There's a lot going on in Sisters - and the pace of activity is making some folks anxious.
A construction crew has been working at the east end of town on a right-turn lane from Highway 20 onto Locust Street. And work got underway this month on improving the roadbed on Barclay Drive through the industrial park. Those efforts are in preparation for the Cascade Avenue rehabilitation project, which gets underway in earnest in January 2014.
A new park will go in at Fir Street and Main Avenue in 2014 and new parking and sidewalks will be constructed on the Fir Street side of the Village Green. Additionally, the bathrooms will be refurbished to add toilets and a pay shower, and make the whole thing ADA-compliant.
Pedestrian improvements and street trees will be added to Larch Street heading toward the post office, and paths will be installed to connect the airport with the downtown area once the airport is annexed.
"Then we've got the whole list of 'couldn't you just...' projects," Mayor Brad Boyd told The Nugget in an interview last Friday. Those are small-scale projects to improve the functionality of infrastructure.
Boyd and Council President McKibben Womack acknowledged that the pace of change, especially tree-cutting over the past week (see story, page 1) have sparked concerns in the community.
The concerns take two forms. One is the fear that in the guise of improving the town, the city government will "turn Sisters into suburbia."
Boyd and Womack say that is far from their intent.
"Are we going to be a quaint, beautiful mountain town that embraces education, art, culture and recreation? Yes," Boyd said. "There's a renewed focus on making our town as nice as it can be for residents and tourists alike. And it has the added benefit of improving our economic vitality."
Womack said that he and other candidates campaigned for council seats based on the desire to get some things accomplished.
"We wanted to do things," he said. "We wanted to get things done. A lot of it goes back to that."
Another concern is how all of the work will be paid for.
The Cascade Avenue project is mostly state-funded, while the Fir Street park will be built using a $206,534 grant that covers half the project cost.
Other work taps Urban Renewal District funds. A URD assesses taxes, the revenues of which are used to finance rehabilitation projects within the district, which encompasses the commercial and residential core of Sisters, but excludes the industrial park.
Boyd said the council is being fiscally prudent about its undertakings and using the expertise of council members and staff to get as much bang for the buck as possible.
"Nothing we are doing is crazy-scary," said Boyd. "(Councilor David Asson) is a numbers guy. He won't go forward if the numbers don't work."
And Womack noted that "we have a city manager who understands finance very well, and how to leverage our dollars."
Both councilors urged citizens to raise concerns directly. Womack is hosting monthly town-hall meetings, which he says make an ideal forum to hash out issues. He also maintains regular office hours at City Hall.