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Rare Paving Sight in Oregon

Small towns are getting a shot at big money projects in Oregon.

Thu November 14, 2013 - West Edition
Garrett Andrews - NEWS REVIEW

YONCALLA, Ore. (AP) To a larger city, receiving a grant to cover a $44,000 road project isn’t a big deal. But to Yoncalla, where falling timber revenue has meant crumbling infrastructure, it’s huge.

Knife River Materials crews are grading and paving sections of Douglas, Elm and Third streets in the south part of town.

The money will come from an Oregon Department of Transportation grant for road projects in cities with fewer than 5,000 people. Yoncalla, a city of 1,060 with a $2.8 million budget, had been turned down for the grant each of the previous three years.

City Administrator Kathy Finley said the city wasn’t expecting the $50,000 grant to cover the entire project cost.

“We were pleasantly surprised when the bids came in,’’ Finley said.

Douglas County once distributed money to city governments for road projects like Yoncalla’s, under the theory that county residents use city streets, Douglas County Commissioner Doug Robertson said.

The money came from timber receipts, which have been scaled back significantly beginning in the early 1990s. Since fiscal year 1988-89, the U.S. Forest Service has cut funding to public works projects in Douglas County in half, to $5.9 million last year.

With less money to go around, Robertson said the county has had to prioritize and only fund county road projects.

Glendale, like Yoncalla, receives a grant for a road project about every three to four years.

“Five years ago, we were getting it every other year,’’ Glendale Public Works Superintendent Ned Dausel said. “It’s not terrible. It’s just the way it is in this economy.’’

Glendale recently began using a soft coal patch to fill potholes until a road can be resurfaced.

“We got five tons of that for $800, and five tons goes a long way,’’ Dausel said.

The drop in timber receipts has meant small cities like Yoncalla have to pick their road projects carefully and learn to live with rundown streets, Finley said.

The greatest problem area to be repaired will be a section of Douglas Street leading to Applegate Pioneer Cemetery southeast of town.

The street is so beat up, Douglas Street resident Kathleen Bean said she has to drive on both sides of the street to navigate the potholes.

“It can get pretty exciting,’’ she said.

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