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Salem council to consider McCulloch Park renovation project

SALEM — City council members are considering putting some money toward a Salem Preservation renovation project at McCulloch Park in downtown Salem.

The Rules & Ordinances Committee discussed the idea after Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey, who chairs the committee, suggested the city help out, especially since the city actually owns the property where the McCulloch department store used to stand.

“I think they deserve a hand,” she said.

Salem Preservation members Jennifer Brown and Karen Carter both attended the meeting and spoke about how rundown McCulloch Park is now, how they’ve been trying to keep it cleaned up with volunteers and how they’ve changed some of the plans for the renovation.

Brown explained that the original project, which had a price tag as high as $425,000, has been scaled down to a more manageable goal of $102,000. Salem Preservation has $16,000 raised so far which includes $10,000 bequeathed from the late Jackie Troll for plantings. She also announced that Rob and Deb McCulloch and family have pledged to match whatever Salem Preservation can raise toward the project cost.

The project will cover all the plantings, refurbishing of the metal benches, removing, cleaning and repositioning of the commemorative bricks, installation of a gateway arch with the name McCulloch Park on the arch and replacing the concrete.

Original plans called for a covered performance are for bands or speakers, various seating options, a chess board, charging stations, a mural, gateway arch at the front and bike rack in the back. Plans always called for preservation of the bricks and replacing the concrete.

Plans to bring it all up to one level have been abandoned and there will be no overhead awning. The idea is to have music there on a regular basis and use it as a gathering point in the downtown. The park is already used extensively during some of the downtown events.

“If we have money in the contingency fund, we could give them $35,000. They do so much for our downtown,” Dickey said.

Mayor John Berlin told the committee there’s $11,250 in a downtown improvement fund in the council budget and roughly $48,000 in the council contingency fund, which originated from oil and gas lease proceeds.

If the city gave $35,000, that would get the project to the halfway point so it can be matched and get them to the total needed.

Councilman Andrew Null, who also serves on the committee, said he supports the idea, but he questioned how the site would be maintained going into the future so it doesn’t get so run down again.

Brown and Carter are also members of the Beautification Committee of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce and head up the spring cleanup day, which helps to clean up the downtown area. They also take care of the flowers in downtown, planting them, watering them and caring for them. All are volunteers. Brown noted that the city owns the property.

City Service/Safety Director Joe Cappuzzello said the street department can do more trimming. Carter said she actually had someone power wash it before, but the dirt is so bad it didn’t make much difference.

“It’s sort of like owning a home and not cleaning it for 30 years,” Brown said.

She said it’s not their responsibility but they do it.

A meeting of the Committee of the Whole will be called to discuss the idea further.

In other business, the committee recommended amending the language in a proposed ordinance regarding front yard parking. More specifically, the mayor requested that a line of language crossed out by the law director remain part of the ordinance. The language amendment will come before council.

The committee also briefly discussed issues that have been discovered with the city’s ability to enforce the vacant property ordinance, which covers the entire city, and the International Property Maintenance Code which covers downtown commercial buildings.

“It’s all of our faults,” Dickey said.

She explained that the ordinance needs more teeth in order to enforce any judgments the city may get for enforcing the ordinance and taking someone to court. She said there also needs to be a board set up for an appeal process.

The issue will be discussed further at a future meeting.

mgreier@salemnews.net

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