Forest Service office readies for relocation

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

The U.S. Forest Service Sweet Home Ranger District office will be shut down temporarily over Memorial Day weekend while the staff moves to its newly remodeled work center.

District Ranger Mike Rassbach said the office would move on May 26.

“The movers will show up at our leased facility,” Rassbach said. “They’ll start moving boxes. We’re starting to box stuff up.

“We hope to be open all day on May 26. We won’t be open that weekend and probably May 30, it’s doubtful we’ll be open.

“We hope to be back open and up for business on May 31 or June 1.”

Even then, staff will still be unpacking boxes, Rassbach said. The district office will try to get the front desk back up first.

The main phone number, 367-5168, will remain the same, but all the direct lines will change, Rassbach said.

The new facility will still require quite a bit of work, Rassbach said. Among the projects will be a redesign of the public parking area to handle RVs. That will happen after July 4.

“There’s going to be a period where our public parking is going to be limited,” Rassbach said. After the parking is expanded, the district office will go to work on its warehouse and then employee parking.

“It’s going to be a whole summer of construction and dust,” Rassbach said, but “we’re excited about getting our offices and warehouse on the same site.”

The Ranger District has leased its current building, at 3225 Highway 20, for almost 20 years, but the district’s budget has gone down along with the number of employees.

“We’re really trying to minimize our fixed costs so we can get more money to the ground,” Rassbach said. He expects much more than $100,000 per year in savings by not paying rent. The district has paid some $240,000 per year for its current facility, approximately 12,000 square feet.

“When that building was built, there were about 85 permanent employees and 40 seasonal employees,” Rassbach said. Now, “we’re at about 35 employees with about 10 to 15 seasonal employees.”

The new building has about 7,200 square feet.

The Forest Service Willamette National Forest sold four houses in Mill City and three in Sweet Home to cover most of the remodeling costs, Rassbach said. An eighth house, in Blue River, is being sold to help fund some of the additional site work.

The remodel cost about $750,000, Rassbach said. The total project will cost about $1.5 million.