Cahill: Don’t let downtown crumble

SALEM – Building owner Scott Cahill challenged city council to do something about the crumbling buildings in the downtown area.

“We can’t just let some of these things continue,” he said.

Cahill spoke during the city council meeting on Tuesday, admitting he had backed off for awhile, gotten to know some council members better and grown to respect them, but was still dissatisfied with where the downtown stands.

The city resident served as the catalyst last fall for an effort known as the Downtown Salem Technical Advisory Committee, which put together a comprehensive set of plans for revitalizing different aspects of downtown. The plan was presented to council in February, but council took no action on any of the proposals.

Instead, council members have been working on their own planning process for a five-year plan to serve as a blueprint for council decisions, with the idea to incorporate some of the plans presented to them previously, including the TAC report.

Cahill called the idea a magnificent undertaking and said he hoped they’ll look at the information provided by the TAC and use parts of it.

“I hope that you’ll take this as an opportunity to improve the city,” he said.

Councilman Dave Nestic, who put together the proposal for the planning process, assured Cahill that the plans done before will be included. He thanked Cahill for his comments. Several council members thanked Cahill for “staying the cause,” with Councilman Clyde Brown telling him to keep his chin up.

Councilman Rick Drummond commented that people are for revitalization and improving the downtown and others say it’s not worth the effort. He said Cahill and his wife Lisa have done a wonderful job on their building on East State Street, which is located next to the old Endres Gross building. He mentioned the paint job at the theatre downtown and said there’s a lot going on in the city that people should be proud of. He commended those who are trying.

In other business, council approved two ordinances dealing with the issuance of bonds related to the Legacy Lane improvements and the Pershing Phase I and Bentley-Cunningham Connector Phase IV projects.

City Auditor Betty Brothers explained that a note was renewed last year for $983,500, representing $683,500 for the Pershing Street extension and $270,000 for the Legacy Lane project. The city is paying down what’s owed for the Pershing Street extension with the city’s oil and gas lease proceeds, leaving $55,000 still owed so they’ll be able to continue to collect money from the Tax Increment Financing district.

One of the bonds issued was for the $55,000. The other bond issued was not to exceed $335,000 for the Legacy Lane project, which is being repaid with TIF money from the developer. Brothers said the project had originally been set at $270,000, but the costs exceeded that and the city had to put some money out. With the issuance of the new bond, the city will recoup its money, with $15,000 being returned into capital improvements and $36,000 going back into the general fund.

In his report, Mayor John Berlin said he’s accepting letters of interest for an unexpired At Large position on the Salem Design Review Board which expires Dec. 31. An At Large member cannot be a member of the Salem Historical Society or the Salem Preservation Society. The deadline for letters is Sept. 30. They should be sent to Berlin at city hall or dropped off at his second-floor office in city hall.

He said the idea will be that whoever is appointed will be reappointed then in January for a full term. He said there will also be three additional openings then. He’s taking letters of interest for those positions also, which would include people who own a designated home.

Berlin said he’s still accepting letters of interest for anyone interest in serving an unexpired term on the Salem Utilities Commission, another post which is an unpaid volunteer position. He said some people have expressed an interest in the position vacated last week when longtime member Geoff Goll retired after 21 years. Berlin indicated he may have a decision on a new appointment ready for council to confirm at their next regular meeting.

Council honored both Goll and Jack Yarnell, who retired from his volunteer job as coordinator of the music in the park program at Waterworth Memorial Park, also after 21 years.

A separate resolution was passed for each of them, commending their dedicated service, with all of the council members expressing their gratitude for their efforts. City Law Director Brooke Zellers said that Goll took his volunteer job very seriously and he’s involved in many projects for which he’s uncompensated.

“He always seems to have the public interest at heart,” Zellers said.

Brown issued a reminder to all Second Ward residents that he’ll be hosting a meeting at city hall at 7 p.m. Sept. 24 for them to voice their opinions or concerns.

Other meetings announced included Committee of the Whole at 5:45 p.m. Oct. 1 and Finance Committee at 6:45 p.m. Oct. 1, both in council chambers at city hall. A date will also be set for a Utilities Committee meeting.