Workin' on the railroad
City staff is working on changing things for the better for the City of Prineville RailroadComing from Burns, the only thing I new about rail was that it was an outdated mode of freight transportation. Trucks were cheaper and more reliable, faster and easier. When I came to Prineville, I heard from both sides of the aisle. Everything from "it needs to be torn up" to "it is a valuable asset". One thing was clear, that there was community identity with the city railroad. After much research into the viability of the railroad, I am now in the "valuable asset" camp.
My journey toward enlightenment started when someone I worked with suggested that I talk to some people who make a living in the freight business. These people pointed out the benefits of rail in ways that I had not heard before. They believed that the railroad could play a role in the economic vitality of Prineville and Central Oregon. Then, as the price of oil reached over $50 a barrel, we started getting a lot of phone calls inquiring about rail service.
There are still a lot of areas that rail can't compete in. I believe that anything shipped inside the state of Oregon, and maybe inside the Pacific Northwest, rail would have a difficult task to compete. But, outside of these areas, rail is a very viable option.
The City of Prineville Railroad is in the process of analyzing the way we do business, and how we can compete in the freight climate today. We will be positioning ourselves to positively impact the freight movement in and out Central Oregon and becoming a financially stable entity once again.
The New City Hall building is on its way up. I watched them pour the foundation today, and the lucky silver dollar was dropped into the concrete (Don't ask me why this has to be done, I just work here). It is difficult to get too excited about the new building, probably because I haven't had a lot of time to think about it. Or, maybe because it still looks like an empty lot across the street. I suppose that as the walls go up, we will begin to get more and more anxious to get moved in. But, there still seems like a lot of work to do until then.
Our strategic plan continues to move forward. Each department has been meeting with their staff asking for input. We are meeting with the consultant next week to outline the finishing touches on the first draft to be presented to the Council and Community.
The Governor was in town last week for the Veterans Day Parade. Our Police Chief Eric Bush coordinated a reception in the council chambers before the parade. I was hoping to take some time to give him an overview of the efforts with the railroad, but was told by staff that they wanted me to provide them with information first, so that they could review it. I guess the Governor is inundated with request for his time, and they guard his time religiously.
Anyway, I tried to find ways to maybe get the message to him without actually speaking directly to him. After all, we had him captured in our building for probably about 20 minutes; it would be nice to get something from that.
We placed posters of the railroad that were produced by the planning department on the food table, hoping he might ask a question or two.
The other thing that I did was I took my youngest daughter to the reception. Politicians love babies! We were able to have our picture taken with him holding Olivia, and he gave her a lapel pin that she kept reaching for. I did not get to talk to him about anything except his fly fishing adventures to the Crooked River, but the Mayor elect had two separate conversations with him about freight in Central Oregon.
I'm glad someone got a word in.
Last week I attended the League of Oregon Cities Conference in Portland along with four City Councilors. I attended workshops on budgeting, Measure 37, school/city cooperation, and policy making. It is always interesting to network with officials from other cities and share insights and ideas on similar issues. I left with a better understanding of budgeting based on community determined priorities, and an understanding of how we might better build relationships with our local schools, health care, and other government entities to partner toward a common goal of building a better community.
My job as your city manager continues to be interesting and fruitful. These are exciting time at city hall, and each day I am more grateful for the opportunity that we have to live here.