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Food pod's construction fund increased amid tensions

First published in the May 28 print edition

By Cindy Yingst, Thursday, June 3, 2021

A new food pod next to City Hall took another step forward Tuesday.

City commissioners, in their role as the city’s Urban Renewal Agency, voted 4-0 to increase funding for the food truck area and solidified the selected design.

The decision came with a bit of drama, however, when Commissioner Rick Newton chose to leave the meeting rather than discuss the issue, which was the last item of business for the night.

In March, Newton was the sole dissenter on the selected design, which has a small entrance into the food pod area. Experience has taught him that customers, especially children, will dart in and out of the area without looking, he said at the time. They could be struck by a vehicle entering the parking lot.

“I’ve brought up my years of business experience” and it hasn’t mattered, Newton told fellow commissioners Tuesday night. “I’m excusing myself from this; I’m going to go home.”

The Warrenton Urban Renewal Advisory Board supported increasing the project’s construction budget from $100,000 to $150,000 after Public Works Director Collin Stelzig discovered several items had been left out of the work plan provided by the consultant: sidewalk and driveway access improvements, sewer inspections and additional asphalt work.

The city already has spent $26,000 for the designs from Greenworks PC of Portland. The designs were reviewed by food truck owners, the city’s Urban Renewal Advisory Board, and dozens of city agency directors and staff members.

Newton’s abrupt departure did not go unnoticed.

“There should be a penalty for that: ‘I’m going to take my ball and go home,’ ” Commissioner Mark Baldwin said at the end of the meeting.

Improvements to the lot will be paid by the Urban Renewal Agency, which is able to use tax money collected in the urban renewal district for revitalization efforts.

The gravel lot next to City Hall will be paved, utilities added to serve up to seven trucks, and there will be an outdoor eating area, landscaping, restrooms, storage and trash structures.

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