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Local projects pursue PUD grants

The May 29 front page story “Local projects pursue PUD grants” incorrectly listed donations as shown on the Mid-Columbia Senior Center grant application of $72,000 as pledged. In fact, they are donations needed.

Northern Wasco County PUD’s economic development grant program offered a glimpse Tuesday into the progress of several large development projects under way in The Dalles.

The Dalles Civic Auditorium, the Mid-Columbia Senior Center, The Dalles Main Street and The Dalles Swim Team all shared progress reports as they requested improvement, expansion or building grants.

The Dalles Civic Auditorium

The Civic Auditorium Historic Preservation Committee asked for $8,290 to refurbish its community room, formerly the gym. The money would help fund repair and refinishing of the floor and painting of the walls and woodwork to upgrade the room, which has become the most popular of the Civic’s four venues.

“We’ve tried to improve [the community room] as a venue,” said Gerald Richmond, who represented the Civic along with committee president Dennis Morgan. “We’ve added nice drapes, but the paint is pretty tacky. The whole thing could look a little more formal.”

“It brings more people into town than any other part of the venue,” noted PUD Director Milt Skov. The room capacity is 250 people within 2,900 square feet.

The PUD’s attorney noted that historically the PUD has not provided grants for painting projects, but Director Howard Gonser noted that the floor repair project could qualify as infrastructure.

Morgan also offered the PUD an update on the theater renovation, the Civic’s biggest fundraising push. He said a draft architectural plan from the architect is due sometime this week.

“I feel like we’re at a watershed moment on the theater,” Morgan said. “I feel like we’ve got the community’s support again and everything seems to be falling into place for us to realize our dream.”

The theater is functional even in its unfinished state and the Theatre Company of The Dalles has begun producing all of its shows there.

Mid-Columbia Senior Center

At present, Mid-Columbia Senior Center has no inside access to its lower level, which contains classrooms and a shooting range, among other things. The level is accessed via an exterior stairway, or by driving around to the rear of the building via a narrow driveway.

Its supporters are asking for $10,000 toward installation of a new elevator, and enclosing the stairwell.

“Our goal is to have a full one-third of that cost projection on hand as we make our grant applications,” said Joan Silver, board member for the Uplifting Elevator Project. Total cost of the project is estimated to be about $312,000. The committee has $40,000 cash in hand and another $72,000 in pledged donations and will be pursuing $200,000 in grants.

Silver said the senior center would be better able to rent space out on its lower floor, thereby helping to support the building’s operations.

“[The center] sees 100 to 150 people per day,” Silver noted. “Everything else going on in that building, except the meal site, is done with volunteers. It’s a remarkable community gathering that comes together.” With the exception of Meals on Wheels, the facility has only one paid employee. “The economic value of the senior community to the businesses and professional services is not a fixed dollar amount, but does have a measurable impact on The Dalles, as almost one in five residents in the PUD service area are seniors,” the project board wrote in its application.

The Dalles Main Street

The Independent Order of the Odd Fellows (IOOF) building at Second and Laughlin streets would become a downtown showcase under a cooperative plan of The Dalles Main Street and the IOOF.

“A key goal of [Main Street] is the preservation and restoration of historic structures and places in downtown for economic and cultural benefits of which this project is central,” the $10,000 project request state.

If successful, the project would combine funding from the Columbia Gateway Urban Renewal, the State Historic Preservation Office and the PUD to do a complete restoration of the building’s façade including restoring the awning, transom windows, marble and brick elements.

Urban renewal recently implemented façade restoration grants for just such a project.

“We’re hoping to use this as a showcase project,” said Matthew Klebes, coordinator of The Dalles Main Street. Urban renewal has already granted the project $10,000 and Klebes is awaiting word on the state grants.

“Downtown The Dalles is established as a nationally recognized historic district,” Klebes said. “The Odd Fellows building is one of the oldest in the community.”

Bringing back its defining features will help draw the interest of more people to the downtown area, thus enhancing economic development, Klebes said.

The Dalles Swim Team

With a new municipal swimming pool due to be built this year, The Dalles Swim Team asked for $10,000 to cover a portion of the $28,454 cost of purchasing starting blocks and two additional touchpads (timing system) for use at the new 50-meter pool.

In other communities, the pool owns the racing equipment, but in this case the swim team has owned the equipment. The PUD played a role in that by granting money for touchpads in both 2007 and 2008. The new touchpads would integrate with the earlier versions without requiring a system upgrade, said Didi Abbas, who represented the team. Abbas talked about the economic benefits of competitive swim meets.

“Our Ted Walker meet draws 300 to 350 individuals,” Abbas said.

Abbas hopes the pool replacement will allow the swim team to host championship meets, which could draw many more people. She estimated that individuals who visit for meets spend an average of $72.50 per person while here.

She also noted that the new pool will provide the opportunity to host masters meets, which have the potential to yield more economic benefit per person.

“The beauty of these swimmers is that when they come to the community they come to stay the whole weekend,” Abbas said. “They are here to enjoy the area.”

Abbas also offered a brief update on the pool project with information gleaned from a recent meeting. She said the ground-breaking start has been delayed from the original June to July.

“My perception is that they are doing lots of work up front now to make sure there are no hiccups along the way,” she said.

The PUD directors will individually evaluate and rank each of the proposed grant requests, then make their awards at the June PUD meeting.

Directors also unanimously approved a one-year extension to the 2013 grant to The Dalles-Wasco County Library’s Room to Read expansion project. The project has raised about $216,000 so far in comparison to $50,000 at application time last year.

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