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Milton-Freewater trailer park will connect to city water

Long battle ended with $457,000 forgivable loan from Business Oregon
Antonio Sierra

East Oregonian

Published on June 12, 2018 2:11PM

Last changed on June 12, 2018 4:20PM

Residents of the Locust Mobile Village in Milton-Freewater will be connected to city water after the city received a Business Oregon loan to do the work. This photo was taken in October 2016.

EO file photo

Residents of the Locust Mobile Village in Milton-Freewater will be connected to city water after the city received a Business Oregon loan to do the work. This photo was taken in October 2016.

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After years of operating without, clean drinking water will eventually return to Milton-Freewater’s Locust Mobile Village.

The Milton-Freewater City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to authorize a $457,000 forgivable loan from the state to connect the trailer park to the city’s water system. City Manager Linda Hall said the loan will be converted to a grant as long as the project is finished within three years of the contract being executed.

Inside the urban growth boundary but outside city limits, Locust Mobile Village has been in a protracted battle with the city to gain access to the municipal water system.

In 2015, the trailer park tried to force the city to annex the property into the system until the city lobbied the Oregon Legislature to pass a law that effectively scuttled the move.

A year later, the Oregon Health Authority found a federal grant that would have covered the city’s cost of extending water lines, with the Umatilla County Board of Commissioners agreeing to act as the fiscal agent.

But the council unanimously voted to reject extending the utility at that time, reasoning it wasn’t the best use of federal money and was unfair to other properties that had to solve utility problems on their own.

A subsequent public meeting with the representative from the Greater Eastern Oregon Regional Solutions Team to address council concerns devolved into bickering as the council criticized the park for its code enforcement issues.

In a much more mild environment, the council didn’t spend much time debating the Business Oregon grant at Monday’s meeting and none of the audience members spoke out against it.

Hall stressed the grant meant ratepayers and citizens wouldn’t have to pay for the cost of extending water to the trailer park.

Although the council unanimously authorized the grant, Councilor Brad Humbert had some parting words on the issue.

“I just want to thank Linda and staff for not folding or buckling to the county commissioners when they didn’t stand up for the city,” he said. “And not buckling to the state (for) the disaster that no one will enforce their code over. It’s not in the city limits. It’s not necessarily our problem, but we seem to have to clean up others’ messes.”

The council also approved a $34 million budget for the 2018-2019 fiscal year. Balancing the budget required a few corresponding moves, including:

• The council agreed to raise golf course rates 3 percent, but exempted student daily greens fees, student punch cards, golf cart barn rentals and season passes from the increase. The council also had the option of instituting an across-the-board rate increase, but the Milton-Freewater Golf Board recommended the more targeted raise.

The council voted 4-1 to raise the rates, with Humbert voting against.

Humbert said the golf course does a lot of good for the community through charity golf tournaments, but continual rate increases could eventually decrease patronage from out-of-town golfers.

• The council unanimously voted to increase electrical rates 3 percent and raise the service availability fee for commercial and industrial customers.

Electric superintendent Rick Rambo reported the 3 percent rate increase was necessitated by the city’s power supplier, Bonneville Power Administration, raising its rates 5 percent in October.

Hall said the 3 percent rate increase was a requirement of balancing the budget, but the council had more “wiggle room” in the availability fees.

Currently $15 for both commercial and industrial, staff recommended raising the commercial fee to $25 and the industrial fee to $50.

Concerned by the large jumps in price, Councilor Verl Pressnall suggested raising commercial to $20 and industrial to $30.

The council incorporated Pressnall’s recommendation into the motion and unanimously passed the fee increases.

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Contact Antonio Sierra at asierra@eastoregonian.com or 541-966-0836.



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