If a city budget is a road map to projects planned for the upcoming year, Hermiston’s proposed 2017-2018 budget leads to a new senior center, utility upgrades and parks projects.
Construction is already underway for the Harkenrider Center, located on Northeast Second Street, but most of the work for the new senior center will take place in the next fiscal year. The center is expected to open in spring of 2018.
The parks and recreation department will also have another busy year, according to the $57.3 million budget approved by Hermiston’s budget committee Thursday and set to go before the Hermiston City Council in June.
The department will be moving into the Hermiston Conference Center in January and taking over operation of that building, contributing to an increase in the recreation budget from $565,808 to $679,995.
The West Highland Trail project should also begin construction in early 2018, creating a bicycle and pedestrian path parallel to the south side of West Highland Avenue between Southwest 11th Street and Riverfront Park. As part of that project, the city is working to acquire Steelhead Park across West Highland Extension from Riverfront Park, so that the trail can loop under the bridge there instead of tempting pedestrians to cross Highland to get to Riverfront Park.
Whatever funds will be needed to acquire the property from the state would come out of the city’s $100,000 community enhancement reserve fund used for matching funds on grants for livability projects.
“We don’t feel like the trail would be at all safe to get to Riverfront Park without it, so we wanted to make sure we had that money there,” City Manager Byron Smith told the budget committee.
If a “recreational immunity” bill passes the Oregon House of Representatives before the end of the current legislative session, protecting city employees from liability for injuries in parks, the city will also resume designing a skate park across from the police station on First Place.
Other objectives for 2017-2018 listed in the parks budget include enhancing the trails around the Hermiston Butte and redeveloping Greenwood Park, a small neighborhood park off of Beech Street.
Two of the largest projects in the 2017-2018 budget fall under the utility fund. The city is buying $1.2 million in new water meters that can be read remotely and allow all Hermiston water customers to track their usage patterns in detail online. The city is also installing new $1.5 million solids-handling equipment at the recycled water treatment plant that will save $700,000 per year on operational costs.
“Those two items rose to the top as far as projects needing to be addressed and will help us with longterm costs,” Smith said.
The city will also save about $85,000 per year by switching to using an outside contractor for utility bill mailings.
The 2017-2018 budget includes money set aside for security upgrades to city hall, and for a $125,000 renovation of the basement of the old Carnegie Library across from city hall. That space has been offered to the chamber of commerce to make up for the chamber losing its office space at the conference center, but the chamber has not yet made a decision about accepting the offer. If the chamber declines to move into the Carnegie library, city staff say the office space can be used for other city employees getting crowded at city hall.
To handle increasing city facilities, including the addition of the Harkenrider Center and Hermiston Conference Center, the city is adding a full-time building maintenance employee. It is also shuffling around some positions and increasing the hours for others, increasing the city’s total FTE from 110.59 to 116.03. All city staff are getting a 2.5 percent cost of living increase.
The city’s urban renewal district budget came in at $1.6 million for 2017-2018, almost $1 million of which will go toward turning Northeast Second Street between Main Street and Gladys Avenue into a pedestrian-friendly festival street that can be closed off for special events. The urban renewal agency also wants to work on designing and installing decorative wayfinding signs, a project which the city will also pitch in for out of its community enhancement fund since urban renewal dollars can only be spent inside the district, and some signs need to be outside the district pointing the way toward downtown.
Mark Morgan, Hermiston’s assistant city manager, told the budget committee that the addition of the new Holiday Inn Express to the district is expected to increase the district’s tax revenue from about $30,000 during the current fiscal year to $132,000 in 2017-2018.
The city’s full proposed budget can be found online at hermiston.or.us/finance/budget.
Contact Jade McDowell at email@example.com or 541-564-4536.