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City officials will fill in on urban renewal projects

PHOENIX — City administrators will work with the town’s urban renewal group in the wake of resignations as progress continues on a $3.5-million downtown renewal project.

“The city of Phoenix is working with us very closely. We have a very good relationship with them,” said Phoenix Urban Renewal Agency board chairman Al Muelhoefer. “We have an agreement with them.”

Mayor Jeff Bellah and City Manager Steve Dahl agreed the agency can use city staff as necessary, said Muelhoefer. In addition, the agency has hired a former employee for office administration.

Assistant Director Amy Weiser, who took over when agency director Jim Sharp resigned in February, has accepted full-time employment with the Moab, Utah, planning department. Her last work day was Tuesday. Weiser was Jacksonville’s planning director for five years until July 2015.

Sharp resigned Feb. 19 after the Phoenix City Council voted to put a hold on dispersal of bond money to PHURA until it received an update on the agency’s fiscal year outlook. Council members worried there might be insufficient funds remaining to construct a planned plaza and community hall in the downtown center.

Under the agreement, city Planning Director Matt Brinkley is already working on agency issues.

“He is taking on some of the things that need to be done with regard to property sales and construction of the plaza building,” said Muelhoefer. “Matt was already familiar with what we are doing. ”

Requests for proposals to develop five lots in the project were due to the agency by March 7. Muelhoefer said he could not reveal specifics of the proposals because they have been discussed in executive session. Dahl said the agency received a couple of RFPs but would have liked to receive more.

PHURA is in negotiations with potential buyers and still has properties that are available, said Muelhoefer. For-sale signs have been put up on some parcels in the 31-acre project bordered by Main Street, Bear Creek Drive and First and Fourth streets.

Agency officials are canvassing commercial real estate brokers who might market the lots, said Muelhoefer. The board will conduct an interview process to determine who may represent the agency.

Former administrative assistant Janette Hughes was sought out and agreed to return to the agency after Weiser notified the board of her resignation. Hughes previously had been with the agency for two years.

The council voted March 9 to release $500,000 to PHURA to cover expenses through the end of the fiscal year June 30. The money included $300,000 from bond sale proceeds and $200,000 from the city’s Transportation System Development Fees fund to pay for extension of Second and Third streets within the project.

A PHURA agency budget status report anticipates that $1.11 million in bond funds will remain at the end of the fiscal year. Cost of the community hall project has been estimated at $1.2 million.

Brinkley is also investigating putting the plaza and community hall in a new location between Second and Third streets, Dahl reported. He will be getting bids for the study of soil and water conditions in the new location.

“It took us a while to have our personnel changes addressed, but I think the team of Matt and Janette Hughes will allow us to continue at a reasonable pace,” Muelhoefer said. 

Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.