By Jayson Jacoby
The U.S. Forest Service will build a new office on part of the space on 11th Street now occupied by multiple modular buildings.
The modulars, at 3285 11th St., are scheduled to be removed in September 2014, and construction on the new building could happen this fall, said Jeff Tomac, Whitman District ranger.
Forest Service officials haven't approved a final design for the building, but he said the current design calls for a single-story office of slightly more than 3,000 square feet.
Tomac said the estimated cost is around $500,000, although the amount is not final, either.
The modulars are at the east end of the Forest Service's compound which includes parking space for agency vehicles as well as several buildings that were constructed more than 50 years ago.
The Forest Service employees who worked in the modular buildings moved out of that complex in early December.
Those workers are now housed in the David J. Wheeler Federal Building, 1550 Dewey Ave., which also is the headquarters for the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.
The Whitman District employees will remain at the Wheeler building, said Matt Burks, a Wallowa-Whitman spokesman.
The new office building on 11th Street will house fire staff and seasonal field workers, and also include space for public meetings, Tomac said.
The modular buildings, which were installed in the fall of 2005, housed both Forest Service and BLM employees.
"The modulars were never a permanent solution to workforce space for the Forest Service or the BLM," Tomac said.
He said Forest Service officials knew that when the Whitman Unit staff moved to the Wheeler building and the modulars were removed, there would not be enough office space for the fire staff and the seasonal workers in the existing buildings at the compound.
Since Forest Service officials decided about two years ago to move Whitman District employees to the Wheeler building and eventually remove the modulars, the BLM has been looking for office space, Tomac said.
When the Whitman District workers moved in December, the Wallowa-Whitman issued a press release stating that the BLM employees would remain in the modulars, but not for how long.
Jenny Long, who works for the Baker City/County Planning Department, said the BLM plans to move from the modulars on 11th Street to the former New Tribes Mission complex just to the northwest on the north side of H Street, just south of Powder River Correctional Facility.
Long said that because the new Forest Service office building will be on federal land, the agency doesn't need the city's permission to build.
The structure must meet local codes, however, she said.
Burks said December's move went smoothly, and he invited the public to visit the new visitors center on the first floor of the Wheeler Building.