Of the Baker City Herald

Pedestrians and cyclists who revel in the Powder River's serene scenery might have an extra 140 feet of river bank to stroll along this summer.

Baker City is negotiating with Randy Daugherty, owner of Baker Garage, to acquire from the auto dealership a strip of streamside property that extends from Washington Avenue 140 feet south.

The city hopes to extend the paved Leo Adler Memorial Parkway along that strip later this year, City Manager Gordon Zimmerman said.

Now, the paved part of the parkway ends at the Baker Garage property. From there a gravel path veers away from the river, running for about 100 feet through a city-owned lot, then north through an alley to Washington Avenue.

The parkway resumes two blocks north, on the river's west bank next to the Baker County Library.

Both Zimmerman and Daugherty said they believe a deal by which the city could acquire the Baker Garage property is nearly imminent.

andquot;I think it's going to happen,andquot; Daugherty said. andquot;I think everything's pretty well in place.andquot;

andquot;Hopefully we'll be able to come up with an agreement before the next (City Council) meeting,andquot; Zimmerman said.

That meeting is set for Jan. 14.

Settling the matter by then is particularly important to Daugherty because he will be sworn in as a city councilor during that meeting.

Zimmerman said Daugherty, who was elected in November, could avoid a conflict of interest by abstaining from voting on the issue Jan. 14. Or, more likely, the six returning members of the seven-member council could approve the deal before Daugherty, the only new member, is sworn in.

Those six councilors are familiar with the city's offer to Baker Garage, having discussed it during the Dec. 10 council meeting.

Mayor Nancy Shark said she had doubts about the proposal initially, but that she now supports the plan.

andquot;I felt like we were giving more than we were getting, but then how do you put a price on continuing the continuity of the path?andquot; she said. andquot;I'm comfortable with (the proposed land swap.andquot;)

The parcel the city wants to acquire from Baker Garage is about 17 feet wide at Washington Avenue, widening slightly near the southern end of the property.

In exchange for that strip, the city is offering to deed to Daugherty a 30-foot by approximately 110-foot section of the 1.94-acre parcel the city bought from Sid Johnson andamp; Co. a few years ago.

The city intends to build a park or other community facility on that land, although there are no definite plans now.

Zimmerman said the city has not estimated the dollar value of either the city property or the Baker Garage land involved in the proposed swap.

But he said he believes the difference in value is less than $5,000 a key amount because the city charter requires voters to approve the sale or disposal of any city property worth $5,000 or more.

andquot;We believe this is within the spirit and intent of the charter,andquot; Zimmerman said.

In addition exchanging land, the city is offering to pay for several improvements around the Baker Garage property, which the business uses for parking.

Specifically, the city is offering to:

o Buy and install a new chain link fence along the south and east sides of the property the city has offered to deed to Baker Garage.

o Fill if necessary, and pave, that 30-foot by 110-foot parcel.

o Install a chain link fence gate across the alley west of the Baker Garage property.

o Buy and install five 400-watt security lights on 25-foot poles around the Baker Garage parking area.

o Survey and mark all property corners, and pay expenses for recording the deeds.

Zimmerman said all the items should cost the city less than $30,000.

The city has about $90,000 in grant money it can use to acquire the property and to extend the parkway along the river to Washington Avenue, he said.

Daugherty said his only concern about the city's offer is that it is not as specific as he would prefer.

For example, the city is offering to build a retaining wall along the property it intends to deed to Baker Garage.

But Daugherty said he wants to know what type of materials would be used in the retaining wall, and how high it would be.

andquot;It's just a matter of clarification, so we all know who's doing what,andquot; he said.

Daugherty also wants the new section of fence to be seven feet tall, the same height as the existing fence, instead of the six feet the city offered.

Zimmerman said the city can easily add a foot of fence height to its offer.

An issue that might not be as easily resolved involves the alley the parkway follows now.

Daugherty wants the city to install a locked gate at the alley's north entrance on Washington Avenue.

Zimmerman said the city would try to vacate the alley, except officials can't find any record showing that it was dedicated to the city as an alley.

That means the city probably can't legally vacate or otherwise permanently close the alley, although the city could install the chain link gate, Zimmerman said.