La Grande City Council approves new HVAC upgrade, URA extends agreement with Liberty Theatre Foundation

October 8—LA GRANDE — The La Grande City Council met virtually for its monthly meeting on Wednesday, October 6, and discussed a limited agenda.

The only subject of new business under consideration was the award of the bid for an HVAC upgrade and replacement project at City Hall. The offer was awarded to Valley Metal & Heating in Baker City for $141,872. The new system replaces the current infrastructure, which is approximately 20 years old.

The project was part of the building maintenance budget for fiscal year 2021-22, with an estimated cost of $100,000. Due to the rise in material prices, the project ended up $41,872 over budget.

The city’s $300,000 undesignated general reserve can be used to cover the additional cost of the project. The city previously hired an engineer to evaluate the building’s needs to best fit the upgraded system.

According to Mike Boquist, director of La Grande Community Development, the goal is for a completion date by the end of December. The City Hall building currently has several units that are unlikely to make it through the winter without expensive repairs.

City Councilman David Glabe expressed concern that both bids came from HVAC companies outside of Union County, to which Boquist informed the council that no bids had been received from local companies after the city contacted nearly every HVAC company in the county.

The motion was passed by councilor Gary Lillard and unanimously approved by the councilors present.

Ahead of the new business section, La Grande Mayor Steve Clements made a personal statement on COVID-19 vaccines, following the city’s Vaccine-related City Hall on Sept. 27.

“I understand the desire for personal freedom, but what about the responsibility that comes with that freedom?” asked Clement. “With rights come responsibilities to act not only in your own interest, but also in the interest of the community of which you are a part.”

Urban Renewal Agency extends agreement with Liberty Theater

After the city council meeting, the La Grande Urban Renewal Agency met to discuss an extension of a loan agreement with the Liberty Theater Foundation, the group working on the restoration of the local venue.

City manager Robert Strope explained that a $150,000 loan from the foundation will be converted into a grant if certain criteria are met. Due to delays from COVID-19, the Liberty Theater Foundation has requested an extension of the completion deadline from past June to June 2023.

Jeff Clark, vice chairman of the Liberty Theater Foundation, provided an update on the project ahead of the agency’s vote.

“We’re about three-quarters complete with the total project and we’ve recently been awarded $250,000 from the Murdock Charitable Trust, which is really taking us over the last bump,” Clark said.

The grant from Washington-based MJ Murdock Charitable Trust was awarded to the theater in late September and will help guide the project through 2022. The agency voted unanimously to extend the agreement with the Liberty Theater Foundation.

The La Grande City Council and the Urban Renewal Office will meet on November 3 for regular sessions.

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