Madras City Council makes commitment

by: Photo by Holly M. Gill - The current cement block restroom facility, on the northwest side of the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, sits next to the 4-H building.

Jefferson County officials are on a mission to find funding for a new restroom facility at the fairgrounds.
   County Administrator Jeff Rasmussen and Sandy Forman, fairgrounds manager, sat through a three-hour-long meeting of the Madras City Council Aug. 28 to ask the city to kick in funds for the project, which is expected to cost about $230,000.
   The county requested a commitment of $7,000 per year for five years from the city's transient occupancy tax -- the tax on hotels and motels in Madras.
   The restrooms and showers in the current facility do not comply with Americans With Disabilities Act requirements, and are in "terrible condition," according to a letter to the city from the County Commission.
   Despite being cleaned, repaired and repainted in April, the county continues to have problems with pipes breaking and the old heating system, said Forman.
   "They're rundown," she said. "I have a couple events that don't know if they're going to keep coming. It's to the point that it's going to start affecting events that come to the facility."
   The concrete structure the county would like to purchase is the same building used at state parks, Rasmussen said, and could be installed quickly.
   Designed for durability and long life, the restroom has steel-reinforced walls, roof and floors, and an anti-graffiti sealer on the walls.
   The facility has three toilets -- including one ADA-accessible stall -- on the women's and men's sides, and four showers with separate access points on the back of the building. Two of the showers are wheelchair accessible.
   "We would really love to have it ready to go by the end of May," said Rasmussen.
   Fair Board member Bill Vollmer has been working to obtain funding for the project, and has applied for grants from numerous organizations -- several of which are pending.
   In the staff analysis of the request, City Administrator Gus Burril explained that the tax, which brought in $194,694 in 2011-12, goes into the city's tourism/economic development fund, which supports the city's parks, the Madras-Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, and the county's economic development coordinator position with Economic Development for Central Oregon.
   For the past two years, the city has set aside $26,000 from the tax for community projects. Those commitments include payments ranging from $8,500 down to $100 to: Kids Club, Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council, Madras Aquatic Center, the Airshow of the Cascades, Little League, Relay For Life, Sister City, community garden, Juniper Junction, and Lions/Kiwanis.
   Because additional payments from the tax would come out of that fund, Burril said, "I'm not an advocate of going in and destabilizing the fund."
   City councilors supported the plan to replace the restroom facility, but expressed concern about the request for $7,000 per year for 10 years because of current economic conditions.
   The council approved a three-year commitment of $5,000 per year, with the potential for renewing the commitment after three years.
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