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By Phil Ferolito Yakima Herald-Republic

ZILLAH, Wash. -- After roughly four years of planning, a project to move the landmark Teapot Dome into town will get under way next month. At Tuesday night's regular meeting, the City Council approved paying Wenatchee contractor White Bird Inc. $390,728 to move and refurbish the defunct gas station built in the shape of a teapot. The project is expected to be complete by May. "We finally will see some progress on the whole thing -- long time coming," said Mayor Gary Clark. "There was a lot more involved than we thought in the beginning."

Roughly four years ago, the city bought the building from private owners for $125,000 with a plan to move it into town, where it would serve as a visitors center for tourists. Soaring gas prices closed the station in March 2004. Constructed in 1922 as a symbol of the scandals over President Warren G. Harding's order to transfer oil reserves at Teapot Dome, Wyo., and Elk Hill, Calif., from the Navy to the Department of the Interior, the structure is on the National Register for Historic Places and the state's list of endangered historic places. But the historic designation brought federal requirements over how it can be moved and refurbished to retain its historic value, Clark said. The city was able to secure a $287,000 federal grant for the project, and another $4,600 was raised by the local group Friends of the Teapot Dome. The rest of the funding will come from a grant and a loan from Yakima County, said City Clerk-Treasurer Sharon Bounds. "We're just pleased that it's going to move forward now," she said. Now situated along the Yakima Valley Highway and visible from Interstate 82 just southeast of town, the structure will be moved to West First Avenue near the Civic Center, where it eventually will be outfitted with an awning over old, gravity-style fuel pumps. A parking lot and benches will also be installed. Inside, information on area businesses and tourist attractions will be kept for visitors. "I think once we have a finished project, people will see it was well worth the effort," Clark said.