MURA's final year will focus on public parking, low-income housing

The Medford Urban Renewal Agency plans to spend its final year of funding on more public parking and contaminant testing at a site for a low-income housing development downtown.

The proposed 2013-14 budget, unveiled Thursday, is its final as MURA sunsets after 25 years of renewal projects downtown and in south Medford.

The majority of MURA's $10.48 million budget will go toward ongoing development projects from years past, such as The Commons parks blocks and renovation of the Fourth Street and Central Avenue intersection.

About $3.2 million will be spent on new projects. They include $200,000 for contaminant testing and potential cleanup at the parking lot behind the Mail Tribune at the corner of Grape and Sixth streets, where a 50-unit, low-income housing project is proposed. After drilling test holes at the site, the city has submitted data to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to see whether there are any contaminants that need to be cleaned up.

"If (contaminants) are above an acceptable level, then you have to do cleanup," said Deputy City Manager Bill Hoke. "We're not anticipating anything really major there."

About $1 million will be spent on purchase and rehabilitation of 1.33 acres at the corner of East 10th Street and South Riverside Avenue for a parking lot for Rogue Community College students. The site was formerly a Dollar GMC parking lot. Hoke said purchase of that property has been approved contingent on the green light from DEQ.

"It will be part of the overall parking solution downtown," Hoke said.

An additional $2 million has been proposed for more public parking areas but no sites have been decided, Hoke said. He said the increased need for public parking is apparent.

"We know we're going to need additional parking as the area grows down there," he said.

City officials presented the MURA budget and the city's 2013-15 proposed budget to the City Council and budget committee members Thursday.

The city's proposed $232 million biennial budget is separate from MURA's. It proposes cuts to materials and equipment but does not seek any layoffs. Medford's building and planning departments will not fill vacant positions, but fire, police and parks will continue to fill theirs.

City Finance Director Alison Chan said the city is in good shape financially. She compared the budget to a family that doesn't carry much debt but still has to make some adjustments because of the economic climate.

"We just have a mortgage, and we didn't have anything else, and we cut going out to dinner," Chan said at the Thursday meeting.

A state bill intended to lower costs of the Public Employees Retirement System has worked its way through the House and Senate and is on its way to Gov. John Kitzhaber's desk, but its potential passage is not reflected in the city's budget. If it passes, the city would adjust the rates, though specifics on what the reduction would be are not known.

"For that reason it's most prudent to budget with the rates we were given," Chan said.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at

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