MURA budget tops $13 million

Three urban park blocks, pedestrian-friendly streets surrounding the new education center and a spiffed up streetscape around the former Bella Vita site top the project list for a proposed $13.7 million urban renewal budget.

The Medford Urban Renewal Agency budget committee Tuesday unanimously approved the draft 2008-09 budget. The 2007-08 budget was $14.3 million.

This year's budget includes $2.9 million for three urban park blocks as part of The Commons redevelopment project. That figure includes relocating the old Greyhound bus terminal on Bartlett Street to a new building under construction on Front Street.

The Commons is a $169 million, multi-block urban project that will include a 10-story headquarters building for Lithia Motors, paid for by Lithia, and a variety of publicly funded infrastructure improvements, including utilities, sidewalks, roads and park blocks. The project will be built in an area bounded by Central and Riverside avenues and Jackson and Sixth streets.

Also in the budget is $1.4 million to make Bartlett Street pedestrian-friendly in conjunction with the new Southern Oregon University/Rogue Community College education center project. The budget also includes $475,000 for sidewalk and lighting upgrades on the portions of Main, Fir and Eighth streets which surround the site of the former Bella Vita project.

Lacking from the budget is funding for façade improvement projects. Jackie Rodgers, MURA director, said she has included $100,000 in grants for the program, but the grants are not secured.

Scott Henselman, owner of Henselman Realty & Management and a budget committee member, asked if there were any room in the budget to move funds into the façade improvement program.

The MURA façade improvement program, which has provided matching grants of up to $37,500 to downtown property owners, has helped transform dozens of dilapidated buildings in recent years. In the past two years MURAs focus has been to complete existing projects and put the remainder of its funds into The Commons, so the façade program hasn't been as active.

Henselman, a proponent of the program, asked if there were ways to redirect funds within the budget to the program. For example, what if a construction project came in under budget, he asked. Rodgers said that money would then have to go to the next construction project.

"Even if all the projects were under budget?" asked Henselman.

MURA board member Skip Patterson quipped that if all MURAs projects came in under budget, then funds could be used for façade improvement.

The budget calls for four full-time staff positions. The salaries include $98,600 for the director (was $91,800 in 2007-08); $63,700 for the office administrator (was $58,600); $47,000 for one administrative support technician, and $44,800 for the other. Those positions were $38,200 each last year. The figures are maximum salary projections for those positions to allow for possible changes resulting from union contract negotiations, said Rodgers. The figures do not include benefits.

Also in MURAs budget is $220,500 for contractural consultants. A majority of that, $143,700, is listed under "miscellaneous consulting services." Rodgers said that includes a bond counsel, a historic consultant, a grant research consultant, engineering and others.

MURA board member Claudette Moore suggested Rodgers break the miscellaneous consulting services down, so people reading the budget didn't think it all went to Don Burt, the former MURA director who continues to do consulting work for the agency.

The budget committee is made up of 18 members, including the nine MURA board members and eight community members. For a draft plan of the budget, visit the MURA office, 45 S. Holly Street. A public hearing and approval of the budget is set for 7 p.m. June 10 in the Medford City Council Chambers, 411 W. Eighth St.

Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail

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