The Hermiston city council passed a $57.3 million budget for 2017-2018 on Monday.
The budget appropriates money for a number of large projects, including construction of the new senior center downtown, the West Highland Trail for bicycles and pedestrians, new money-saving solids-handling equipment for the recycled water treatment plant and various upgrades to city parks.
On the personnel side, all staff will receive a 2.5 percent cost of living increase, and the city is adding building maintenance position and a human resources specialist.
The council also put on its Hermiston Urban Renewal Agency hat to pass the agency’s budget, most of which will be dedicated to a $900,000 festival street project on NE Second Street in front of city hall.
After passing the budget, the council approved a bid from National Meter & Automation, Inc. to replace all city water meters with remote-read meters and insulate them. The project was paid for by $1.2 million in bonds that will be repaid through the rate increase the city council enacted in 2016.
Prior to the regular city council meeting the council held a work session to hear a presentation from Umatilla County Fire District 1 Chief Scott Stanton about the fire district’s first year as a combined district with Stanfield and Hermiston.
Stanton said the first year has gone well, and has given the community added benefits such as 24/7 staffing at Station 22 on Diagonal Road. He said there have been two house fires where response time was cut down from seven minutes to under two minutes due to that change. He also said that since January the district has had only one delay of service where an ambulance could not immediately respond to a call because everyone was already in service, which is a much lower number than in previous years.
Stanton said the district’s call volume was up 6.5 percent in 2016 compared to 2015, with a 22 percent increase in fires and a continued upward trend of motor vehicle crashes.
“Distracted driving seems to be a common theme,” he said.
Stanton said the district will be holding a groundbreaking sometime within the next month for the new four-story training tower that the department is building out at the Westland Road station in partnership with Blue Mountain Community College. The district is also working with Good Shepherd Medical Center on creating a community paramedic program that will potentially help cut down on ambulance runs and emergency room visits by working with community members on managing chronic diseases and following post-operation discharge instructions.