MURA budget covers a lot of ground

    Medford Urban Renewal Agency Budget Committee members got their first look at what could be the final financial blueprint before MURA's downtown revitalization authority expires following a 25-year run.

    The City Council and at-large committee members were presented a preliminary capital improvement budget of nearly $12.5 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1, incorporating 15 projects, eight of which are carrying over from 2011-12.

    The panel will meet May 9 to consider the budget and take public comments.

    "Some of the things still have to be bid and paid for so we don't know what the bottom line will look like," said Bill Hoke, interim city manager and MURA's interim executive director. "If it's less than what we expect, there may be other opportunities. You never know."

    Proposed capital expenditures are down more than $7 million from the present year, with the biggest drop coinciding with The Commons development. The Commons is a private-public partnership that includes the Lithia Motors headquarters building, park blocks and infrastructure improvements.

    In a meeting prior to the budget presentation, the Medford Urban Renewal Agency board approved a $1.65 million contract with Adroit Construction of Ashland to build Phase 1 of the park blocks project.

    The largest expenditures on the budget for the coming year are the Evergreen project ($2 million) and the Commons ($1.86 million). The Evergreen project currently exists of only a parking structure, but preliminary talks are being held with companies interested in building offices at the site near the corner of Main and Fir streets.

    Projects that began during previous budget cycles include the Middleford pedestrian walkway, Evergreen Parking Structure rehabilitation, Middleford Parking Structure rehabilitation, Evergreen Way, the Fourth and Central intersection, downtown street lights, Alba Park rehabilitation and The Commons.

    Three capital requests are for a second installment of money approved last year: the Holly Theatre, Heart of Medford Association and Sustainable Valley. The Holly Theatre is due for an additional $100,000 toward its restoration project, HMA is in line for an additional $25,000 for its marketing efforts and Sustainable Valley anticipates an additional $50,000 for its business incubator efforts in the downtown core.

    "Those three are required to come to the board in July and explain how they spent the first half when they ask for the second half," Hoke said.

    Other groups have requested funds, he said, but those proposals likely won't be addressed until the approved projects come to fruition.

    "We have to finish these first," he said.

    The preliminary capital improvement budget includes a $600,000 contingency.

    MURA is scheduled to end active operations after the next fiscal year, but will remain on the books until its bond debt is paid off.

    Hoke said the MURA board — which consists of City Council members — ultimately will decide how any unused funds are spent, if money is left over after the budgeted projects are funded.

    City Finance Director Allison Chan said leftover funds also could be used to pay down debt.

    MURA paid off two bonds early and issued $21.7 million worth of debt, reaching its maximum indebtedness of $67.3 million.

    "I think we're on the downhill side," Hoke said. "It's been a long road and we're getting close to being in that sunset period."

    MURA's authority doesn't necessarily end with the end of the next fiscal year, Chan said. "We end when we've spent all the money from this last bond. Legally, we don't end until the last bond is paid off in 2025."

    She said the remaining money has to be spent within three years.

    During the agency's wind-down period, the City Council could terminate the agency, City Attorney John Huttl said, "and then assume the duties of the agency. We aren't there yet, but we'll have options."

    Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email

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