfigurations of the highways on the south end of Madras.


   She expects some disruption to the family business, but Rae Ellen Stillings, who owns The Outpost with her husband and family, hopes that a highway realignment won't entirely take out their business.
   Stillings plans to express her preferences at a regular meeting of the Madras City Council Tuesday, Dec. 12, when the council will discuss the realignment of U.S. Highway 97/26 on the south end of Madras.
   The Oregon Department of Transportation has presented a plan that would begin to route northbound highway traffic onto South Adams Drive before L Street, instead of veering east at K Street. South Adams Drive would become one way northbound from Tracie Street.
   The city and ODOT had considered alternatives for the past five years, and finally settled on the current plan. However, at a Madras Planning Commission hearing Nov. 1, Dennis Prince, who owns Prince's Automotive on Fifth and J streets, suggested another plan which he said would impact fewer businesses. Northbound traffic would veer off near J Street, avoiding South Adams entirely.
   The Outpost, Madras Body and Glass, and Country Insurance and Financial Services, all located north of J Street, between Fourth and Fifth streets, would all be forced to move under Prince's plan.
   The planning commission voted to have an engineering study done on Prince's plan, and pass both on to the Madras City Council for another hearing Dec. 12.
   "The ODOT plan isn't perfect for us, but at least it isn't going to wipe out our building and our livelihood," said Stillings, who was alarmed by Prince's plan, which would force them to look for a new location.
   "We're trying to sell items at a value price," she explained. "It's pretty hard when you have to go out and buy overpriced property."
   The local Outpost, which supports eight families, is the headquarters for a small chain of five stores, also located in Prineville, Redmond, LaPine and The Dalles, she noted.
   "With the high prices we're experiencing in Madras, it would be impossible for us to find a large enough building in as good of location as our current building. We have access now from two directions," she said. "Mr. Prince wants to turn us and Country Companies and Madras Body and Glass into a park."
   Jim Brown, who has owned Madras Body and Glass for the past 23 years, said the business has been at its current location on Southwest Highway 97 since 1946.
   Brown sees no sense in getting worried over a proposal. "At this point, I don't read much into it," he said of Prince's plan. "We don't know what's going to happen, so why get bent out of shape until we know."
   If Prince's plan was selected, he said, "Then, I guess I'd have to figure out what I'd do. To lose this location would be a substantial loss. There is no other commercial site available with the location and exposure I have right now."
   The owner of Country Insurance was unavailable for comment.
   The Madras City Council meets at 7 p.m. Dec. 12, in the Madras City Hall.