City officials, sponsors of logger carving on ODOT land, weight options
September 30, 2020
The chainsaw carving at the intersection of Highway 228 and 20, in front of the East Linn Museum, is deteriorating in the Oregon weather, but nobody is really taking care of the statue.
That's because the Oregon Department of Transpiration owns the slice of land the statue sits on, as it used to be a public right-of-way in the form of Holley Street. Now ODOT wants the city to take over care of the plot, but wants to keep ownership of it.
For the two men who arranged to have the statue placed there to welcome visitors to town, it's become a major headache.
"I've been watching this thing for two years now, and the weather is hard on it," Mike Melcher told City Council at its Tuesday, Sept. 22, meeting. "I don't think it will last a hundred years going on like this."
Melcher and Robin Miller placed the statue of two loggers sawing a tree there several years ago with the blessing of the city and ODOT. Since then, they've been maintaining it.
They want to place a roof over it to protect it from the weather, but such a structure will require ODOT's blessing.
The shelter would be a raised metal roof that caps the entire sculpture, including the top of the tree.
After some discussion among council members about whether that roof would obscure the sign for the museum behind it, City Manager Ray Towry said, "These two gentlemen put in a lot of time and effort and money to get this done." The roof is meant to assist with maintenance of the art, which is their responsibility. "It's an effort to prolong the lifespan of the art, more so than an aesthetic decision."
The roof structure would be placed approximately where an old trellis currently stands around the statue, though it would be much taller.
Councilors Diane Gerson, Lisa Gourley, Mayor Greg Mahler, Cortney Nash and Dave Trask attended the meeting, with Councilor James Goble calling in remotely and Susan Coleman absent.
Gourley said, "If you want to go through all that work and make this so it's a nod to our city and our history, you want it to be so favorable that everyone will love it."
The timeline on the project is somewhat extended, even though there is already a drafted intergovernmental agreement for the city to care for the property. Economic Development Manager Blair Larsen said the city needs to add the roof project to the existing agreement to get it moving.
"Based on what we've seen from ODOT, I don't think we'd be able to put up a structure until, at the earliest, January. That's my guess," he said.
Asked how to get it done quicky, Larsen said "well, ODOT is involved," which drew a laugh from council members.
Councilors then discussed whether the city could simply take over the property from ODOT through a property line adjustment, which may be a challenge.
They may be unwilling to give up the property, Larsen said, adding that ODOT is often "reluctant to get rid of property because who knows down the line what space they'll need for engineering and stuff like that."
The city does have some leverage, though.
"As it is, they want us to take on maintenance, so they don't want much in terms of responsibility," Larsen said.
"We all support the roof here, but it's about the best process," Mahler said. He suggested the city move forward on discussing a property line adjustment with ODOT to fully take over the land.
Towry responded by asking that the council give staff the go-ahead to pursue the property line adjustment, but permit them to go with another solution if ODOT refuses to give up the property.
"I would hate for anything to get in the way of your project," he said to Miller and Melcher.
"Right now, I feel like government is in your way."