Town hall meetings new in La Center

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There’s a lot going on in La Center these days. Construction is everywhere as new things and improvements are on there way in. Whether it be the new Ilani Casino across the highway, a new overpass at exit 16, or new facilities at the schools, things are certainly changing.

Some of the changes are widely accepted as good, such as the improvements to the school district. But others have been met with split opinions. As a result, cries have been heard from both sides, and there’s a lot of discussion occurring within the town.

Because of that, the new mayor’s town hall meetings have been installed. The meetings weren't set up just to talk about the incoming casino, they’re simply a chance for citizens of the community to come meet with Mayor Greg Thornton to ask questions and share comments or concerns.

So far there have been two of them, and they are scheduled on the first Wednesday of each month. They are open to the public and they’re pretty informal. Attendance was down comparing the second meeting to the first.

In last week’s meeting, Thornton provided an update on the Cowlitz Tribe lawsuit, saying that the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde are the only confirmed group taking the case to the Supreme Court. The other groups that have been fighting the arrival of the casino, such as the cardrooms in downtown La Center, have apparently dropped out after losing in the federal appeals court. The Supreme Court has not yet announced if it will take up the case.

People at the town hall also voiced concern about possible retention of the currently existing bridge at exit 16. A new overpass is going in next to it that will better support the expected growth of traffic at the interchange when the casino opens.

Thornton said there has been advancements to try and keep the bridge, which will be torn down when the other is ready. The entire project is anticipated to be completed when the casino opens up this spring. The Cowlitz Tribe has paid around $32 million for the overpass, according to Thornton.

On the topic of traffic, Thornton was asked by a citizen about the possibility of the city looking into ways to alleviate traffic at 4th Street and Stonecreek Drive, near the schools. During the drop-off and pick-up hours on school days, it has become a problem with cars getting backed up.

Thornton said that spot has been identified by the city as an area that needs to be addressed. He added, “It’s going to be a something for the future for sure.”

A final topic that drew a good amount of attention had to do with dogs. In the last several weeks, complaints have been coming in about people not properly picking up after their pets, and most concerningly in areas that people walk, like sidewalks and trails.

The idea of coming up with new laws was tossed out, but shortly after it was confirmed that the city already has such laws in place. Moreover, by the end of the brainstorming it became apparent that better enforcement of the rules is probably the issue, and that it may come up in upcoming city council meetings.

“Everything’s in flux,” said Thornton as the meeting wrapped up. “A lot of the stuff happening is kind of a wait and see game.”

To attend a future town hall meeting, show up at the Public Works office located at 305 NW Pacific Highway, La Center, on the first Wednesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. Typically they last about an hour.

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