Clackamas County and city of Milwaukie officials hope to avoid a major hitch on the $9 million Riverfront Park project, where state matching grants are on the line to build a new boat ramp and other amenities.

At issue is less than one acre of county land that the city needs for the project.

Milwaukie Mayor Jeremy Ferguson is concerned that the county has the upper hand at the negotiating table because the city must remove trees next month as part of starting preconstruction work or it will face stricter (and more expensive) regulations for protecting migratory birds on the Willamette River. In arguing for the lower price calculated by an assessor, Ferguson pointed to the area’s various environmental zoning regulations that would limit any building on the property to a restroom or bike rack.

“This entire project is contingent on this access agreement, and we have everything hammered out except for the price,” Ferguson said. “We think the city should pay about $7,000, but the last I heard from the county was nearly $140,000.”

County Commissioner Paul Savas declined to discuss the price, but he and Ferguson are in agreement that the project is of regional significance, especially with the Oak Grove boat ramp closing. Savas explained that the city has been slower to answer questions from the county since last year’s retirement of the park’s Milwaukie project manager, JoAnn Herrigel.

“This is an important project, and I’m excited about the project. Based on the recent information we’ve received, we’re doing our best to expedite this matter,” Savas said. “I recognize that the JoAnn’s retirement may have resulted in the process slowing down to some degree, and I’m confident that the city is getting up to speed on this, and we’re willing and ready to get this project finalized.”

Good news is that Ferguson and Savas have a couple more weeks to settle on a number for their respective commissions to vote on, and in the past they’ve worked out a much more complicated agreement regarding county wastewater rates and the effect of the sewer plant located in Milwaukie.

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