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Talent eyes new civic center

Talent residents will have the opportunity to weigh in on a proposed civic center campus that would include a new city hall and multipurpose building in a park-like setting.

The current cramped city hall at 204 E. Main St., along with the empty fire station nearby, would be torn down to make way for the complex.

Residents are invited to a meeting to offer input on two different design schemes at 6 p.m. on Thurs-day, March 18, at the Talent Com-munity Center next to city hall.

"We want to assess opinions and gather insight from the community," said City Planner John Adam.

After the Eugene architectural firm WGBS delivers cost estimates to the Talent City Council in April, Eugene-based Advanced Market-ing Research Inc. will conduct a telephone survey of a sample of city residents in May, according to City Manager Betty Wheeler.

The firm will test residents' willingness to approve a bond in November to finance the civic center campus.

Wheeler said the current city hall is about 10,000 square feet short of needed space.

"The city hall is totally inadequate in terms of usable space and the way the space is laid out," she said.

Talent also lacks enough meeting spaces in the community, forcing groups to vie for the Talent Community Center, she said.

Because of the fragility of the historic community center and damages that have been incurred, the city council has had to declare the building off limits for weekend family reunions, parties and other get-togethers, according to Bob Wilson, a council member and chair of the Talent Civic Center Master Plan Committee.

He said the new multipurpose building could be used by the city, the public and the Talent Parks Commission, which hopes to offer recreational programs.

"I am so excited about this civic center," Wilson said. "It will be a good place for people to get together. There will be meeting spaces, recreation spaces and social spaces. It's going to be beautiful. The whole area will be something to be proud of."

The city also could hold its annual Harvest Festival on the grounds, he said.

One unoccupied house on Home Street must be purchased by the city and demolished to make way for the campus.

Although property owners Dale and Olive O'Harra have indicated an interest in selling, years of negotiations have not resulted in a sale, according to Wheeler.

Last month, the city council reluctantly authorized the city attorney to prepare a document declaring the city's intent to pursue eminent domain proceedings to gain possession of the property.

Faced with that development, the O'Harra family is readying the property for appraisal and sale, Wheeler said.

"I think it's going to resolve itself in an amicable way and the city won't have to take on an adversarial role," she said.

The O'Harras did not return a phone call for comment on the issue by press time.

The civic center campus also will be home to a new library.

Jackson County voters approved a bond in 2000 to pay for new and expanded libraries throughout the county.

The new Talent library will be built on the site of the unused fire station after it is demolished, according to Anne Billeter, children's, young adult and south region manager for Jackson County Library Services.

After an extensive design process guided by a design team that will include citizens, as well as public meetings, construction could begin as early as September of next year. But work likely would start in January of 2006, Billeter said.

"The Talent library is so vibrant and has so much going on all the time. Everyone is anticipating the new building," she said.

The current library at 101 I St. could be occupied by the Talent Historical Society, according to Wheeler.