Molalla: history of public GRANT ABUSE

Here’s an example of what will happen in the future whenever INCOMPETENT, BANKRUPT Molalla tries to steal public funds for anymore idiotic “feasibility” grants that we all know in advance will lead where things always go in Molalla: NOWHERE.

When the local community realized Molalla was about to try to hog down public monies for a phony study of a road it could NEVER afford to build, we went to work to ensure that the State and the County agencies knew we’ve seen enough waste in Molalla for a lifetime on “aspirational” planning. After the letters of protest flooded in, I went to the Oregon Business Development Commission meeting were the nice Commissioners were very interested in the information I had compiled about the SHIP OF FOOLS who pretend to “govern” in Molalla.

I LOVE Salem and I LOVE Commissions – they actually respect citizen input.

The best part of all was when the Director of Business Oregon indicated that our citizen protest had already put the fork in Molalla’s grant “plans”. I’d say that the word “plan” should be forever BANNED in Molalla unless and until there are no more words like “mayor” Clarke, “planner” Potter, and “manager” Atkins. And I’d ban the names of ANY Councilor who was dumb enough to vote for the Forest Rd grant and ANY Councilor who just voted to continue to extend the plannin’ deficit. I guess they must be shooting for an even HALF MILLION DEFICIT – when you are at $442,343.72 it won’t be long….

Maybe I should head back to the next Commission meeting and give them the update on Molalla’s budget – boy, the looks on their faces – business leaders! – when I ran down the following facts:

3/11/2011

Dear Oregon Business Development Commission,

THE ISSUE: Business Oregon’s advocacy for a $60,000 lottery fund grant for a “feasibility study” for a three mile Molalla Forest Rd. arterial bypass, a new outlet to Highway 213 and Mathias Rd upgrades to connect Molalla brownfields.  Currently, the very poor condition, abandoned Forest “road” is less than 20 feet wide and is local access only. The raised road bed traverses extensive wetlands and it is listed as the lowest priority in the 2001 Molalla Transportation Plan. Although Molalla owns a 60 foot ROW, most of the surrounding land is not in the Molalla UGB.

A modern arterial road must be at least 75 feet wide. Extensive eminent domain would be required. Recently, adding one mile of two new lanes to a functional modern two lane road in Bethany was listed at a cost of at least 15 million dollars.

Business Oregon’s Janet Hillock has promoted  this “feasibility study” in spite of a memo from Mike Solt saying he would “much prefer” to see short connector links off Highway 211 (Molalla’s Main Street) to the industrial brownfields.

When questioned about this “feasibility study”, ODOT’s Sonya Kazen noted on the phone that “Maybe Molalla needs to do this study to finally prove to itself it can’t afford the Forest Road. Then it could concentrate on the 211 Corridor”. That comment doesn’t inspire public trust in the process or expectation for a positive outcome.

CITY OF MOLALLA’S GRANT HISTORY/ FINANCIAL LIMITATIONS:

Street Fund: DEFICIT: – $136,265

Planning Department DEFICIT: over $400,000 and growing each month

Urban Renewal Fund: $154.057

Street Capital Improvement Fund: $284,421

Street SDC Fund: $150,675

General Fund working capital: $496,964

The City of Molalla’s “Planning Director” is a lay person who has, since 2006, wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants and city funds attempting to justify a 50 year, 2,300 acre urban reserve for a city of 8,000 to satisfy land speculators. At least 8 versions of a so-called “comp plan” have been produced over 7 years without County or State adoption. Clackamas County and DLCD have repeatedly told Molalla that its inflated population prediction for the 50 year reserve isn’t legally defensible.

Molalla received a $122,000 TGM grant to write the 2007 Downtown Master Plan/ 211 Streetscape Plan which still has not been fully adopted or implemented. The Downtown Plan contains three pages of “needed” road projects, prioritized over 20 years, totaling 63 million dollars. The 1-5 year priority road fixes in the City have been ignored for lack of funds. The City is suggesting that neighborhoods agree to pay back bonds to fix city owned roads. Molalla has only $300,000 total in available Street Funds.

In 2002, Molalla entered into a contract for an ODOT matching fund grant for help with an approx. $1,500,000 intersection improvement project. Studies and engineering were done, but in 2007 Molalla abandoned the project for lack of matching funds. If Molalla couldn’t come up with 20% matching funds for that small $1,500,000 project, how can Business Oregon pretend Molalla could fund a 20-30 million dollar + road project?

Molalla charges the lowest SDCs of any greater METRO city; the low (or no) SDCs allowed developers to overbuild cheaper than average houses in the “boom”. Now, Molalla’s home values are falling faster than the State average. Year to year loss in value was just listed at 18.9% on Zillow. Lack of SDCs has caused Molalla’s inability to provide quality of life features like adequate parks and road repairs; local residents have the longest commute in the County.

Molalla offered a million dollar SDC waiver intended to attract jobs, but a loophole has allowed a developer proposing 170 apts. /commercial space downtown to tie up the waiver for over a year, even though the project lacks private investment funding. Over two million dollars of downtown road improvements would be required for this project; Molalla lacks funds and promotes a “future” Forest Rd. “bypass” as a substitute for the downtown improvements. A great deal of ODOT time and $42,300 “quick” TGM grant still haven’t produced an acceptable zoning/transportation plan for this essentially residential million dollar SDC waiver project.

BUSINESS OREGON’S PROCESS DEFICENCIES:

Business Oregon has failed to consider Molalla’s very limited financial/professional resources. Molalla has only about $300,000 combined in Street SDC and Urban Renewal funds. Business Oregon hasn’t given this outlandish proposal the “straight face” test.

Business Oregon should vet grants to the local public. Business Oregon now has a growing file of negative comments from local citizens about this preposterous “study”.

Business Oregon and ODOT should only promote grants that have a high probability of implementation. Given Molalla’s history of non- performance, lack of SDCs and its dire finances, the Forest Road is a total pipe dream. Agencies must respect Oregon’s limited resources and guide cities to realistic plans that fit the financial and professional limitations of each city.

Without quality of life features, sound city finances and professionals in professional positions, there is little hope of attracting quality investors to off the beaten path cities like Molalla. Who would invest in a city that has poor quality community development in a location that requires a long commute in times of peak oil?

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