By Bill Lundquist, Staff Writer

The fifth annual Futures Forum Tuesday pictured a Brookings with a revitalized downtown area set between two arms of a highway couplet, with state-of-the-art telecommunications, air transport, college campus and port.

Still, the audience in the Brookings Elks Lodge saved its loudest applause for the announcement that the Port of Brookings Harbor may be selling affordable gasoline to drivers by May.

Brookings publisher Charlie Kocher said a lot of dreams have been realized since he started the Futures Forum five years ago.

The event is now part of the annual Business Outlook Conference.

Kocher said Brookings now has an 18-hole golf course, an expanded urban growth boundary, a new post office, a $15 million school bond, and an improved sewer plant and water system.

?It seems like the wish list has come true,? he said.

The 178 people who showed up equalled 2.5 full time equivalent students for Southwestern Oregon Community College, worth $6,000 in state funding.

Fittingly, Steve Kridelbaugh, president of that college, spoke first about the proposed new campus for Brookings.

He said Sen. Ken Messerle, R-Coos Bay, and Rep. Wayne Krieger, R-Gold Beach, ?did a yeoman job for you people? in securing $1 million in state funds for the new campus.

Unfortunately, the campus was the first item cut for community colleges in the governor?s original budget-cutting proposal.

Kridelbaugh said the Legislature wanted the campus back in the state budget, but it was once again the first item cut in the governor?s latest budget proposal.

He said Messerle and Krieger assured him that the $1 million would be there, minus the percentage that will be cut from all state departments.

If the funds come through, said Kridelbaugh, ?You will be the proud recipients of a new college campus in one- and-a-half to two years.?

Brookings City Manager Leroy Blodgett said downtown revitalization is also a big priority for the city. It appointed a committee to work on a master plan.

Using $70,000 funded by the city, Regional Investment Board and the U.S. Forest Service, the city recently hired Urban Design Studios, from Irvine, Calif., to create a downtown master plan.

The firm has created downtown plans for Lincoln City and Roseburg, and will partner with a Portland firm on the Brookings project.

?I?m confident they will do a great job,? said Blodgett.

The consultants will spend a week in Brookings in February walking the town, holding meetings and gathering ideas.Continued from Page 1A

After they do the first draft of the plan, they will hold another public meeting. Blodgett said he hoped the downtown merchants would support the project and give their input. He said the city didn?t want to end up with a plan people didn?t like.

The plan needs to be completed by the end of August, said Blodgett, to be eligible for urban renewal funds.

The next step will be the creation of an urban renewal district. Within the district, property values will be frozen for local taxes.

As the property values rise above the frozen levels, the portion of taxes on the difference between the two values will go to urban renewal projects.

Blodgett said the plan will look at themes and designs for trees, benches and buildings.

He said if the city decides to go with a certain theme that would affect how buildings are designed, it would have to look at incentives and other ways to ensure compliance.

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) will work closely with the city to make sure a proposed couplet for U.S. Highway 101 compliments the new downtown.

District Maintenance Supervisor Lee Sparks, from ODOT, said he was in Brookings to partner with the city, port and citizens.

Thanks to the lobbying efforts of Blodgett and Mayor Bob Hagbom, said Sparks, the Oregon Transportation Commission recently approved $5 million for phase one of the couplet project.

Actually, said Sparks, instead of using phase one and phase two, he prefers to think of the project as the ?cup? and the ?let.?

He said the ?cup? part will be a reconstruction of U.S. Highway 101 from the bridge over the Chetco River north to the intersection with Carpenterville Road.

That should be completed in 2004, said Sparks. An environmental assessment for the couplet will also be started, but will take longer to finish.

The ?let? part of the couplet, transforming Railroad Street into southbound highway lanes, will cost another $10 million, so it is time to start lobbying, said Sparks.

Like the downtown revitalization, he said, there is no design yet for the couplet, so February will be the beginning of public involvement.

Sparks said the reconstruction of the highway will present logistical problems because of the effect on businesses.

?We?ll need a number of public meetings to include the feelings and needs of the community,? he said. ?I can assure you that nothing has been cast in stone on design yet.?

Sparks said the portion from the river to Fifth Street will be a complete reconstruction, including sidewalks, lighting and other items that will compliment the ?let? portion to be done later.

Other upcoming ODOT plans include chip and seal projects from Brookings to Coos Bay, with reconstruction of the highway through Gold Beach.

Drivers on the new highway will need gas, and Russ Crabtree, manager of the Port of Brookings Harbor, intends to supply it at prices competitive with inland cities.

The automobile pump will be part of a new marine fueling station, slated for completion in May.

The port?s past projects took up three pages of fine print in Crabtree?s Powerpoint presentation.

He said Brookings-Harbor has the No. 4 port on the coast, and is closing fast on the three deep-water ports ahead of it. It is the top port for sport Chinook salmon fishing.

It recently completed renovation of one boat basin, with an eight-lane launch ramp, a boardwalk and a retail center.

Crabtree said the port also lobbies successfully each year for dredging to keep all three Curry County ports open.

As Curry Economic Development Corporation, the port conducts an intermediary dredging program.

Another new retail center will be completed in March. Other future port projects include a cold storage facility, a new service and repair dock, an auxiliary launch ramp, a surge suppression project and many more.

The Port Fisheries Committee works with the Klamath Management Zone Fisheries Coalition and the Pacific Fishery Management Council on harvest levels to obtain good salmon fishing seasons.

Those who would rather fly than drive have Dan Brattain and the Del Norte County Airport Advisory Commission working on better air transportation out of Crescent City.

The commission is working on an extended runway, a new terminal, and flights to Medford and points north.

Faster even than jets is the Internet, and Patrick Wong of Northwest Technical spoke on the importance of up-to-date telecommunications for business.

?We must develop a modern telecommunications infrastructure to attract businesses and bridge the digital divide,? he said.

Wong said Brookings has six Internet providers, plus satellite and cable modem providers.

?That implies a growing need for high-speed Internet,? he said.

Wong said too few small businesses are online, but the community can assist them by creating the best telecommunications infrastructure possible.