Forest Grove, Cornelius in for some changes, mayors say
An annual tradition marked another year as Forest Grove Mayor Pete Truax and Cornelius Mayor Jef Dalin delivered "State of the City" addresses at the Forest Grove/Cornelius Chamber of Commerce's monthly luncheon Monday, Feb. 26.
The mayors spent some time talking about successes in their cities, as well as providing a preview of what is coming — including major growth in Cornelius and substantial park improvements in Forest Grove.
In his ninth State of the City address, Truax focused mostly on what is new in Forest Grove since his last State of the City one year ago. He touted the the easy passage of a local option levy renewal for Forest Grove on last November's ballot, suggesting that "the results indicate that our residents admire our prudent financial behavior and also accept the reality that running a city effectively requires money."
The mayor also noted the completion last year of a roundabout at the intersection of Highway 47 and Northwest David Hill Road, the work of the Forest Grove Forestry Commission in preserving Forest Grove's wooded character, and ongoing economic development in the city of Forest Grove. He saluted the city's police and firefighters as well — the latter of whom, he remarked, deployed to fight wildfires elsewhere in Oregon and California last year.
For Truax, the State of the City address wasn't just a victory lap, though.
Truax is fond of describing Forest Grove as a "full-service city," and he did so again Monday. Unlike some of its neighbors, he noted, Forest Grove has its own police department, fire agency and city-owned electric utility.
City officials are currently studying the possibility of building a new police station or dramatically overhauling the existing one to meet the Forest Grove Police Department's future needs.
"A city of some 23,000 people deserves better facilities," said Truax.
Chief Michael Kinkade, who oversees not just Forest Grove Fire & Rescue but also the neighboring Cornelius Fire Department and Gaston Fire District, has also advanced plans to partially merge those entities into a "fire authority." Truax said that proposal would allow Forest Grove to retain a "hometown flavor" while also keeping service levels stable.Traffic is another focus for Truax, he said.
"There is the need to improve Martin Road and its intersection with (Highway) 47 … and to get more attention paid to the intersection of Maple Street and Fern Hill Road, also with Highway 47," Truax said, adding that it is the responsibility of the city government to ensure that Washington County completes those projects to improve the flow of traffic and freight along Highway 47.
Changes are also coming to some of Forest Grove's parks and trails. Rogers Park in the Clark Historic District is set for a major renovation this summer, which will include a "nature play area" featuring wood repurposed from a sequoia that is being removed across the street, Truax said.
Sustainability was a theme in Truax's remarks. Forest Grove Light & Power has reduced energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions, he said, but more efforts are needed.
"We have work to do to keep this place special for us and our children and grandchildren," he said.
Dalin, who followed Truax, gave his sixth State of the City address since taking office. His remarks were generally forward-looking, with Cornelius primed for significant changes over the next few years.
"We have significant development happening in Cornelius," Dalin said. "The city has approved development — and it's good you're all sitting down — for 1,100 housing units in Cornelius. … That will increase its population by about 4,000, or a third. We're probably going to grow Cornelius by about a third within the next five years."
Another major project is Cornelius Place, being built on the former site of the building where the Cornelius City Council used to meet. Work began on the project in December. The Cornelius Public Library will move to Cornelius Place once it is complete, and it will have four and a half times the amount of space it currently occupies in the new building, Dalin said. There will also be apartment housing for senior adults at Cornelius Place, he added.
"It's expected to finish in early 2019," Dalin said. "I don't think we're going to make the State of the City address for 2019, but I can always hope. … Maybe 2020, we put it there."
"There are still funding opportunities, if you'd like to donate to the library. We are not done yet," Dalin said, adding, "If you'd like to have your name appear on something as small as a bookshelf or as big as a room, you can talk to me afterward, you can talk to my wife, or you can talk to (library director) Karen Hill or our city manager."
This year marks another milestone for Cornelius, as Dalin pointed out. The city was incorporated on May 5, 1893, so it will celebrate its 125th anniversary this year. Later that month, the city will hold what has become an annual volunteer event, "Take Care of Cornelius Day," in which volunteers will divide into teams and tackle community service projects throughout Cornelius.As evidenced by their tradition of a joint State of the City event, Forest Grove and Cornelius share perhaps the closest relationship between cities of any in Washington County. The cities share the Forest Grove/Cornelius Chamber of Commerce, which hosted the State of the City event at its monthly luncheon Monday, and the Forest Grove School District covers all but the easternmost parts of Cornelius. They also share Kinkade, their fire chief, and both a municipal court and building services, Dalin noted.
"Forest Grove has always been a great partner," said Dalin.
The News-Times sponsored Monday's Chamber of Commerce luncheon and program.
The event was held in the Forest Grove Community Auditorium. A catered lunch was provided by Yellow Llama, a Peruvian restaurant in downtown Forest Grove.
By Mark Miller
Editor, Forest Grove News-Times
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