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With new fiscal stability, city is set for 2008

2007 was an eventful and challenging year for the City of Forest Grove. We've made some positive changes that enhance our community livability.

The strong support we received in passing our operating levy in November was a highlight.

Because of this support, we will fill vacant positions that had been frozen due to the uncertainty of the levy's passage.

Because of the community's support we are in the process of replacing three firefighters, three police officers, a park-maintenance worker and some part-time life guards and librarians.

In other words, by adding back staff, we will once again be able to provide the level and quality of services that the citizens of Forest Grove have come to expect.

One of the biggest changes to the landscape of our community is the major modernization effort that has occurred along Sunset Drive. This really dresses up the northern entry to town and provides a much safer route for pedestrians and vehicles alike.

On a related note, in the spirit of good planning, the city was successful in encouraging more than 100 property owners to annex into the city. These annexations were important to plan the sewer infrastructure needed to accommodate our future growth.

Many of these property owners lived along Sunset Drive or elsewhere within the northeast part of town. The new sewer line that was constructed along Sunset's right of way will be critical in serving the new and existing homes located within this area.

There were other positive transportation improvements around town as well. Resurfacing the south end of B Street, completing Bonnie Lane and converting College Way into a one-way street were all completed this year. A major transportation priority this next year will be securing funding to complete David Hill Road.

The city made major strides in developing and acquiring future park assets.

The new fields at Lincoln Park will be a great asset to the community and Pacific University.

Planning and design for Thatcher Park is now underway and should be complete this spring. Our hopes are to build two ball fields and a soccer field with construction beginning this summer.

Also, the city acquired 4.5 acres along 26th Avenue adjoining Stites Park. This property was paid for with Metro Greenspace funds. It may be some time before the city can afford to develop this park, but at least we have acquired it to assure a park in this high-growth area.

With the numerous high-density housing units planned for this area, this acquisition was critical.

The master plan for the citywide linear trail was completed this fall and we continue to make progress in acquiring key sections of property along this trail.

In many cases, new subdivisions are being required to develop sections that adjoin their property and in other cases, property owners are donating parcels because of their commitment to this project.

Just last month, Sam Kyle donated an eight-acre parcel along Gales Creek to the city. This parcel offers a critical link to our citywide linear trail and protects a valuable open space along Gales Creek.

Acquiring this property prevents any future building in the flood plain, which is a dangerous idea. The city also has received grant funds to construct the linear trail connection from 16th Street to Highway 47, crossing Gales Creek and traveling through Metro-owned open space. This project should be under construction this year.

Recently, the city council appointed a 19-member Economic Development Commission to promote business interests and opportunities in Forest Grove. Although the economy has slowed, there is much activity and interest in business opportunities in Forest Grove.

With this commission's support, I am optimistic about economic growth in Forest Grove. The completion of the city web site and economic development marketing brochure will provide valuable tools in promoting the business opportunities in Forest Grove.

There is much to be excited about in the upcoming year. The city council, city staff and numerous community volunteers serving on our city boards and commissions have laid some outstanding groundwork for many projects that will unfold in 2008.

We believe that by working together we can continue to make Forest Grove a great community to live, learn, work and play.

Happy holidays! We look forward to your continued support.

Michael Sykes is the Forest Grove City Manager.